You have probably received emails from associates warning you to be aware of a specific "virus"; if you did, you have most likely been the victim of a virus hoax. The DOT-COMmunications' helpdesk receives more calls about virus hoaxes than about any individual real virus.
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Virus hoaxes are false reports about usually non-existent viruses, often claiming to do impossible things. Unfortunately some recipients occasionally believe a hoax to be a true virus warning and may take drastic action (such as shutting down their network) or deleting innocent files from their hard disk.
Typically such hoaxes circulate by emails, which describe a dangerous new undetectable virus, usually using bogus technical terms. Hoaxes often ask you to avoid reading or downloading emails that have a particular subject line. Examples include Budweiser Frogs, It Takes Guts to Say Jesus, and Join the Crew.
For instance, the Good Times hoax claims to put your computer's CPU in "an nth-complexity infinite binary loop, which can severely damage the processor". Good thing it doesn't exist. The hoax warns you not to read or download anything with the subject "Good Times" because the message is a virus.
Others such as the Jdbgmgr.exe hoax rely on the presence of an existing file on people's computers to ensure that the hoax is perpetuated. Those supposedly infected are advised to send emails to everyone in their address book warning them that its likely that you have been infected by a virus that is not detected by Anti-virus systems. This virus supposedly sits quietly on your computer for 14 days before damaging the system. It is sent automatically by 'messenger' and by address book, whether or not you've sent e-mail to your contacts and advises you to search for a file with the name jdbgmgr.exe and which has a teddy bear icon. It advises you to delete the file and then urges you to warn as many people on their address book as possible that they may have been infected through your address book.
You are not helping people. The continued re-forwarding of these hoaxes simply wastes time and email bandwidth and could result in your email address being blocked as spam by others. It is also possible that you may receive a hoax via email with a file attached or advising you to download a special program. Obviously, such files should be treated with caution, as they may be viruses, spyware or Trojan programs.
In the case of hoaxes such as the Jdbgmgr.exe, the hoax encourages you to delete a legitimate Windows file from your computer. Jdbgmgr.exe is in fact the Microsoft Debugger Registrar for Java. The Jdbgmgr.exe file may be installed when you install Windows and does not do any harm to your system but its presence on your hard disk seeming confirms the "truth" of the warning and results in widespread hoax warnings.
DOT-COMmunications' recommends deleting all virus hoax emails immediately, whether they contain file attachments or not and making sure you have a good anti-virus program installed, constantly updated and ran regularly.
Although no official research has been done on the subject, it is estimated that hoaxes can cost you even more than a genuine virus incident. After all, no anti-virus program will detect hoaxes because they aren't really viruses and no amount of updates or new programs will detect something that doesn't exist. Some people panic when they receive a hoax virus warning - making the situation much worse. The amount of email that a typical hoax can generate is also a cost to organisations. Once a few people in your organisation have received a warning and mailed it to all their friends and colleagues, a mail overload can easily result.
Your organisation may like to consider circulating a policy on virus hoaxes to your staff and volunteers, in an attempt to reduce the costs involved.
Here is an example policy you could use:
"You shall not forward any virus warnings of any kind to *anyone* inside or outside the organisation other than <insert name of the department or staff member who looks after anti-virus issues or alternatively forward it to viruses@DOT-COMmunications.co.uk>. It doesn't matter if the virus warnings have apparently come from an anti-virus vendor or been confirmed by any large computer company or your best friend. *All* virus warnings should be sent to <insert name>, and <insert name> alone. It is <insert name>'s job to send round all virus warnings, and a virus warning which comes from any other source should be ignored."
Keep yourself informed - you can ensure you have useful, up-to-the-minute data on the latest, "hottest" hoaxes with very little effort by visiting our latest virus information page.