What is a False Alarm?

By: Jesse Miller

False alarms (pseudo-viruses) appeared along with the first known virus. Their main purpose is to get a wide propagation and they contain false information about virus existence and appearance. Some of them are often used as marketing means for campaigns or products.

What most don't realize is that pseudo-viruses simply pretty big costs. Let's assume that a network administrator that is well intended assumes that such a message is true and as a precaution measure he closes all e-mail servers. Then the losses he will get are equal to the ones registered in case of a virus attack.

Another situation is when every person on the Internet gets a hoax message and spends a minute reading it. Calculation of the losses in this case is simple: 50,000,000 persons x 1/60 hours x $50 USD an hour = 41.7 million dollars.

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Another problem is the credibility. When someone gets burned with such a false alarm they are likely to ignore future virus warnings, even when they are true.

Signs that a message is a hoax - CAPITAL LETTERS - Real advertisements are written in a technical manner, and they won't contain unnecessary capital letters. If most of the text in your e-mail is capitalized, then it's highly probable it's a hoax.

- If you are advised to send the message to all addresses in you address book.

- When the virus is described as "the most destructive" of phrases similar.

- Announcing devastating consequences, without giving proper technical feedback, and make excessive use of words like WARNING! followed by numerous exclamation marks.
What to do when a message like this one reaches our e-mail?

Firstly, we shouldn't panic. If it looks like a hoax, it probably is. Then, visit an antivirus website and search there for information regarding such a hoax. If you can't find anything, ask friends or co-workers and the next day re-visit the antivirus website.

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