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Virus Hoaxes

Don’t fall for a virus hoax. In this article you’ll discover what a hoax is, how they can cost money, how to stop them spreading, and how to keep your selves informed. Contact Whytec for more information.

What is a hoax?
Budweiser Frogs! Penpal Greetings! Give your cat a colonic! You may have received warnings about these “viruses” If you did, you have been the victim of a virus hoax.

Many Helpdesks receive more calls about virus hoaxes than any individual real virus. Virus hoaxes are false reports about non-existent viruses, often claiming to do impossible things. Unfortunately some recipients occasionally believe a hoax to be a true virus warning and may take drastic action (such as shutting down their network or not using their PC).

Typically, hoaxes are emails which describe a dangerous new undetectable virus, usually using bogus technical terms. Hoaxes often ask you to avoid reading or downloading emails that have a particular subject line. Examples include Budweiser Frogs, It Takes Guts to Say Jesus, and Join the Crew.

For instance, the Good Times hoax claims to put your computer’s CPU in “an nth-complexity infinite binary loop which can severely damage the processor”. The hoax warns you not to read or download anything with the subject “Good Times” because the message is a virus. It then urges you to forward the warning to as many people as possible. To the technically aware this is clearly rubbish.

How do hoaxes cost money?
Although no official research has been done on the subject, it is estimated that hoaxes can cost you even more than a genuine virus incident. After all, no anti-virus will detect hoaxes because they aren’t viruses. Some companies panic when they receive a hoax virus warning and assume the worst – making the situation much worse.

The amount of email that a typical hoax can generate is also a cost to organisations. Once a few people in your company have received a warning and mailed it to all their friends and colleagues, a mail overload can easily result.

How to prevent hoaxes from spreading in your company.
Your company may like to consider circulating a policy on virus hoaxes to your staff, in an attempt to reduce the costs involved.

Here is an example policy you could use:

You shall not forward any virus warnings of any kind to *anyone* other than [insert name of the department or staff member who looks after anti-virus issues]. It doesn’t matter if the virus warnings have come from an anti-virus vendor or been confirmed by any large computer company or your best friend. *All* virus warnings should be sent to [insert name], and [insert name] alone. It is [insert name]’s job to send round all virus warnings, and a virus warning which comes from any other source should be ignored.

Keep yourself informed.
Whytec can provide a number of resources which can help reduce the costs associated with virus hoaxes. If you are concerned that a specific mailing might be a hoax get in touch before you forward to everyone you know.