Hoaxes are reports of non-existent viruses or threats

Hoaxes are usually in the form of e-mails that do some or all of the following:

  • Warn you that there is an undetectable, highly destructive new piece of malware.
  • Ask you to avoid reading e-mails with a particular subject line (e.g. “Budweiser Frogs”)
  • Claim that the warning was issued by a major software company, internet provider or government agency (e.g. IBM, Microsoft, AOL, or the FCC)
  • Claim that the new malware can do something improbable (e.g. the A moment of silence hoax says that “no program needs to be exchanged for a new computer to be infected”)
  • Use techno-babble to describe malware effects (e.g. Sector Zero claims that the malware can “destroy sector zero of the hard drive”)
  • Urge you to forward the warning

Many users forwarding such hoax e-mails can result in a deluge of e-mail, which may overload mail servers. Hoax messages may also distract from efforts to deal with real malware threats.

Since hoaxes aren’t malware, your anti-virus and endpoint security software can’t detect or disable them.