Virus Hoaxes

Virus myths abound. Hoaxes are easy to construct and also freely circulate. Learn about them and where to get data about them.

Viruses, by their nature, tend to mystify the average user. They operate in the background under rules that are little understood by most users. As such, a mythology has developed where stories are passed from person to person as true; yet few are based in fact.

Most hoaxes, while deliberately posted, die a quick death because of their outrageous content. Some, however, make it into the wild and get out of hand.

A lot of hoaxes spout some pretty good technobabble, so unless you are a real expert, it’s easy to get caught. Look for specific technical details, particularly how to identify and get rid of the beast. If you don’t recognize the name of the person posting the warning, check to see who they say they have sent copies to for study. Independently verify the report with secondary sources.

Before jumping into the deep end of the pool and believing everything that comes across the net, check it out:

  • In general, if what you get is a message forwarded from someone else, be suspicious. Many people get caught by hoaxes and forward them all over the place. Just because a message comes from a friend does not make it accurate.
  • Look at the location of the posting. If the posting is in an inappropriate newsgroup be suspicious.
  • Look at the poster. Is it someone who is clearly identified and is a known expert on the subject of the posting?
  • Look closely at the details:
    • If it involves government action there should be some reference to an easily-obtained bill or federal regulation.
    • If it involves something technical look for obvious technobabble (e.g., Nth complexity infinite binary loop).
    • If the text is full of grammatical and/or spelling errors it’s almost certain the text is not official.
    • Double check it anyhow!

You can research hoaxes at some of the resources listed here:

  • If If you suspect a virus hoax, Computer Knowledge’s favorite site is: Link. (Disclaimer: this site is run by a friend; it doesn’t affect the recommendation but you should know that in advance for full disclosure purposes–see the False Authority Syndrome discussion for reasons why.) If you can’t find a reference at they have links to other relevant sites.

Some interesting urban legend sites to check are:

And, finally, most anti-virus sites have a section on their web site that discusses the most current hoaxes.

Quick and Easy Cures

The simple point to make here is: there are none. Any product that advertises itself as a “quick and easy cure” for “all viruses past, present, and future” is more likely than not exercising its advertising imagination and therefore such claims can be taken as mostly legend or a hoax. Everyone would like to just buy product X, run it, and be rid of viruses forever. Unfortunately there is no such easy cure.

Of course, this tutorial is only a broad-brush introduction to the topic. If you want to keep up with hoaxes and myths as they spread around the world take a look at the resources above.


  • Being largely misunderstood, viruses easily generate myths.
  • Some people think it’s funny to generate hoaxes. By careful checking you can usually spot them.
  • Silly tricks and poor policies are no substitute for individual protection methods.
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Comments from original post:

Said this on 2012-02-20 At 10:38 pm
I think spyware is not the right term becasuse software is installed with user’s knowledge and permission and can be removed easily using uninstall program from the control panel. It’s not malicious. It is just a program that gathers some information about user’s browsing habits. It is a genuine piece of software.

[Spyware is the correct term for software that collects data unknown to you. Not all spyware is malware but malware cannot be uninstalled via the Control Panel. But, what does this have to do with virus hoaxes??? –DaBoss]