Hoaxes are a simple but effective type of malware. These e-mails aim to trick the unsuspecting with false information and scare stories on a variety of topics, including alerts concerning non-existent viruses and a whole range of urban myths.
On many occasions IT hoaxes are created by malicious users with the simple aim of playing a trick on computer user. However, they can also be used to collect numerous e-mail addresses that can later be used to send spam.
Some hoaxes can also have serious consequences for users. Sulfnbk, which has been in circulation for over three years, tells users that a dangerous virus is infecting many computers without users knowing and hides in computers in a file called “Sulfnbk.exe”. The hoax tells users to look for the file on their computers and delete it. This file does actually exist on most computers, but far from being a virus it is a file that has important functions in many operating systems.
One of the most recent hoaxes warned about possible terrorist attacks on Metro lines in the US on June 11. The text, which claimed that the warning came originally from a source in CNN, was created to cause widespread alarm among as many users as possible.
According to Luis Corrons, head of PandaLabs: “The only way to prevent a hoax from spreading is to delete the message immediately and not forward it to anyone. The authors of these messages are looking for them to spread to as many users as possible. Unfortunately, there are still many who get taken in by these messages and by forwarding them, are unwittingly contributing to their massive propagation and keeping them in circulation.”
One way of stopping these hoaxes from spreading is to apply an e-mail content filtering system so that these kinds of messages are deleted without even being read.