Internet Hoaxes

Please Note:

This web site is provided as a public service; however, CIAC does not have the resources to investigate and/or confirm every hoax currently circulating the Internet. CIAC appreciates input on questionable hoaxes, but we are not able to respond back to each e-mail message. You can help eliminate "junk mail" by educating the public on how to identify a new hoax warning, how to identify a valid warning and what to do if you think a message is a hoax.

Hoaxes described on this page: PKZ300, Irina, Good Times, Good Times Spoof, Deeyenda, Ghost PENPAL GREETINGS!, Make Money Fast, NaughtyRobot, AOL4FREE, Join the Crew, Death Ray, AOL V4.0 Cookie, A.I.D.S. Hoax, Internet Cleanup Day, Bill Gates Hoax,WIN A HOLIDAY, AOL Riot June 1, 1998

Last modified: Wednesday, 22-Apr-98 16:08:46 PDT    You are the 1103170th visitor to this page.

For information on Internet Chain Letters, check the New CIAC web page located at

The Internet is constantly being flooded with information about computer viruses and Trojans. However, interspersed among real virus notices are computer virus hoaxes. While these hoaxes do not infect systems, they are still time consuming and costly to handle. At CIAC, we find that we are spending much more time de-bunking hoaxes than handling real virus incidents. This page describes only a small number of the hoax warnings that are found on the Internet today. We will address some of the history of hoaxes on the Internet.

Users are requested to please not spread unconfirmed warnings about viruses and Trojans. If you receive an unvalidated warning, don't pass it to all your friends, pass it to your computer security manager to validate first. Validated warnings from the incident response teams and antivirus vendors have valid return addresses and are usually PGP signed with the organization's key.

PKZ300 Warning

The PKZ300 Trojan is a real Trojan program, but the initial warning about it was released over a year ago. For information pertaining to PKZ300 Trojan reference CIAC Notes issue 95-10, at that was released in June of 1995. The warning itself, on the other hand, is gaining urban legend status. There has been an extremely limited number of sightings of this Trojan and those appeared over a year ago. Even though the Trojan warning is real, the repeated circulation of the warning is a nuisance. Individuals who need the current release of PKZIP should visit the PKWare web page at CIAC recommends that you DO NOT recirculate the warning about this particular Trojan.

The following is the true warning about PKZ300 from the PKWare web site:

     !!! PKZIP Trojan Horse Version - (Originally Posted May 1995) !!!
	  It has come to the attention of PKWARE that a fake version of PKZIP is being
     distributed as PKZ300B.ZIP or PKZ300.ZIP. It is not an offical version from
     PKWARE and it will attempt to erase your hard drive if run. It attempts to
     perform a deletion of all the directories of your current drive. If you have
     any information as to the creators of this trojan horse, PKWARE would be
     extremely interested to hear from you. If you have any other questions about
     this fake version, please e-mail

Irina Virus Hoax

The "Irina" virus warnings are a hoax. The former head of an electronic publishing company circulated the warning to create publicity for a new interactive book by the same name. The publishing company has apologized for the publicity stunt that backfired and panicked Internet users worldwide. The original warning claimed to be from a Professor Edward Pridedaux of the College of Slavic Studies in London; there is no such person or college. However, London's School of Slavonic and East European Studies has been inundated with calls. This poorly thought-out publicity stunt was highly irresponsible. For more information pertaining to this hoax, reference the UK Daily Telegraph at The original hoax message is as follows:

     There is a computer virus that is being sent across the Internet.
     If you receive an e-mail message with the subject line "Irina", DONOT
     read the message. DELETE it immediately.
     Some miscreant is sending people files under the title "Irina". If
     you receive this mail or file, do not download it. It has a virus
     that rewrites your hard drive, obliterating anything on it. Please be
     careful and forward this mail to anyone you care about.

     ( Information received from the Professor Edward Prideaux, College of
     Slavonic Studies, London ).

Good Times Virus Hoax

The "Good Times" virus warnings are a hoax. There is no virus by that name in existence today. These warnings have been circulating the Internet for years. The user community must become aware that it is unlikely that a virus can be constructed to behave in the manner ascribed in the "Good Times" virus warning.

CIAC first described the Good Times Hoax in CIAC NOTES 94-04c released in December 1994 and described it again in CIAC NOTES 95-09 in April 1995. More information is in the Good_Times FAQ ( written by Les Jones.

