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[Identification]  [Action]  [Authentication]  [Known Hoaxes]

Sooner or later we all seem to be plagued by emails purporting to warn us of a deadly new computer virus currently doing the rounds. Some of these warnings may well be genuine, but all the ones I have seen are not. They are simply hoaxes initiated by a sick mind - presumably the same sort of sick mind that writes and unleashes a genuine virus, but lacking the ability to actually write one.

These hoaxes come in many different guises, but they often refer to some recently discovered virus which supposedly goes undetected by even the best anti-virus programs (Nortons, MacAfee, Dr Solomons etc). Sometimes they give details of a specific procedure to see if you have already been infected by the virus, and even tell you how to delete the offending file from your system. Needless to say the file that is referred to is usually a genuine (and sometimes vital) system file!

 

Identification

Virus hoax emails all seem to exhibit some or all of the following features:

  • They appear to be endorsed by some high-profile company.
  • They never contain any means by which you can positively verify their authenticity - for example, a traceable reference (hyperlink) to any well known and reputable web site.
  • They contain a suggestion or request that you pass the warning on to all the contacts in your email address book. Alas, human nature being what it is, there is a strong (philanthropic?) tendency to do just that. And so the hoax is perpetuated.
  • They usually come from someone whom you personally know (your name is in their address book), and this naturally has the effect of strengthening their credibility.
  • They can usually be seen to be "copies of copies of copies...."
  • They purport to provide means of eliminating a genuine virus (strictly this type isn't actually a hoax, but just another transport for a genuine virus)
  • They instruct you to locate and delete a specific file from your own system.

I believe that more damage is done and more time is wasted by the propagation of these hoaxes than by any real viruses! Which of course means that the sick minds that initiate them (the hoaxes) achieve their objective - with your unwitting but well-intentioned help. I strongly urge you to carefully check with a reputable anti-virus web site (such as Nortons, McAfee etc), or with your ISP before acting on or forwarding any such warnings that may come your way.

 

Action

If you receive such a virus warning then, unless and until you can personally and directly vouch for its authenticity you would be well advised to:

  • take no action 
  • refrain from forwarding it to anyone else and 
  • delete it (the email) from your system

In other words - ignore it and do nothing. That way you will not run the risk of being directly and personally responsible for some unsuspecting soul (yourself included) damaging their own computer system!

 

Authentication

Unfortunately there seems to be no single specific method for authenticating a virus warning. But you should try visiting one or more AV web sites and seeing if you can do a site search for the name of the virus (or the file name) about which a message is supposedly warning. Some AV sites even carry a special "Hoax" section.

 

Known Hoaxes

Visit the Trend Micro Hoaxes site for a list of currently identified hoaxes.

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