Saturday, November 10, 2012

Email hoaxes

The Internet can be a scary place. Few of us understand exactly how it works but we do know that it is a playground for crooks, thieves and those that just want to propagate maliciousness. That is why, we install anti-virus programs which we keep up to date and sit behind a firewall to protect our computers from harm. That is why we ignore emails that tell us our bank account will be closed unless we follow a link and enter our confidential details.

We know that the bad guys (and gals) are clever and will try every which way to penetrate our defences. They send us emails that contain viruses in the hope we will install them. However, any half decent anti-virus program will spot these and remove the viruses before they do us  any harm. Almost daily, Avira spots these potential threats to my Windows computer and places them safely away in the quarantine bin. Sophos does the same on my MacBook Pro.

Sadly here are people out there who get a kick our of praying on our insecurity.  They send out hoax messages warning us of viruses that either don’t exist or have long since become defunct. These messages advise us to forward them on to everyone in our address book and of course, like the caring people we are we do just that.

Forwarding every email that asks you to is necessarily a good idea

In fact I never send on emails that ask me to as a matter of principle. Even if they are heart tugging stories about how our brave soldiers are suffering for us in Afghanistan – they are deleted. There is enough junk out there clogging up the bandwidth of the Internet without me adding to it. And, as a matter of routine, I check out any email that advises me of the threat of a virus. A few minutes on Google is enough to reassure me that these threats are not real.

Advice from Sophos – a well respected provider of anti virus software

Please don't forward an email to all your friends just because it asks you to.

You shouldn't forward chain letters even if they're true. You definitely shouldn't forward them if they're false.

The latest false warning doing the rounds is a perennial hoax - the so-called Invitation FACEBOOK/Olympic Torch virus warning.

The opening of the 2012 Olympics in London seems to have given this one a new lease of life (it has been seen intermittently for more than six years):


In the coming days, you should be aware.....Do not open any message with an attachment called: Invitation FACEBOOK, regardless of who sent it. It is a virus that opens an OlympIc torch that burns the whole hard disc C of your computer.

This virus will be received from someone you had in your address book. That's why you should send this message to all your contacts. It is better to receive this email 25 times than to receive the virus and open it.

If you receive an email called: Invitation FACEBOOK, though sent by a friend, do not open it and delete it immediately. It is the worst virus announced by CNN.

A new virus has been discovered recently that has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive virus ever. It is a Trojan Horse that asks you to install an adobe flash plug-in. Once you install it, it's all over. And there is no repair yet for this kind of virus. This virus simply destroys the Zero Sector of the Hard Disc, where the vital information of their function is saved.


There are some tiny grains of truth in this chain letter that might make you think that it's better to forward it than to delete it.

A lot of malware, for example, asks you to install a bogus Adobe Flash plugin. And malware does exist which writes to the zero sector, also known as the Master Boot Record. (Such malware can be trickier than usual to remove, but doesn't automatically mean "it's all over", as claimed.)

This chain letter as a whole, however, is a load of rot.

Ironically, the biggest piece of rot in the email is the claim that SNOPES SAYS THIS IS TRUE.

The link to Snopes - a well-known source of anti-hoax information - is legitimate, but says exactly the opposite, confirming that the email is false:

Forwarding this hoax does more harm than good

Sophos say they received a copy of this hoax that had been forwarded seven times, counting the last hop to them. It included nearly 100 names and email addresses in the many To: and Cc: fields it had accumulated along the way.

That means that those 100 email addresses are now lying around on 100 PCs where they might be scooped up by real malware, sent off to cybercrooks, and sold on to spammers and scammers.

In short, by distributing this hoax widely, you may end up helping the bad guys - the very opposite of what you intended.

So, please, think before you click. And if you're not sure, click "delete", not "forward".

If you want to learn about the real threats on Facebook, why not join the Sophos Facebook page, where you will be kept up-to-date on the latest rogue applications, scams and malware attacks threatening social network users.


Charles Smythe said...

One of the biggest, most-threatening computer viruses ever created is Stuxnet. Look it up on Wikipedia:

"The Guardian, the BBC and The New York Times all claimed that (unnamed) experts studying Stuxnet believe the complexity of the code indicates that only a nation-state would have the capabilities to produce it"... many believe that it is the product of both the United States and Israeli governments.

So you see, not all computer viruses (the bulk of which have absolutely no effect on your computer anyway, as A/V companies and the Media generally like to blow the threat out of all proportion as a means of selling more of their products) are caused by teenaged boys in hoodies!

Charles Smythe said...

Do people actually still use Facebook? Don't they realise that as a commercial venture the social network site sells user data to the highest bidder? After all they have shareholders to make money for (not that their shares are worth much at the moment):