Don't Spread that Hoax!
These Stories may have at least a grain of truth
"Classic" Urban Legends & Myths
Businesses & Government
For the last few years, the internet community has endured a wave of e-mail hoaxes and pranks, exploiting users unfamiliarity with how the internet, and computer systems in general work. With the explosive growth of the internet and its popularity, more and more new users are "getting online" and becoming targets for pranksters. "Ancient" myths, like the cookie story, are just waiting for a critical mass of people who have not been exposed, so that they can go streaming across the net again. There is no technical solution to this problem. Even when users users become experienced enough to be able to tell a silly message when they see one, anyone can get suckered sometimes. It seems that all users of the internet will have to put up with a certain amount of nonsense. Generally, these messages are only an annoyance, but internet hoaxes have already cost victims property, reputation, and even endangered their lives..
Experienced users call these problem messages Junk-mail Viruses, because they act like other computer viruses, only they use people as the method of infecting new systems. Users of the internet must learn to be skeptical, and think carefully before spreading a message to new users. There are some simple things you can do to avoid being a carrier for Junk-mail Viruses.
1) If you get a message, or see a posting on Usenet that seems like it should be shared with LOTS of people, **DON`T SEND IT** unless either you KNOW the message is true, you can authenticate their identity (through PGP or some other system), or you know the sender personally, and know they would have written this message. The more urgent it sounds, the more skeptical you should be. Even if you think it might be true, let someone else spread it.
2) If you really want to send it, **ALWAYS CHECK WITH THE ORIGINATOR** before forwarding it! This is the best way to tell a hoax or a prank. Just reply to the first sender, and ask them if it is true. If they can't tell you, then don't send it! Most pranks and hoaxes have forged headers and signatures, and when you try and verify the validity of the message, you will find that the address is not valid. Even if the originator is the prankster, and tells you to go ahead, at least they can be caught and dealt with. If this seems like too much of a bother, than it is not that important and you should not send it anyway.
3) If the message tells you to do something, especially if that something involves changing in your account or sending a file or message over the network, **CHECK WITH SOMEONE KNOWLEDGEABLE THAT YOU CAN TRUST**. Imagine you received a package in your real homes mailbox asking you to place your house keys in the return envelope provided, and mail them to a post office box. Would you comply? People fall for the computer version of this all the time.
4) If you see or get something that really makes you angry, remember *** YOU CAN'T BE SURE WHO SENT IT!!** It is very very easy to frame someone with an e-mail message or Usenet post. All someone has to do is sit at their computer when the victim is away from the keyboard. But hackers can be much more sophisticated. They can forge any message to make it appear from anyone.
5)Chain e-mail and Pyramid posts on Usenet are a scam, and most often, they are a crime. ANY SCHEME THAT INVOLVES REAL MAIL AT ANY POINT CAN BE ILLEGAL. If you forward one, you will be blasted with hundreds of angry messages in reply. But if you see one, remember that you can't really be sure who sent it!
6)Finally, note that when April 1st comes up, the Net will be awash in phony messages, forged return addresses, pranks, and general amusing nonsense. The best thing to do is to read them and have a good laugh. Baring that, ignore any message from anyone you don't know, and ignore any message from anyone that asks you to do something.
Internet "virus" hoaxes deserve several pages all its own. Here are some:
Two key points:
1) Never open anything INCLUDED, LINKED OR ATTACHED to an email from someone you don't know. This is only really a problem for users of Microsoft mail programs like Office, Outlook, and Exchange, but it's a good habit for everyone. It IS possible to download a dangerous executable program through e-mail, or through your web browser. For heaven's sake DON'T RUN A PROGRAM FROM A SOURCE YOU DON'T HAVE VERY GOOD REASON TO TRUST! If your browser or e-mail reader does not ask you permission before it runs a downloaded program, THROW THAT BROWSER OR READER AWAY! It's no more useful than a door to your house that can't keep anyone out. IS directors, get a clue and demand that macro and Visual Basic "functionality" be removed from Microsoft mail products!
2) Anyway, there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY** for an email message to infect your computer with a virus just by reading it. Unless you click on the stuff that is "inside" a message, you are perfectly safe.
Here are some authoritative sources of information.
"Forward This message to get a free .... !"
Many hoaxes encourage their victims to forward a message to as many people as possible in order to get a reward for themselves or on the behalf of some charity. The hoax claims that if enough copies of the message get sent then something good will happen. Alternatively, some messages claim that unless enough messages are sent, than something bad will happen. Popular variants of this are currently centered on The Gap, Disney, Microsoft, and Bill Gates.
The thing to know is that there is no way for anyone to count the number of copies of an email in circulation on the internet, nor to count the number of times something has been forwarded. In order to actually do this, not only would you have to run a program that would "open" and examine the contents of many millions of email messages all over the world, the program would have to trace the path of each message. This would be an incredible technological challenge with no real return on the investment.
Urban Legends, Myths and Stories
The cookie story (Mrs. Fields, Neimen Marcus, etc) is a myth. It has been circulating for at least 10 years in various forms. Please do not forward it.
The kid who wants postcards before he dies is also no longer true, don't forward it either.
The federal government is NOT going to start charging for e-mail, or any other use the the internet. When you see a call to arms about this issue, disregard it.
The Kidney Theft story is a myth, your digestive organs are only valuable to you.
There are enough myths, legends, and hoaxes on the net to fill a book, in fact, one is growing, check out urban legends.com
Here is a page of "current" hoaxes I know about:
Please Email me here: Charles Hymes, I'd like to know what you think!
Hewlett-Packard Company (408)-447-2340 19483 Pruneridge Ave, MS 48NA Cupertino California 95014 HP FAX:(408) 447-1863
** Really experienced users know about holes in sendmail and particular Microsoft mail readers, but this message is not for you.
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