The original "Good Times" message that was posted and circulated in November and December of 1994 contained the following warning:

	  Here is some important information. Beware of a file called Goodtimes.
     Happy Chanukah everyone, and be careful out there. There is a virus on
     America Online being sent by E-Mail. If you get anything called "Good Times",
     DON'T read it or download it. It is a virus that will erase your hard drive.
     Forward this to all your friends. It may help them a lot.

Soon after the release of CIAC NOTES 04, another "Good Times" message was circulated. This is the same message that is being circulated during this recent "Good Times" rebirth. This message includes a claim that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a warning about the danger of the "Good Times" virus, but the FCC did not and will not ever issue a virus warning. It is not their job to do so. See the FCC Public Notice 5036. The following is the expanded "Good Times" hoax message:

	  The FCC released a warning last Wednesday concerning a matter of
     major importance to any regular user of the InterNet.  Apparently,
     a new computer virus has been engineered by a user of America
     Online that is unparalleled in its destructive capability.  Other,
     more well-known viruses such as Stoned, Airwolf, and Michaelangelo
     pale in comparison to the prospects of this newest creation by a
     warped mentality.

     What makes this virus so terrifying, said the FCC, is the fact that
     no program needs to be exchanged for a new computer to be infected.
     It can be spread through the existing e-mail systems of the
     InterNet. Once a computer is infected, one of several things can
     happen.  If the computer contains a hard drive, that will most
     likely be destroyed. If the program is not stopped, the computer's
     processor will be placed in an nth-complexity infinite binary loop
     - which can severely damage the processor if left running that way
     too long.	Unfortunately, most novice computer users will not
     realize what is happening until it is far	too late.

Good Times Spoof

The following spoof of the good times hoax is too well done not to include here. The author of this spoof is unknown, but we will gladly give him credit if he will only contact us.


	     Goodtimes will re-write your hard drive. Not only that, but
     it will scramble any disks that are even close to your computer. It
     will recalibrate your refrigerator's coolness setting so all your ice
     cream goes melty. It will demagnetize the strips on all your credit
     cards, screw up the tracking on your television and use subspace field
     harmonics to scratch any CD's you try to play.

	     It will give your ex-girlfriend your new phone number. It
     will mix Kool-aid into your fishtank. It will drink all your beer and
     leave its socks out on the coffee table when there's company coming
     over. It will put a dead kitten in the back pocket of your good suit
     pants and hide your car keys when you are late for work.

	     Goodtimes will make you fall in love with a penguin. It will
     give you nightmares about circus midgets. It will pour sugar in your
     gas tank and shave off both your eyebrows while dating your
     girlfriend behind your back and billing the dinner and hotel room to
     your Discover card.

	      It will seduce your grandmother. It does not matter if she
     is dead, such is the power of Goodtimes, it reaches out beyond the
     grave to sully those things we hold most dear.

	     It moves your car randomly around parking lots so you can't
     find it. It will kick your dog. It will leave libidinous messages on
     your boss's voice mail in your voice! It is insidious and subtle. It
     is dangerous and terrifying to behold. It is also a rather
     interesting shade of mauve.

	     Goodtimes will give you Dutch Elm disease. It will leave the
     toilet seat up. It will make a batch of Methanphedime in your bathtub
     and then leave bacon cooking on the stove while it goes out to chase
     gradeschoolers with your new snowblower.

	     Listen to me. Goodtimes does not exist.

	     It cannot do anything to you. But I can. I am sending this
     message to everyone in the world. Tell your friends, tell your
     family. If anyone else sends me another E-mail about this fake
     Goodtimes Virus, I will turn hating them into a religion. I will do
     things to them that would make a horsehead in your bed look like
     Easter Sunday brunch.

So there, take that Good Times.

Deeyenda Virus Hoax

The following "Deeyenda" virus warning is a hoax. CIAC has received inqueries regarding the validity of the Deeyenda virus. The warnings are very similar to those for Good Times, stating that the FCC issued a warning about it, and that it is self activating and can destroy the contents of a machine just by being downloaded. Users should note that the FCC does not and will not issue virus or Trojan warnings. It is not their job to do so. As of this date, there are no known viruses with the name Deeyenda in existence. For a virus to spread, it must be executed. Reading a mail message does not execute the mail message. Trojans and viruses have been found as executable attachments to mail messages, but they must be extracted and executed to do any harm. CIAC still affirms that reading E-mail, using typical mail agents, can not activate malicious code delivered in or with the message.

