Honor system virus

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A computer virus hoax is a message warning the recipient of a non-existent computer virus threat. The message is usually a chain e-mail that tells the recipient to forward it to everyone they know.



Most hoaxes are sensational in nature and easily identified by the fact that they indicate that the virus will do nearly impossible things, like blow up the recipient's computer and set it on fire, or less sensationally, delete everything on the user's computer. They often include announcements claimed to be from reputable organizations such as Microsoft, IBM, or news sources such as CNN and include emotive language and encouragement to forward the message. These sources are quoted in order to add credibility to the hoax.

Virus hoaxes are usually harmless and accomplish nothing more than annoying people who identify it as a hoax and waste the time of people who forward the message. Nevertheless, a number of hoaxes have warned users that vital system files are viruses and encourage the user to delete the file, possibly damaging the system. Examples of this type include the jdbgmgr.exe virus hoax and the SULFNBK.EXE hoax.[1][2]

Some consider virus hoaxes and other chain e-mails to be a computer worm in and of themselves. They replicate by social engineering—exploiting users' concern, ignorance, and disinclination to investigate before acting.

Hoaxes are distinct from computer pranks, which are harmless programs that perform unwanted and annoying actions on a computer, such as randomly moving the mouse, turning the screen display upside down, etc.


Anti-virus specialists agree that recipients should delete virus hoaxes when they receive them, instead of forwarding them.[3][4]

McAfee says:

We are advising users who receive the email to delete it and DO NOT pass it on as this is how an email HOAX propagates.[3]

F-Secure recommends:

Do not forward hoax messages.

Hoax warnings are typically scare alerts started by malicious people – and passed on by innocent individuals that think they are helping the community by spreading the warning.

Corporate users can get rid of the hoax problem by simply setting a strict company guideline: End users must not forward virus alarms. Ever. It's not the job of an end user anyway. If such message is received, end users could forward it to the IT department but not to anyone else.[4]

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