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Chapter 9. Viruses, Trojan Horses, Hoaxe... > Hoaxes and Why They’re a Problem

Hoaxes and Why They’re a Problem

Strange as it might sound, this final threat that you should be aware of is not even a real threat—it’s a hoax. A common example is an e-mail message describing the threat of a virus and instructing you to “inform everyone you know about this threat.” Unless this warning comes from an AV vendor or reputable security resource, it is likely a hoax. Before spreading any e-mail about a “virus,” always check your AV vendor site for news about it. If you don’t see the virus described on their site, do not mail warnings to your friends and family. Why people start these hoaxes is not clear, but usually they can be traced to one of two things. Perhaps the perpetrator wants to focus so much attention on the hoax that it makes the news, and they’ll get some satisfaction out of knowing they caused it. Or the perpetrator might genuinely want to cause a Denial of Service (DoS) attack on the e-mail systems of one or more areas. By causing a flood of warning e-mails, such a person can enlist the general public as tools in crashing or seriously delaying e-mail systems. Note, too, that sometimes a virus warning claiming to have the “fix” for some security issue is actually a Trojan horse itself. When you run the file, it infects your system.

Crying Wolf or Real Threat?

Remember the story of the boy who cried wolf? If enough hoaxes are perpetrated in a short enough period of time, some people will assume that the next one is a hoax. If, instead, it’s a real virus, some people will not be prepared, and the virus will be launched into the wild. This complex bit of social engineering can be highly successful. If you hear about a “new virus threat” from a coworker, family member, or friend, please do not immediately forward the message to your entire mailing list. Check your AV vendor or security mailing list for confirmation first.



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