	     **********VIRUS ALERT**********


    There is a computer virus that is being sent across the Internet.  If
    you  receive an email message with the subject line "Deeyenda", DO NOT
    read the message, DELETE it immediately!

    Some miscreant is sending email under the title "Deeyenda" nationwide,
    if you get anything like this DON'T  DOWNLOAD THE FILE!  It has a virus
    that rewrites your hard drive, obliterates anything on it.	Please be
    careful and forward this e-mail to anyone you care about.

    Please read the message below.




    The Internet community has again been plagued by  another computer
    virus.  This message is being spread throughout the Internet, including
    USENET posting, EMAIL, and other Internet activities.  The reason for
    all the attention is because of the nature of this virus and the
    potential security risk it makes.  Instead of a destructive Trojan
    virus (like most viruses!), this virus referred to as Deeyenda Maddick,
    performs a comprehensive search on your computer, looking for valuable
    information, such as email and login passwords, credit cards, personal
    inf., etc.

    The Deeyenda virus also has the capability to stay memory resident
    while running a host of applications and operation systems, such as
    Windows 3.11 and Windows 95.  What this means to Internet users is that
    when a login and password are send to the server, this virus can copy
    this information and SEND IT OUT TO UN UNKNOWN ADDRESS (varies).

    The reason for this warning is because the Deeyenda virus is virtually
    undetectable.  Once attacked your computer will be unsecure.  Although
    it can attack any O/S this virus is most likely to attack those users
    viewing Java enhanced Web Pages (Netscape 2.0+ and Microsoft Internet
    Explorer 3.0+ which are running under Windows 95).	Researchers at
    Princeton University have found this virus on a number of World Wide
    Web pagesand fear its spread.

    Please pass this on, for we must alert the general public at the
    security risks.

Ghost.exe Warning

The Ghost.exe program was originally distributed as a free screen saver containing some advertising information for the author's company (Access Softek). The program opens a window that shows a Halloween background with ghosts flying around the screen. On any Friday the 13th, the program window title changes and the ghosts fly off the window and around the screen. Someone apparently got worried and sent a message indicating that this might be a Trojan. The warning grew until the it said that Ghost.exe was a Trojan that would destroy your hard drive and the developers got a lot of nasty phone calls (their names and phone numbers were in the About box of the program.) A simple phone call to the number listed in the program would have stopped this warning from being sent out. The original ghost.exe program is just cute; it does not do anything damaging. Note that this does not mean that ghost could not be infected with a virus that does do damage, so the normal

virus procedure of scanning it before running it should be followed.


The PENPAL GREETINGS! Hoax shown below appears to be an attempt to kill an e-mail chain letter by claiming that it is a self starting Trojan that destroys your hard drive and then sends copies of itself to everyone whose address in in your mailbox. Reading an e-mail message does not run it nor does it run any attachments, so this Trojan must be self starting. Aside from the fact that a program cannot start itself, the Trojan would also have to know about every different kind of e-mail program to be able to forward copies of itself to other people. This warning is totally a hoax.


     Subject:  Virus Alert
     Importance:  High
     If anyone receives mail entitled: PENPAL GREETINGS! please delete it WITHOUT
     reading it.  Below is a little explanation of the message, and what it would
     do to your PC if you were to read the message.  If you have any questions or
     concerns please contact  SAF-IA Info Office on 697-5059.

     This is a warning for all internet users - there is a dangerous virus
     propogating across the internet through an e-mail message entitled "PENPAL
     This message appears to be a friendly letter asking you if you are
     interestedin a penpal, but by the time you read this letter, it is too late.
     The "trojan horse" virus will have already infected the boot sector of your hard
     drive, destroying all of the data present.  It is a self-replicating virus,
     and once the message is read, it will AUTOMATICALLY forward itself to anyone
     who's e-mail address is present in YOUR mailbox!
     This virus will DESTROY your hard drive, and holds the potential to DESTROY
     the hard drive of anyone whose mail is in your inbox, and who's mail is in
     their inbox, and so on.  If this virus remains unchecked, it has the potential
     to do a great deal of DAMAGE to computer networks worldwide!!!!
     Please, delete the message entitled "PENPAL GREETINGS!" as soon as you see it!
     And pass this message along to all of your friends and relatives, and the
     other readers of the newsgroups and mailing lists which you are on, so that
     they are not hurt by this dangerous virus!!!!

