What is a Hoax?
At some point, you may receive a scary email like the example in purple below. If you do so, do not act on the instructions in that email. You should talk to a computer professional that you know, or call Dave at (847) 383-4509, he will help you out.
Urgent! Your computer could be infected with the Iexplore.WordCrunch virus. If you do not take action immediately and follow the directions given below, it will get active on May 25 and destroy all your Word and Excel files."
Oh. Oh! What a stroke of luck that somebody sent me this warning! I gotta pass this on, I don't want my friends and colleagues to lose their files (well, not really).
"Pass this important information to all your friends and colleagues immediately."
Yeah, right. But what can I do to secure my computer?
"Here's how to remove the virus:
1. restart your computer in DOS/maintenance mode.
2. go to c:\program files\internet explorer .
3. delete the file iexplore.exe.
4. Restart the computer."
The Hoax is a Worm
A worm is a script or program that spreads itself. Most worms use scriptable email clients like Microsoft Outlook to send themselves on. The hoax does not need such complicated means of transportation.
The hoax is spread by its readers. This low-tech approach works almost always, and anti-virus software is not a particularly strong weapon against it.
The Hoax is a Virus
Viruses often go to great lengths to do their malicious work. Their code needs to be executed by the infected computer somehow, and they have to avoid anti-virus software always trying to hunt them down.
The hoax, especially in the form described above, does not have to fear anti-virus programs and the only question is whether the user will execute the destructive work. The chances are good.
If they can be fooled into believing that they protect themselves from loss of data, users will happily and eagerly destroy important files.
Defeating the Hoax Virus Worm
This makes hoaxes so dangerous. Virus warnings should ring at least as load an alarm bell as viruses themselves, especially if they come uninvited via email. Before you believe anything and take action,
1. Apply common sense first
2. Does the virus warning sound sensible?
3. Is it written in all caps?
4. Then head for one of the trusted anti-virus (or, in this case anti-hoax) sources, and use current anti-virus software and keep it up to date.
5. Call a professional computer expert like Dave with questions about emails such as the one above.
Call Dave’s Computer Services at (847) 383-4509
or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org