Hoax: “Life is beautiful”

When I get a chain letter like this, I don't usually respond to everyone else who received it, even when it's a hoax (as it usually is)...

When I get a chain letter like this, I don’t usually respond to everyone else who received it, even when it’s a hoax (as it usually is)…

Now here’s an old favourite I received today.

This  information arrived this morning direct from both Microsoft  and Norton.
Please  send it to everybody you know who has access to the  Internet. You may  receive an apparently harmless email with a Power Point  presentation
‘Life  is beautiful.’
If you  receive it DO NOT OPEN THE FILE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES and delete  it immediately .
If  you open this file, a message will appear on your screen  saying: ‘It is too late now, your life is no longer  beautiful.’
Subsequently  you will LOSE EVERYTHING IN YOUR PC and the person who sent it  to you will gain access to your name, e-mail and  password.
This is  a new virus which started to circulate on Saturday  afternoon. AOL  has already confirmed the severity, and the antivirus  software’s are not capable of destroying it. 

The  virus has been created by a hacker  who calls himself ‘life owner.’

It’s a hoax, of course. It’s been around for several years that I know of: since 2002 according to snopes.com, which is an excellent resource for checking these things, and the first place I check when I see a likely hoax that I’m not familiar with.

But apart from that…When I get a chain letter like this, I don’t usually respond to everyone else who received it, even when it’s a hoax (as it usually is). That’s because when I first started getting interested in urban legends and the internet in the early 90s, I found that as more people learned about the scale of the hoax problem responding to everyone generated mailstorms of “oh yes it is – oh no it isn’t” arguments and “I know it’s a hoax – stop telling me what I already know” responses.

 (Incidentally by the end of the 90s and well into this century, the problem was HUGE: when I was responsible for antivirus on mail services run on behalf of the UK’s National Health Service, hoaxes caused me far more problems than real malicious software. Fortunately, we see a lot less in the way of virus hoaxes nowadays, though other forms of hoax and chain letter remain very prevalent.)

As it happens, I did make an exception in this case. I didn’t go all the way down the chain of nested copies looking for everyone who’d ever received it, but I did make an offer to everyone who received it at the same time as I did. And now I’m making it to you. Not for the first time, actually, but I don’t mind repeating myself. i said, I don’t mind repeating myself.

I have an email account (hoaxchecker@gmail.com) that I use as a sort of honeytrap for hoaxes. If you send a copy of any chain letter you receive there, I’ll respond as quickly as I can with a “yes it’s a hoax” or “no it isn’t” or even “well, it’s not altogether wrong, but…” Having been in the computer security business for nearly 20 years, I can usually give a yes or no straight away, but I also have the resources to check with when I’m not sure. It’s not that I’m short of something to do, but it’s quite useful to me to see what is currently circulating in the wild and woolly internet. :)

David Harley

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