Make Money Fast Hoax Warning

The Make Money Fast Warning Hoax appears to be similar to the PENPAL GREETINGS! Warning in that it is a hoax warning message that is attempting to kill an e-mail chain letter. While laudable in its intent, the hoax warning has caused as much or more problems than the chain letter it is attempting to kill.


Quite a few Web site administrators have received email messages that seem to be originating from the same machine hosting the Web site. The email headers are apparently being forged to hide the original sender of the message. The mail being received contains the following:

	    Subject: security breached by NaughtyRobot

       This message was sent to you by NaughtyRobot, an Internet spider that
       crawls into your server through a tiny hole in the World Wide Web.

       NaughtyRobot exploits a security bug in HTTP and has visited your host
       system to collect personal, private, and sensitive information.

       It has captured your Email and physical addresses, as well as your phone
       and credit card numbers.  To protect yourself against the misuse of this
       information, do the following:

	       1. alert your server SysOp,
	       2. contact your local police,
	       3. disconnect your telephone, and
	       4. report your credit cards as lost.

       Act at once.  Remember: only YOU can prevent DATA fires.

       This has been a public service announcement from the makers of
       NaughtyRobot -- CarJacking its way onto the Information SuperHighway.

The NaughtyRobot email message appears to be a hoax. There is no indication that any of the problems described in the body have taken place on any machine.

Join the Crew

Circulating the Internet is an email message entitled "Join the Crew". For a virus to spread, it must be executed. Reading a mail message does not execute the mail message. Trojans and viruses have been found as executable attachments to mail messages, but they must be extracted and executed to do any harm. CIAC still affirms that reading E-mail, using typical mail agents, can not activate malicious code delivered in or with the message.


	 Take note !

	 Someone got an email, titled as JOIN THE CREW.
	 It has erased his hard drive.
	 Do not open up any mail that has this title.
	 It will erase your whole hard drive.
	 This is a new email virus and not a lot of people know about it,
	 just let everyone  know, so they won't be a victim.

	 Please e-mail this to everyone you know!!!
	 Remember the title :	 JOIN THE CREW

Variants of this email message are circulating the Internet. If you receive an email message entitled "Join the Crew" and it has an attachment, CIAC recommends that you delete the message and the attachment. If you receive just the message, delete the message. Please DO NOT circulate unvalidated virus alerts.

Death Ray

The Death Ray Virus is a hoax. The following "Death Ray Virus" warning was reported in the Weekly World News and other publications. CIAC knows of no virus or any computer program for that matter that has caused physical damage to a computer or cause it to explode.

	     A deadly new computer virus that actually causes home computers to explode
	in a hellish blast of glass fragments and flame has injured at least 47
	people since August 15, horrifying authorities who say millions of people
	are risking injury, blindness or death every time they sit down to work at
	their PC!

	"Computer viruses of the past could disable your computer, but this virus
	goes a step further -- and can kill you," declared Martin Heriden, a
	computer expert who specializes in identifying computer viruses. "This
	virus doesn't carry the usual 'markers' that enable it to be detected.
	It slips through the cracks, so to speak.

	"It is an extremely complicated process. But suffice it to say that the
	virus affects the computer's hardware, creating conditions that lead
	to dangerous short circuits and power surges. The end result?
	Explosions -- powerful explosions. And millions of Internet users are
	at risk."

	The virus, nicknamed Death Ray by experts like Heriden, surfaced in England
	on August 1. A 24-year-old college student was permanently blinded
	when his 15-inch color monitor exploded in his face.

	"So how do you protect yourself? I wish I knew," said Heriden. "You
	either stop using the Internet or you take your chances until we can
	get a handle on this thing and get rid of it for good.

The A.I.D.S. Hoax

Circulating the Internet is an email message warning about an A.I.D.S. virus that destroys your computer. This warning is a hoax.

There are actually several real AIDS viruses and Trojan horses, but this warning message does not describe any of them.

This particular warning message (shown below) indicates that the virus comes in an e-mail message. While a virus may be in an attachment to an e-mail message, reading that message with a standard mail reader can not execute a virus. A virus in an attachment can not do anything until that attachment is executed, or in the case of a Word macro virus, the attached Word document is opened in Word. For this reason, CIAC recommends that you scan all executable programs and Word documents that were sent as attachments to e-mail messages before running or editing them.

