Sunday, February 10, 2008

User Beware

How often do we open our e-mail messages without a second thought? Unfortunately, on this particular day an unsuspecting victim reads the subject line. The subject line says: “do not delete.” Curiosity takes over, and he/she opens the message. What should you do? You delete.

Damage from an internet hoax ranges from annoyance to a complete breakdown of a computer. Hoaxes take up bandwidth and waste time and energy of users and Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Although, it is more difficult to ascertain the actual cost of hardware and bandwidth” (Rohan 1998). According to AOL spokesperson, Rich D’Amato: “The biggest cost is the way (hoaxes) impacts our members’ online experience.”

According to Ensman, e-mail hoaxes can “pull at the heart strings.” Other messages send a more threatening message that is attention grabbing. For example, urban legends, stories that seem real and take on a life of their own—perpetuated by unknowing victims. According to Glass, virtually “all hoax viruses are chainletters.”

The best way to combat hoaxes is to not forward them to other users. Hoaxes come in a variety of ways including: chain letters, petitions, missing children, warnings of viruses and more. How do you detect a hoax? Ensman suggests the following:

§ “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
§ If it sounds too bad to be true, it probably isn’t.
§ If it comes from a dubious source, question the message.
§ If it confuses you, remember that the confusion may be deliberate…
§ If it makes vague references to evidence or well-known companies or computer authorities check the hoax out with them.”

There are several sources available to protect you again viruses including Symantec/Norton Anti-Virus Research: and Macafee Software: A good resource to verify hoaxes is through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Computer Incident Advisory Capability Team (CIAC): . Similar to the adage “buyer beware,” computer users should always beware of e-mails that come from unknown sources.

Ensman, R. (2000, February). The scoop on internet hoaxes. Poptronics, 1(20), PS-3. Retrieved February 8, 2008, from Academic Search Premner database.
Glass, B. (2001, May 8). Viruses That Aren’t. PC Magazine, 20(9), 100. Retrieved February 8, 2008, from Academic Search Premier database.
Rohan, R., & Muhammad, T. (1998, June). How to spot an internet hoax. Black Enterprise, 28(11), 64. Retrieved February 8, 2008, from Academic Search Premier database.

1 comment:

Modefan said...


You have a very informative post here. For someone who doesn't know about chain emails this would be a good place to learn about the downfalls of passing on a virus-containing email. I also like the fact that you discuss differnt hoaxes that might come through email as well. I think everyone is responsible for forwarding a few of these prior to "wising up" and realizing that they are fake. To this day, I still get emails that are mindlessly passed on to me without being checked for validity. I make it a point to go to and check out anything before I pass it on. Or, as you suggest. just delete it!

Good job!
-Laura S.