Overview Although not nearly as destructive as real computer viruses, hoax viruses can wreak havoc for both beginning computer users and technologically savvy computer users alike. Fortunately, a great deal of virus hoax information can be found online. This information includes descriptions of real computer viruses and virus hoaxes, instructions on how to spot a hoax, as well as how to protect one’s self from both hoaxes and real viruses. Additionally, many Web sites provide an index of known hoaxes for users to reference. Hoaxes can be differentiated from urban legends and other forms of social hysteria by the fact that hoaxes use the Internet and e-mail systems to perpetrate their misinformation. 

General Information The best way to combat a hoax is to not spread it by e-mail. If you receive an e-mail that you suspect to be a hoax, the number one rule is: Do not send it to others. What are some other rules of thumb to remember when dealing with a hoax? What are the risks and costs of hoaxes? These questions, and more, are answered at the Hoaxbuster’s site. An interesting article about how a hoax exposed a weakness in Microsoft’s Outlook e-mail client can be found by following this link

How To Spot a Hoax There are a few different ways to distinguish an e-mail virus hoax from a legitimate virus warning. Generally speaking, real viruses are announced through the news media. In fact, antivirus software makers do not typically send out e-mail warnings of potential virus threats. You can read about how to distinguish a hoax from both legitimate e-mail and a real virus at any of the following sites: 

Then, visit www.ciac.org/ciac/bulletins/l-117.shtml to read an official bulletin about a real threat, the “Code Red Worm”. 

Hoax Indexes Some Web sites offer an index of known hoaxes. The hoaxes are described based on hoax tracking information. By browsing these indexes you’ll be able to figure out whether or not a suspicious-looking e-mail is a hoax by comparing it to the known hoaxes listed. Visit any of the following sites to view lists of hoaxes, characteristics of hoaxes, and hoax tracking:  

Additional Links Hoaxes are a lot like urban legends or other myths found in society today. Some pose interesting points of view, some are just for fun, and some are destructive. Read about hoaxes, myths, and legends at www.vmyths.com. Another similar site is www.nonprofit.net/hoax/default.htm. Here you’ll find information about “classic” urban legends, myths, hoaxes, and general misinformation that’s being circulated.