The warning claims the virus destroys your actual hardware, such as memory, mouse, key board, and hard drive, all of which is impossible. Also notice that the author has not signed the message or given you any way to authenticate it, which is another strong indication of a hoax.


Internet Cleanup Day

Variants of this e-mail message have been circulating the Internet. This warning is a hoax. There is no such thing as a "cleanup day" for the Internet. If each web site shutdown their web server there would be NO Internet to clean. The e-mail message is usually forged with an ambiguous signature. CIAC recommends that you trash any message related to this subject. Please, DO NOT circulate.

Subj: Internet Cleanup Day

*** Attention ***

It's that time again!

As many of you know, each year the Internet must be shut down for 24
hours in order to allow us to clean it. The cleaning process, which
eliminatesdead email and inactive ftp, www and gopher sites, allows for a
better working and faster Internet.

This year, the cleaning process will take place from 12:01 a.m.. GMT on
February 27 until 12:01 a.m. GMT on February 28 (the time least likely to
interfere with ongoing work). During that 24-hour period, five powerful
Internet search engines situated around the world will search the
Internet and delete any data that they find.

In order to protect your valuable data from deletion we ask that you do
the following:

  1. Disconnect all terminals and local area networks from their
     Internet connections.

  2. Shut down all Internet servers, or disconnect them from the

  3. Disconnect all disks and hardrives from any connections to the

  4. Refrain from connecting any computer to the Internet in any

We understand the inconvenience that this may cause some Internet
users, and we apologize. However, we are certain that any inconveniences
will be more than made up for by the increased speed and efficiency of the
Internet, once it has been cleared of electronic flotsam and jetsam.

We thank you for your cooperation.

***** Signature Removed *****

Bill Gates Hoax

Circulating the Internet since November 1997, is a chain letter hoax claiming to be from the office of the chief executive of Microsoft Corporation. Although there are special variants, they all claim to be from Bill Gates and merely ask the receiver to forward the letter to other people. If an attachment comes with this message, CIAC recommends you delete it at once. DO NOT take any unnecessary chances from unknown sources. For additional information, read the article at the ZDNet News Channel.

ZDNet's article "Bill Gates grubs for money...NOT!" released 12/3/97.


Hello Everyone,

And thank you for signing up for my Beta Email Tracking Application or (BETA)
for short. My name is Bill Gates.  Here at Microsoft we have just compiled an
e-mail tracing program that tracks everyone to whom this message is forwarded
to. It does this through an unique IP (Internet Protocol) address log book

We are experimenting with this and need your help.  Forward this
to everyone you know and if it reaches 1000 people everyone
on the list you will receive $1000 and a copy of Windows98 at my expense.

Note: Duplicate entries will not be counted. You will be notified by email
with further instructions once this email has reached 1000 people. Windows98
will not be shipped unitl it has been released to the general public.

Your friend,
Bill Gates & The Microsoft Development Team.


Circulating the Internet is e-mail messages entitle "WIN A HOLIDAY". These e-mail messages are a hoax and the false warning of a malicious e-mail does not exist. There is currently no virus that has the characteristic described in the message. The message is a variant of the "Join the Crew" hoax and another variant called "JUST WIN A HOLIDAY". CIAC recommends that you DO NOT pass the message to others.


If you receive an email titled "WIN A HOLIDAY" DO NOT open it. It
will erase everything on your hard drive. Forward this letter out
as many people as you can. This is a new, very malicious virus and
not many people know about it. This information was announced
yesterday morning from Microsoft; please share it with everyone
that might access the Internet. Once again, pass this along to
EVERYONE in our address book so that this may be stopped. Also, do
not open or even look at any mail that says "RETURNED OR UNABLE TO
DELIVER" This virus will attach itself to your computer components
and render them useless. Immediately delete any mail items that
say this. AOL has said that this is a very dangerous virus and
that there is NO remedy for it at this time. Please practice
cautionary measures and forward this to all your online friends

AOL RIOT June 1, 1998

The latest AOL hoax circulating the Internet is "AOL RIOT June 1, 1998". CIAC received the following statement from AOL: "The June 1, 1998 riot e-mail is a hoax. The allegations relating to the spreading of viruses and the tracking of whom the e-mail is forwarded to are false." Tatiana Gau, Vice President of AOL Integrity Assurance.

