I received a question about the validity of a warning a friend received and thought it might be useful to share some information about spotting hoaxes. The text of the email is quoted in bold red below.
Key hoax indicators.
"PLEASE FORWARD THIS WARNING AMONG FRIENDS, FAMILY AND CONTACTS:"
The above sentence already puts this at 99.99% probable hoax
"You should be alert during the next days:
Do not open any message with an attached file called
"Invitation" regardless of who sent it."
You can’t tell much about a file based upon its name, but not opening file attachments is good advice anyway
"It is a virus that opens an Olympic Torch which "burns" the whole hard
disc C of your computer."
Viruses don’t burn hard discs.
"This virus will be received from someone who has your e-mail address in
his/her contact list, that is why you should send this e-mail to all
You generally can’t tell that a virus used someone’s contact list. They get email addresses from a variety of places including all sorts of web pages. Repeating that you should email to all your contacts raises the probability of a hoax from 99.99% to 99.9999%
"It is better to receive this message 25 times than to receive the virus
and open it."
OK, the person who sent you this has obviously received the message at least once. Now it is time to oblige them by sending it to them 24 more times, after all it is better to receive it 25 times… This is a learning tool :)
"If you receive a mail called "invitation", though sent by a friend, do
not open it and shut down your computer immediately."
The hoax starts by saying it has an attachment called “Invitation”, not that the subject is “Invitation”. Incidentally, how did you forward this if you shut down your computer immediately :) The name of the email does not determine what it is or does.
"This is the worst virus announced by CNN, it has been classified by
Microsoft as the most destructive virus ever."
Then where is the news? The media would be all over it if this was true. Always ask yourself this when you see this type of message.
"This virus was discovered by McAfee yesterday, and there is no repair
yet for this kind of virus."
Was yesterday a day in February 2006? That’s when it appears this message was first discovered.
"This virus simply destroys the Zero Sector of the Hard Disc, where the
vital information is kept."
Does it burn the whole hard disc or just “destroy” sector zero? It doesn’t do either because it is a hoax. If it did either it wouldn’t last long because it kills itself.
"SEND THIS E-MAIL TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW"
Ok, a third time telling you to send it to everyone… Now we are up to 99.9999999% probability of a hoax. Anyone want to bet against those odds?
The key words in this hoax are “Invitation”, and “Olympic Torch”. Go out and google the following…
invitation olympic torch
Whenever you get an email that tells you about impeding doom, or to send it to everyone you know, especially when major news agencies are not reporting it, pick out the key words, type them into google and see what you find out.
Author ESET Research, We Live Security