Note From The Author, Gus
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Although Wikipedia’s definition of the word “virus” is the first listing in a Google search, it was one of only three listings that pertained to the traditional definition of a virus. There were actually six listings of the top ten in my Google search that related to computer viruses. So whether or not what you have is a virus hoax, you are not alone on the topic of viruses.
Wikipedia says, “A computer virus is a computer program that can copy itself and infect a computer. The term “virus” is also commonly but erroneously used to refer to other types of malware, including but not limited to adware and spyware programs that do not have the reproductive ability.” Though a virus hoax may not be threatening to your computer, the warning messages can be something more than just an annoyance.
What is so interesting about a virus hoax is how it can repeatedly present warnings that if not attended to can do unbelievable harm not only to the data of your computer, but sometimes they go as far as claiming to harm your computer’s hardware, set your computer on fire, etc.
Often, these email hoaxes include fake announcements which to have claimed they originated from such reputable companies as McAfee, Microsoft, and even news media companies such as CNN. The reason for the quoted claims is to offer some sort of credibility to the statements that are being presented. Many times, virus information had been ”classified by Microsoft” in versions of Windows. Really?
The history of virus hoaxes goes back to the late 1980s; not much affected the consumer until the increasing popularity of personal computers for both the home and the office.
In 1994 a hoax associated with AOL as appeared to be the biggest of that decade. The hoax was called “Good Times virus”. What is amazing, is descendents of this hoax are still being presented in our e-mail inboxes. Over the years, scammers and rip-off artists have used this hoax as an outline for them to create a new era of adware, and malware, not to mention the devastating worm or Trojan horse.
The most visible hoax of the late 1990s was the “Budweiser Frogs screensaver”. This was an e-mail sent out to recipients that warn them of the damage which would occur to their computer should they download and install the screensaver called the “Bud Frogs”. As you can imagine, none of the horrifying damage did occur when loading this screen-saver.
So why is it that we still text our buddies, post a message on Facebook, and tweet about these urban legends? It simply comes back to our basics of wanting to warn others of potential dangerous computer viruses.
If you really think about it, the truly only time that a person experiences the wrath of a virus is after the damage has already been done. Today, we are an educated bunch of feverish PC users and any time we see the possibility of being infected, we take action.
We have become this way due to the occurrences seen and heard of a virus running around, cloaked as a security alert that needs your attention…ring any bells?
The reality is, often these security warnings are actually a way to let harmful viruses and personal information gathers into your computer. When you think about these situations, why would we not first relate this to an everyday issue…common-sense?
As you can imagine though, computers are looked upon the same way too many of us as a foreign language. The reason for this is that when you are with an unfamiliar topic, you gravitate to what you consider to be something helpful.
For those operating a PC at home, it can be devastating if the hoax is all about deleting particular and sensitive data such as pictures, bank information, or applications that you utilize on a regular basis. This simply demonstrates that removal of these items not only is unknowing what you may never be able to get the deleted applications, data, or media unless you execute regular backups.
Send in an e-mail, text, or tweeting to friends and family about a potential virus, when in fact it’s a hoax, can certainly be time-consuming. In addition, however, it can also be a drain on resources, most specifically Internet bandwidth in computer processing time, and not to mention the fact that these issues may actually cause someone in your family or an acquaintance harm that may not be reversible.
That person waist just as much monumental time as you in deciphering the particular security threat, hoax, and dealing with the aftermath of following the security protocols and instructions given by the hoax in an effort to thwart the deceptive threat.
Possibly you have already seen this yourself, that the forwarding of virus hoaxes can actually be a deterrent, and could cause harm to your reputation, or simply be the butt of jokes around the water cooler. And imagine if you had sent this out to numerous people, once you discovered it was a hoax, you would certainly feel obligated to reach out to those people once again and let them know that it was a hoax.
When considering whether this threat is valid or not, utilize a bit of common sense.
Just because an announcement in an e-mail sounds very good and technical, it does not necessarily mean it is true; it would be good for you at this point to have some healthy skepticism as to how credible the threat truly is.
Unbeknownst to many, hackers that utilize true viruses and hoaxes have a good understanding of those who are not savvy computer users. Even though an e-mail you receive comes from your states’ government, from Microsoft, or some other reputable organization, it may just as well be as bogus as an e-mail coming from someone in Nigeria.
Hackers can deploy an array of tactics to help you consider the threat to be valid. Your best bet is to start by searching the web, specifically those places you feel have good information about what may or may not be a valid threat.
As you should, utilize your computers security and antivirus service to help notify the developers of the threat. Most antivirus applications come with the ability to send non-personal, anonymous information about the security threat you encountered.
Do not get the impulse to warn others, and try to keep your emotions low as hackers and creators of virus hoaxes do their best to influence you based upon common and general thought. Remember, it is just as much your responsibility as it is the next person to keep the spread of hoaxes at bay.