Avoid spreading myths and hoaxes

Tips & Hints

Myths in your inbox

Posted 22 May 2002

When it comes to spreading rumours, myths and misinformation, the Internet is the perfect medium. On the net, a little misinformation can go a long way.

There have been dozens of false alarms over the years. Many of them simply recycled older myths. The current ones we're seeing include the Internet e-mail fee, the !0000 address book and the "teddy bear virus" warning.

The Teddy Bear virus is one of the new breed of myths that encourage the user to delete files on their computer. Some cynics have pointed out this is the future of virus writing, where the user does the damage, cutting out the middleman. This hoax comes out exactly one year after the sulfnbk.exe hoax.

It’s easy to look foolish spreading these things. Particularly if you’re advising you friends to wipe their system files. With all good intentions you pass on a warning only to be told that you’ve been fooled.

You can avoid embarrassment by being a bit sceptical. You can be sure any message that purports to come from a big corporation or government body is almost certainly false.

Be suspicious about the source and the tone of the message. Does the person who sent it to you know much about computers? What about the people who sent it to them? Does it appear to be hysterical?

Do a little bit of research before sending out a warning. A quick look at sites like vmyths, The Urban Legends website or any of the anti-virus companies will quickly tell you whether this is a known hoax.

This is very important before deleting any files. While the sulfnbk.exe and jdbgmgr.exe hoaxes only fooled you into deleting relatively trivial files, it’s only a matter of time until a hoax encouraging you to trash something important appears.

We have enough junk and viruses spinning around the Internet without adding hoaxes and myths. Don’t spread them and check the facts before passing any warnings on. And always ask yourself before sending any e-mail, "do my friends, colleagues and relatives really want to know about this?"

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