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Computer Virus Myths
The Curse of a Thousand Chain Letters
Lycos Guide: Urban Legends
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by Jan Harold Brunvand
July 25, 2001
Similar to earlier urban legends about gangs initiating new members with violent crimes towards strangers, this little tale tells us that teenagers are playing a new game in which a foil and gasoline-soaked rag sort of Molotov cocktail is thrown through an open window into a stranger's car. No news reports confirmed the rumor. Unfortunately, it's not totally fictitious. Some American teens in Germany were arrested in February, 2000, for hurling large rocks from an overpass to cars below; two people were killed and several more injured.
This little girl was only missing for a few hours in 1999. Turned out she was at a neighbor's house. But apparently her mom sent out a plea via the Internet, and now another useless "missing child alert" is being forwarded long after the crisis has passed. Do everyone a favor, particularly her mother: don't forward the e-mail.
Please hold your snickering until you finish this paragraph. This was not an e-mail virus hoax, but an e-mail hoax about a virus. The Klingerman e-mail hoax warns us that some mysterious baddie is mailing blue envelopes marked "A gift from the Klingerman Foundation," containing a sponge laden with a deadly virus. Take a little ANDROMEDA STRAIN, add some Unabomber, and garnish with some Publisher's Clearing House, and you've got this stew cooked up right. Both the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Postal Service deny any investigations of such a buggaboo. Now here's what's funny: in May, 2000, citizens in Florida and Maine called 911 to report what they suspected were Klingerman virus envelopes. Okay -- you can start launghing now.
(Update! After the World Trade Center bombing in 2001, a variant was sighted with the name changed to "Kinderman Foundation." Another variation warned us about any "blue package" delivered by UPS which would contain a "deadly gas.")
Did you receive a warning about The New Ice Age virus, and the intrepid AV software firm working hard to protect us from this? It wasn't no virus, bubba; t'was a childish publicity stunt. The chain letter listed a link to http://www.thenewiceage.com, which later redirected to http://www.dtpmusic.com/tnia/; both pages were faked announcements about some kind of antivirus software release.
But the later page was hosted on the domain name for a rock band called Disturbing The Peace. The "New Ice Age" was apparently their new CD release, and the virus hoax was a publicity stunt to promote a release party on 2/17/2001. Isn't that clever? No; I've considered penning fake hoaxes to promote this site many times, and Jiminy Cricket talked me out of it every single time. When Rob Rosenberger, of Vmyths.com, told me about this, I was hoping the "Net Pigs In Charge" (NIPC) would take action. Don't hold your breath.
Another "little missing girl" alert, and like Kelsey's this one was valid for only a short while. Tragically, little Jessica was found murdered a few days later, and a suspect was arrested. There is no need to forward the e-mail alert.
Another nasty, grossly fabricated health scare based on misinformation and hysteria. This one wrongfully maligns Canada for exporting cooking oil that is allegedly poisonous. This 'Net rumor includes some disturbingly graphic depictions of maladies that defy reason. Other than that, this latest hoax is only scary because the claims made by the anonymous author are recklessly inaccurate. ... Proof once again that you can't believe everything that's forwarded by e-mail -- and that you should doubt most of the "forwardables" that litter the Internet highways.
A little forwardable made the rounds of New Zealand and the British Isles that if enough citizens report their religion as "Jedi" (the all but vanquished order of galactic knights from STAR WARS, it will be counted as a "legitimate" religious belief. Bunk. It takes a lot more than an silly, mischievous answers. Australia's bureau of Statistics has a thoughtful answer to all would-be "young Jedis." The Hoax du Jour suggests you do your chores, get those droids cleaned up before daybreak, and maybe you can go to the Space Academy next season. Don't believe everything your friends down at Mos Eisley tell you.
Another month, another virus panic. This is becoming a familiar theme (to me, at least), wherein the author alleges that an obscure utility provided by Microsoft in the Windows operating system (in this case, c:\windows\command\sulfnbk.exe in Windows 98 and ME) is a virus. It's not, though it is not exempt from being infected by some other virus. Use your anti-virus software to check the utility, but don't follow this hoax's destructive instructions to delete the utility. It's part of your software, but you're not expected to know that. The hoax is playing on general users' naivete.
There appears to be someone with a major grudge against Datek Online. Considering the way the stock market left hordes of e-commerce speculators high and dry, it's no wonder. The anonymous "newsletter" from "The Business Outcasts" urged readers to flood various e-mail addresses with complaints on behalf of the anonymous author, and call Datek's toll-free lines as well. I dunno about you, but I have better things to do than complain to a company I have no dealings with on behalf of some stranger online. A one-time "newsletter" from a group ("The Business Outcasts") with no online presence, using spoofed e-mail addresses that are invalid ... does not convince me otherwise.
Another chain e-mail petition which asked you to help stop the cruel hobby of raising "bonsai kittens." Firstly, the web site about these "kittens in a jar" was a joke. Secondly, no one's making money selling these kittens. Thirdly, an online petition won't achieve anything except ... drive more curious visitors to the joke site. This was a silly petition, possibly a hoax but more likely another misguided attempt at 'Net activism.
Briefly in the early summer, there was an e-mail being forwarded which warned us about the "new privacy protection" against financial institutions sharing and selling information about your account. Try this for overly hysterical text: "These financial firms have until July 1 to obtain your approval before they begin INVADING YOUR PRIVACY." !!) Actually, the law went into effect on July 1, and institutions had to send you a notice advising you of their privacy policies, and offering you the opportunity to "opt out." The four main credit bureaus also operated a joint 1-800 number to call. The e-mail was slightly inaccurate, but essentially true. Bottom line, you can make your decision whenever you want to.
Tax rebates? Really? Yes, really. But it's not really a "rebate." The President HAS signed new tax relief legislation, it IS retroactive to January 1, and most US citizens WILL get a letter from the IRS in July telling each taxpayer how much will be sent in an "advance payment" of a Tax Year 2001 credit. Both the IRS and CNN.com have more answers. Go take a look.
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