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05 Oct 2000
Virus News

A study-guide on how to detect a virus hoax yourself

It is difficult to imagine anybody today who does not treat computer viruses as a real threat to a regularly functioning computer system. However, contiguously with the virus spreading has occurred another syndrome, which is not any less dangerous - virus hoaxes.

The idea of a virus hoax is simple: an offender fabricates a warning about an extremely dangerous virus that actually does not exist at all. After that, he sends the hoax to as many users as possible, asking them to take appropriate measures and to forward the message to others. Scared users, doing their best, inform all their colleagues and partners. As a result, the computer world is constantly agitated by bursts of virus hysteria, alarming tens of thousands of people all around the world.

The "heyday" of the virus hoax was 1997-1998 when nearly every month, anti-virus companies were struck by a huge wave of e-mail from frightened users. As a result, these same anti-virus companies had to release soothing "calm down" articles.

How can you recognize a real virus warning from a hoax? And what do you do should your friends believe this bad joke?

The main rule: If the message did not come directly from an anti-virus-developer news service, then you should check the hoax sections at specialised Internet resources. We recommend you subscribe to the Kaspersky Lab Virus Encyclopaedia or check Rob Rosenberger's popular Virus Myths & Hoaxes Web site at VMyths.com.

In case you don't find the virus alert you have received on these pages, then you should visit the news section on Kaspersky Lab Web site. Our experts are very fast in delivering breaking news about the latest virus outbreaks. Should there be any new outbreaks, you will find a corresponding notification at www.viruslist.com. In the event that you fail to locate any details regarding the virus mentioned in the alert, you should send a request to Kaspersky Lab technical support (support@avp.ru) for clarification.

What should you do if you have received a real virus hoax? Firstly, do not forward it to anyone else. The best way of handling such messages is to delete them immediately. Secondly, as fast as you can, notify the sender that he has fallen victim to a virus hoax. There is still a possibility he hasn't managed to send the "virus alert" to others, so by informing him of his error, you are helping him save his credibility for not crying "wolf," causing friends and colleagues unnecessary nerve-wracking moments.

In addition, it also needs to be mentioned that virus hoaxes carry an even more dangerous payload than simply scaring people with hollow alerts. It is possible that at sometime, a malefactor will write a virus, utilizing the nickname of a well-known virus hoax, thus, users-believing it is fine to do so-will open the attached file and get infected.

At this time, we would like to remind you of the Golden Rule in regards to computer hygiene: Do not, under any circumstances, open any attached files received from unknown sources. You should be careful even with messages received from the people you know: many viruses send out infected files from affected computers in a way a user simply doesn't realize. Thus, if you consider the message to be unexpected and strange (for instance, a love letter from your boss), then it is better to check whether the sender has really sent the file, and to be sure his computer is not infected.

"Perhaps, some will consider it strange, but some paranoia is an essential part of computer security, especially when dealing with e-mail," said Den Zenkin, Head of Corporate Communications for Kaspersky Lab.