Would You Forward A Virus Hoax?

would you forward a virus hoax?

If you received an email from a friend or family member, warning you about a dangerous new virus and telling you how you could prevent it, would you forward it to all your own contacts?

Most people would as they like to look out for their friends.

would you forward a virus hoax?

would you forward a virus hoax?

In some respects thats a good move as warning your friends will help them prepare themselves so that they can keep their own systems secure.

Unfortunately, however, the majority of these emailed messages are not true, they are virus hoaxes.

It would be simple then to dismiss virus hoaxes as just a distraction but that would be missing the point – they actually deflect attention away from real threats and can lead to someone becoming infected after they have developed a blase approach to any future warnings they happen to read.

Spotting A Virus Hoax

Spotting hoaxes, whether they be about viruses or not, is a relatively simple affair.

Most of them follow a similar theme in that they will claim to have originated from a large, well-known and legitimate company.

This is a deliberate ploy from the writer of the hoax who will be hoping to add an element of authenticity to their claims.

The companies named in a virus hoax may respond to virus warnings but rarely, if ever, make them.

If a warning was legitimate then the email would almost certainly link to a web page with more information, whilst a hoax obviously wouldn’t for obvious reasons.

Another way of spotting a virus hoax is to look at the style of the message.

As hoax warnings are not written by bona fide security companies their wording tends to differ from what you may see in an official press release, for example.

Also, the warning may be lacking in information, such as –

  • Precisely who is at risk?
  • Which operating system?
  • Which software?
  • Which versions?
  • When will a patch or fix be released?
  • Where on the Internet should you look for it?
  • Why is there no cure?

All of the above details would be present in a legitimate virus warning, but tend to be missing in a hoax.

Finally, and perhaps most tellingly, a virus hoax will always ask you to inform all your friends which is the whole point – the writer wants his bogus message to spread far and wide.

Confirming A Virus Hoax

The above advice on how to spot a virus hoax will only take you so far – the writers of such messages don’t tend to be stupid and are always evolving.

Sooner or later you are bound to receive a virus warning that includes just enough information for you to believe that it may be genuine.

If you’re not completely certain whether the message is legitimate or not then conduct further research.

There are plenty of online sources, such as Snopes and Hoax-Slayer, that examine and confirm/debunk all sorts of rumours.

There are also millions of bloggers who will write about the odd virus hoax here and there too so you should be able to find plenty of information.

Just remember to check more than one source.

If you discover that a warning you received is a hoax then be sure to tell whoever passed it on to you in the first place – they’ll then be less likely to pass on the next hoax that turns up.

So, don’t automatically believe every email warning that arrives in your inbox, but don’t assume an attachment sent to you by a friend, or a file you downloaded yesterday, is virus free either.

Check everything and stay safe.

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.

Comments

  1. Most computer users are already aware of a lot of things regarding these machines. However, some still need a lot of reading up or learning to do. It’s almost magical how some can still not understand what a virus is, although this person has probably experienced more than one or two attacks in his computing life. Nevertheless, what’s important about a virus is that we know it’s something we shouldn’t have in our computer and we definitely should take active steps in keeping it away. Of course, the reasons are obvious – they destroy our files, our computer, or both.

    And then, there’s also such a thing as a virus hoax. A virus hoax isn’t exactly a virus, hence, it’s termed a hoax. But it’s as damaging nevertheless because when you fall for this trick just once, the effects could spread like wildfire and this could lead to very serious problems. A virus hoax is actually an email that arrives in your inbox and alerts you about a false virus emergency. It will tell you to forward the message to all of your contacts supposedly to prevent them from getting the fake virus. Imagine if you had fifty contacts alone to which you would unsuspectingly send this hoax. And each of your fifty contacts would have another fifty contacts to whom they would again dispatch the false alarm. This turns out to be a chain letter phenomenon which can cause massive damage to routers and servers. AT first, they will slow down Internet connection until they actually crash.

    A virus hoax may be harmless on its own but when it starts to be spread out to an enormous amount of email users, this is when it becomes a very big issue. This is why it’s extremely important to understand our emails and use our common sense in deciding which message to forward and which not to. Besides, there’s no person nor organization that informs people about a virus attack because quite honestly, nobody can tell when such an attack will be launched except those who are themselves behind the creation of such virus. And because it’s highly illogical for those who create viruses to warn people about their planned attacks, any attempt that seems to show the opposite should be ignored.

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