What is a Virus Hoax? (How It Spreads, Examples)

What is a Virus Hoax?

An actual computer virus is a malicious software, often known as malware, that can harm a computer and its users. Some computer viruses can harm a system's memory or access personal information from its users. On the other hand, a computer virus hoax is usually just a hoax. This hoax attempts to trick computer users into believing that a virus exists which actually does not.

  • Virus hoaxes are deceptive warnings regarding viruses. They usually arrive in people's email inboxes, through a company's intranet, or even through social networking sites.

  • These messages are frequently forwarded via distribution lists, with the recipient being advised to deliver the message to other distribution lists.

  • Virus hoaxes, unlike viruses, do not replicate themselves. People who forward them on are either taken aback by the threats and (helpfully) warn others or have a reflex to share anything unexpected in their email.

Are These Virus Hoaxes Harmful?

Virus hoaxes are, for the most part, harmless. The majority of them frustrate their intended receivers or waste the time of those who pass them on. The motivations behind these hoaxes differ, but they appear to be sent for the author's pleasure, to test how ignorant people are and how far the message can go.

  • However, sometimes viral hoaxes are more malicious than others. Instead of simply alarming the recipient and encouraging them to spread the message, they may also persuade them to take action that would harm or jeopardize their computer's security to remove the "virus."

  • Delete commands for System32, jdbgmgr.exe, and SULFNBK.EXE are among them. Each of these instructions has the potential to be harmful. For example, removing the System32 folder can only be rectified by reinstalling Windows. Even though these virus hoaxes do not contain any virus, they can still cause significant issues.

Virus Hoax Examples

Hoax emails are frequently sent from what looks to be a trustworthy source, making it difficult for recipients to decide whether or not to take their message seriously. While most of these hoaxes are harmless, they often instruct recipients to remove crucial data from their systems or open an infected attachment.

  • In 1988, the 2400 Baud Modem Virus became the first known virus hoax.

  • The 1988 Good Time Virus Hoax was one of the most "successful" ever, reappearing regularly and inspiring a slew of follow-up hoaxes, including the scathing Bad Times virus hoax.

  • The sulfnbx.exe (2001) virus hoax used social engineering techniques to scare message recipients into behaving without contemplating, in this case, destroying legitimate files.

How Does a Virus Hoax Work?

Let's see how a Virus Hoax spreads −

  • A virus hoax typically begins as a single email or message sent to individuals at random, then spreads through an organization's intranet, is transmitted via a messenger app like WhatsApp, or is shared on social networking sites like Facebook.

  • Because of the troubling material, well-intentioned receivers forward it to their colleagues, relatives, and friends, who then deliver it to their relatives, friends, and co-workers.

  • Friends, family, and co-workers with good intentions write their versions of the message and distribute it on social media and in Instant Messaging groups. The message is sometimes warped, much like Chinese whispers, making it difficult to determine where it came from and whether it contains any truth.

What You Need to Do When You Get a Virus Hoax

Antivirus software providers advise the receivers to discard the email virus hoax messages rather than forwarding them on.

  • Organizations should have a no-forwarding policy for any virus-related email messages they receive.

  • Even if the message appears to be from someone they know, it could be a fake account put up to impersonate that person, or the sender could have been duped. It's critical to stop it before it spreads to others.

  • Do not respond to the email or forward it to anyone if it is a viral hoax. Remove the message from the system.

  • If the communication is a warning about a real virus, you do not need to respond to the sender. If you feel compelled to alert friends or family, attach a link to the website page where you confirmed the virus's authenticity.

Updated on: 09-Jun-2022


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