Webmaster’s note 10/14/2018: This is older content from the previous version of the LexFA site. We’re including it here on the blog so it can be searched under the Essays and Articles category, and under the blog post tags as well.
by Robert Holland
A virus alert is undoubtedly a hoax if it bears all the classic warning signs.
- “IBM announced”
IBM does not, ever, announce viruses, they’re a hardware company. That would make as much sense as Frigidaire announcing a food poisoning case.
- “There is no remedy”
There’s always a remedy. It may not be easy, but any virus can be defeated.
- “It will eat all your information”
This breathless, excited tone of speech is a dead giveaway. Real virus reports will be written in a calm, journalistic style. This kind of overworked, unprofessional hack writing points to a bored 14-year-old trying to get a rise. Similarly, comparison to “Melissa” and product name-dropping (Netscape and Explorer) are transparent attempts to provide a false air of authenticity.
- “Do not open anything with this title”
Once again, unless you’ve got your e-mail client set to autorun attachments (and hopefully you’re not this stupid), it is not possible to get a virus simply from reading an e-mail.
- “Pass this message on to all your contacts”
This is another dead giveaway. Real virus reports are announced through official websites and news services. They don’t need individual users to manually propagate them. Anything that tells you to send it to all your friends is a bored individual’s attempt to get his spam propagated as far and as fast as possible.
These things aren’t hard to spot, once you know what to look for. Some even bear is a fake dateline or a “this was just announced yesterday” to lend a sense of immediacy to a message that has, in fact, been circulating for months.