Virus Hoaxes

© 2001 by Walt Howe
(last revised 31 May 2001)

The most common hoaxes on the nets are Virus hoaxes. If you get a message warning you about a terrible virus, and the message tells you to pass the warning to all your friends, it is almost always a hoax. Don't spread the warning without checking the facts first. Most of the virus hoaxes claim that you can be infected just by receiving e-mail, which is impossible. Or some claim that by just reading the e-mail message, you are already infected. A virus can be spread by a runnable program or by macro files for word processors and spreadsheets, but never by e-mail itself. It can be spread by attachments to e-mail, though, so always run virus checking software before opening an e-mail attachment from an unknown source. If your e-mail software can automatically open a Microsoft Word or Excel document, be sure to disable this feature, since that action can activate a macro virus.

Personal Note: I use Norton Anti-Virus and I have had it warn me as e-mail was received of a virus in an attachment, most recently the HAPPY99.EXE virus. This isn't intended as a plug for Norton software, but to show how important it is to have up-to-date anti-virus software on your system. The person who sent me the virus did not know it was there.

One of the latest hoaxes going around is the SULFNBK.EXE virus. The warning message that you are urged to send to all your friends explains that you should look for this file, and if you find this file on your system, delete it. The twist to this warning is that everyone with Windows has this file. If you delete it, you lose a minor capability to convert filenames. Deletion doesn't do any great harm, but it doesn't do any good, either. If you get this warning, please inform the sender it is a hoax.

Some of the warnings are parodies of all those that went before. Read this warning for the FREE MONEY Virus:

There is a computer virus that is being sent across the Internet. If you receive an e-mail message with the subject line "Free Money," DO NOT read the message. DELETE it immediately, UNPLUG your computer, then BURN IT to ASHES in a government-approved toxic waste disposal INCINERATOR. Be sure to destroy your modem, too.

Once a computer is infected, it will be TOO LATE. Your computer will begin to emit a vile ODOR. Then it will secrete a foul, milky DISCHARGE. Verily, it shall SCREECH with the tortured, monitor-shattering SCREAM of 1,000 hell-scorched souls, drawing unwanted attention to your cubicle from co-workers and supervisors alike. After violently ripping itself from the wall, it will infect the office water cooler, and then your computer will punch through your office window as it STREAKS into the night, HOWLING like a BANSHEE. Once free, it will spend the rest of its days CRUSHING household PETS and MOCKING the POPE.

Here are the names of the most common hoaxes:

  • AIDS
  • AltaVista or Londhouse
  • AOL4Free
  • AOL 4.0 Cookie
  • Baby New Year
  • Bad Times
  • Bloat
  • Blue Mountain
  • BUDSAVER.EXE (Budweiser frogs screen saver)
  • California
  • Cat Colonic
  • Dear Friends
  • Death69
  • Deeyenda
  • E-Flu
  • Evil the Cat
  • FatCat
  • Flower for You
  • Free Money
  • Ghost Screen Saver
  • Good Times
  • Guts to Say Jesus
  • Hairy Palms
  • Irina
  • Join the Crew
  • Let's Watch TV
  • Make Money Fast
  • Millenium Time Bomb
  • Norton Anti-Virus, v5
  • Penpal Greetings
  • PluPerfect
  • Red Alert
  • Returned
  • Strunkenwhite
  • Time Bomb
  • Unable to Deliver
  • Upgrade Internet 2
  • Virtual Card for You
  • Win a Holiday
  • Wobbler
  • World Domination
  • Yellow Teletubbies

Another indication that a virus warning is a hoax is any reference to the FCC or IBM issuing the warning. Neither the FCC nor IBM are in the virus warning business! The government agency that does issue virus warnings (and hoax warnings) is the Computer Incident Advisory Committee (CIAC) of the US Dept. of Energy. An excellent commercial source to check is the Symantec Anti-Virus Research Center. Or see their Hoax List, which is more complete than the list above.

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