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Hoaxes

You should always be on guard against hoaxes, whether perpetrated by a hacktivist with a cause or a con man with an angle. Even the most good-natured hoax can have unintended security repercussions. Some hoaxes are downright malicious, such as a virus that spreads itself in an email entitled “Antivirus upgrade.” Some are scams, such as a site that purports (falsely) to be a billing department of AOL. Others are simply annoying, such as those that temporarily replace the InterNIC, the former domain registration service of the Internet, with a separate site to protest its monopoly.

Email Hoaxes

The most common place where you'll run into a hoax in is your inbox. Some urban legends have been forwarded from inbox to inbox for years: the dog who needs a home, the department store that stole some grandmother's cookie recipe, the software giant (Microsoft) who will pay you to forward this email. These aren't viruses, just true-sounding tales that actually convince people to forward them. Although it's possible that some incredibly widespread sob story is on the up and up, it's exceedingly unlikely. Do yourself and your friends a favor: Just delete it. The next generation of these hoaxes claims that certain email hoaxes are actually viruses themselves. These blare out frantic warnings such as, “If you receive an email titled PLEASE HELP POOR DOG...DO NOT OPEN IT!...It will erase everything on your hard drive...please share [this note] with everyone who might access the Internet.” Again, try to restrain yourself from “protecting” everyone in your address book.


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