Why Acting on Virus Hoax E-Mails is Dangerous

03 Oct 2011Chris Fairey

We've all seen them, an e-mail arrives from someone you know telling you about a new, highly dangerous and undetectable virus and asks you to forward the message on to everyone in your address book. Not surprisingly, most people who get these e-mails do exactly that.

What's All the Fuss About?

The problem is that these e-mails are warning you about something that does not exist. Even if you open a file containing a virus that your anti-virus software can't directly identify, it is smart enough to compare the 'signature' of the file you're trying to open with its database to find a close match, and if one exists flag it as a virus.

Panic Stations

So what then is this e-mail doing warning you of a threat that doesn't exist? Simple, it's creating panic and, in most cases, a massive drain on the resources of the Internet that have to process thousands of copies of the same message.

It creates this panic by using language that makes it appear that a reputable source (a software or anti virus company) has alerted the originator of the e-mail (not the person who sent it to you) of a new threat that their software cannot protect you against.

Beware of Gifts...That Keep on Giving

Some of these hoax e-mails may even offer you a fix for the supposedly undetectable virus, which, yes you've guessed it, is in actual fact a virus itself, which then gives a malicious individual access to your computer, while pretending to remove a virus you didn't have.

Stamp it Out

Stopping the spread of these hoax e-mails, and the headaches that they cause your IT staff, is a simple matter of training your employees not to act on any e-mail that contains instructions to forward it to all their contacts.

Here to Help

DigiPest can provide you with training material that alerts your employees to the potential dangers of virus hoax e-mails, and what they should do with them. If you would like to discuss your options, please contact us.

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