Saturday, December 22, 2001

Virus Hoax

I received an e-mail from a friend in California, warning against viruses. As I wrote in my December 12th entry, I've already had the frightening experience of being infected with a computer virus, so I stood prepared--"OK, now which one?" According to this message, he had received an e-mail on how to eliminate viruses. Using this to check his computer, he found that the C:\WINDOW\COMMAND folder in his hard drive was infected. The e-mail was an "FYI" message. Since the last experience, I still hadn't cleaned out my hard drive, so, since it seemed simple to find the virus, I decided to try it. All we needed to do was to run the "find or search" function, find the "sulfnbk.exe" file, which is the virus, and delete it by sending it to the "recycle" bin.

I found the problematic file immediately after starting the search. According to my friend, "This virus has an incubation period of two weeks, after which it begins to destroy the hard drive." I thought it best to delete this evil thing, and threw it in the recycle bin. He'd also written that I should "empty the bin" as well, but that's where I hesitated. If I empty the bin, that file would disappear completely. If, however, the information this person sent me was false, and this file isn’t a virus, wouldn't the results be "fatal"? I decided to take a look at when this virus was created? June 2000. This was strange, since I'd just bought my computer this past summer. If the virus had been in my computer since then, it should already have destroyed my hard drive completely.

The previous infection happened because I believed the e-mail sender. Unbeknownst to the sender, the virus had sent out entirely false information by e-mail. Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, I decided to question the contents of the e-mail sent by this person, too. So, I sent a message confirming, "Did you really send this e-mail?" At the same time, I asked the virus specialist at work if this e-mail had anything to do with virus. I didn't even have to wait for an answer from my friend in California. The result of my inquiry was "correct." The specialist said, "That’s called a 'bogus virus.' Viruses do all sorts of complicated things within the computer, but this 'virus hoax' isn't a program or anything. It's simply 'false information.'" Telling someone who isn't very computer literate that "This is a virus" might fool them. And, if they see it in their computer, they might misunderstand and think they're infected, too. Furthermore, if they're told there's a possibility that they may have sent it to others, they may, with every good intention, send the same incorrect information to friends and acquaintances. In this way, false information is spread throughout the world. This is a sophisticated strategy that preys upon the "good intentions" and "insecurity" of others.

By the way, where and how do religion and this type of bogus virus differ? When you think about it, there might be an interesting conclusion. When you have time, perhaps during the holidays, how about trying to think of an answer?

- MT

No comments: