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About the "Hoax du Jour"

The "Hoax du Jour" is a recurring column providing updated information and commentary on the Internet community. It is a feature of Korova Multimedia's "e-v-mail" page.

What is a "hoax du jour?" With the advent of widespread use of the Internet as a medium for sharing information, the phenomenon of sharing misinformation has exploded. Conventional urban folklore and propaganda have blossomed on the Internet. Intentionally misleading information is broadcast on a professional and personal level.

On the Web, misinformation wants to be free. It also likes to be free of authenticity and corroboration, when such grounding deflates the credibility of the content.

The result? Naive users of the Internet are subjected to a daily barrage of data that are erroneous, slanderous, and sometimes even destructive. This page is dedicated to discussing intentional misinformation, or 'Net hoaxes.

Disclaimer The opinions expressed here are entirely my own, and do not reflect policy or intentions of any persons, groups or companies referred to or linked from this site. I, my guest writers, or Korova Multimedia are not responsible for content or sites linked to from the "Hoax du Jour" column.

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HoaxKill Service

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Curses! Broiled Again!
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The Truth Never Stands In The Way Of A Good Story

Computer Security Basics (O'Reilly)

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November 3, 1997     

A recent piece in a local newspaper alerted me to one of the latest in an apparently unending supply of hysterical hoaxes that encourage paranoia and distrust of computers and those who support the use of them.

This latest story, the "AOL 4.0 Cookie" hoax, purports to be from a former employee of America Online (AOL), who "discovered" that a cookie function of the forthcoming Version 4.0 of the online service's software will allow AOL personnel to peep into any user's computer and the files contained therein.

Though the story is imaginative, it's also technically flawed. Cookies are benign data nuggets used by Web browsers. And it's a hoax. No such function exists, AOL executives have insisted.

I mention it here because such a scare story fits the conventional e-v-mail model. It tells a lengthy and technically inaccurate tale of some nefarious "back door" process the user a) won't understand and b) can't stop (The Hook) ... continues with all the awful things that evil AOL execs will be able to do with this back door (The Threat) ... then finishes with the typical pleading call to arms, er, e-mail (The Request). Curiously, this is really similar to the scare when Windows 95 came out; that rumor asserted that the installation program gathered info about the user's system, and uploaded it secretly to Microsoft through their new Microsoft Network (MSN) when Win95 was registered. And of course, it's also similar to a rumor about Prodigy from 1990 or so; supposedly, Prodigy had been fined by the good ol' U.S. Government for uploading information about users' computers while they were logged into the service.

This story even has a twist that I like. It asserts that AOL execs (who are "sworn to secrecy") will be peeking into users' systems. One imagines darkened rooms filled with demonic techies swooping down onto Ma and Pa's computer and rooting around for unlicensed copies of ViruScan or Duke Nukem.

If you're an AOL user, you have little to fear. The service will continue to offer you a steady flow of banal, inconsistent service, obnoxious advertising and "Aw, shucks" low-brow content, using an antiquated software model. But they won't be violating your system security. Not much.

David Spalding

© Copyright 1997 D.B. Spalding/Korova Multimedia. All rights reserved.







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