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Virus Hoax

Thursday, November 29th, 2007


What is a Virus Hoax?

A Virus Hoax is a false report about a non-existent virus intended to cause fear and panic, in an attempt to persuade recipients to forward the warning to friends and family. Hoax messages often falsely describe an extremely dangerous virus and attempt to make their claims convincing and more dramatic by using pseudo-technical language or referencing bogus reports by well-known companies. In extreme cases, these messages can influence recipients into taking drastic action, such as shutting down their network or mail server, in preparation for a widespread virus attack.

You are urged not to pass on warnings of this kind, as the continued re-forwarding of these hoaxes is what perpetuates their purpose of wasting peoples time and email bandwidth. If you encounter a hoax virus message, it is recommended that you delete it as well as inform the person who sent you the email of the ruse so they do not continue to propagate the lie.

Receiving an email that asks you to forward the message to friends or family should set off a red flag. Emails like this are meant to cause and spread fear, much like a real virus intends to spread an infection; however, in the case of an email hoax, the message is the infection. The attackers who start the email rumor succeed if they cause panic and their message is seen and spread by millions of people. Email hoaxes can be thought of as a new form of virus that use social engineering, or lies and manipulation, rather than hacking or programming.

Other Dangers of Virus Hoaxes

Virus hoaxes can also create a dangerous sense of complacency in the minds of computer users. For example, virus authors have been known to bombard the Internet with virus hoaxes in the hope that users will be so bogged down with fake virus warnings that they will pay no attention to legitimate virus threats. Then, when users have their guard down, destructive viruses have an increased chance of downloading on an unsuspecting user’s system.

In some cases, malicious code has been attached to virus hoax emails. According to McAfee, “AOL4FREE began as a hoax virus warning. Then somebody distributed a destructive trojan attached to the original hoax virus warning.” Many users were duped into thinking that the attachment posed no threat, but were in fact, infected with the AOL4FREE virus.

Virus Hoax Protection

An effective virus hoax can trick a user into letting his guard down, opening vulnerabilities where legitimate viruses and worms can attack. To avoid being the victim of a virus hoax or virus, users should never open suspicious email attachments or download from potentially untrustworthy Web sites. With all of the potential dangers online, it is highly recommended that all computers with an Internet connection be equipped with anti virus software. Anti virus software runs in the background of a computer, preventing viruses and other malware from causing data loss, identity theft, computer problems, network inaccessibility, and more. Top anti virus software includes McAfee VirusScan, Norton Antivirus, CA Antivirus, and AVG Antivirus Pro.


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