  AOL RIOT JUNE 1, 1998
  You must forward this letter to 10 people or your account will be
  terminated on June 1, 1998. All recipients of this e-mail are being 
  tracked. When you received this, when you forwarded it, who you 
  forwarded it to, is all on record. We are AOL's most elite hacker 
  group, known as LcW. We have hacked AOL's (easily infiltrated) systems
  on numerous occaisions. We have shut down AOL keywords, we can kick any 
  AOL Staff member off for 24 hours, we have gained access to Steve Case's
  account, we have created AOL's most famous hacking programs (Fate X, 
  HaVoK, HeLL RaIsEr, MaGeNtA) and we can certainly get your credit card 
  info. However, if you send this to 10 people, like you are told, you
  will escape unharmed. We won't terminate your account and you will be 
  able to continue using AOL. So if you know whats best for you, you
  will send this to 10 people as soon as possible. If you think we are
  bluffing....just wait till June 1, and see if you can sign or not.
  Because of the outrage of AOL's increasing prices, LcW has decided to
  create a riot on May 1, that will cause havoc on AOL. We will be 
  sending viruses out to thousands of AOL users. We will be terminating 
  accounts. We will be hacking into Guide chat rooms and kicking guides 
  offline. There will be no AOL Staff - just complete pandemonium. If 
  you want to join this riot, we urge you to! You won't have to worry 
  about being TOSed or Reported because there will be no Guides online! 
  So do whatever you want - punt, scroll, tos, just turn AOL into
  a war zone!
  We represent LcW
  The following Hackers will be co-ordinating the Riot and hacking AOL's
  mainframe computer, and uploading viruses into the system.
  Psy Acid
  PoiSon iV
  Chronic Burn
  Zone Degreez
  AOL RIOT ON JUNE 1, 1998 - You have been warned LcW is taking over 
  America Online. This is not no f***ing joke either. You have been 
  Where f*** is a common vulgar expletive.

AOL V4.0 Cookie

AOL has declared the AOL V4.0 Cookie chain letter a hoax. CIAC received the following statement from AOL: "I wish to bring to your attention the attached hoax letter that has been circulating on the Internet, making serious allegations about AOL 4.0. All of these allegations are false." Tatiana Gau, Vice President of AOL Integrity Assurance.


From a former AOL employee:

I'll try and cut through the crap, and try to get to the point of this

I used to work for America Online, and would like to remain
anonymous for that reason.  I was laid off in early September, but I know
exactly why I was laid off, which I will now explain:

Since last December, I had been one of the many people assigned to design
AOL 4.0 for Windows  (AOL 4.0 beta, codenamed Casablanca).  In the beginning,
I was very proud of this task, until I found out the true cost of it.  Things
were going fine until about mid-February, when me and 2 of my colleagues
started to suspect a problem, an unexplainable 'Privacy Invasion', with the
new version.  One of them, who is a master programmer, copied the finished
portion of the new version (Then 'Build 52'), and took it home, and we spent
nearly 2 weeks of sleepless nights  examining and debugging the program,
flipping it inside-out, and here is what we found.

Unlike all previous versions of America Online, version 4.0 puts
something in your hard drive called a 'cookie'.  (AOL members click here for a definition).
However, the cookie we found on Version 4.0 was far more treacherous than
the simple Internet cookie.  How would you like somebody looking at your
entire hard drive, snooping through any (yes, any) piece of information on
your hard drive.  It could also read your password and log in information and
store it deep in the program code. Well, all previous versions,
whether you like it or not, have done this to a certain extent, but
only with files you downloaded.  As me and my colleagues discovered,
with the new version, anytime you are signed on to AOL, any top
AOL executive, any AOL worker, who has been sworn to secrecy regarding this
feature, can go in to your hard drive and retrieve any piece of information
that they so desire.  Billing, download records, e-mail, directories,
personal documents, programs, financial information, scanned images, etc.
Better start keeping all those pictures on a floppy disk!

This is a totally disgusting violation of our rights, and your right to
know as well.  Since this is undoubtedly 'Top Secret' information that I am
revealing, my life at AOL is pretty much over.	After discovering this inform
attain, we started to inform a few other workers at America Online, so that
we could get a large enough crew to stop this from happening to the millions
of unfortunate and unsuspecting America Online members.  This was in early
August.  One month later, all three of us were unemployed.  We got together,
and figured there was something we had to do to let the public know.

Unemployed, with one of us going through a divorce (me) and another who is
about to undergo treatment for Cancer, our combined financial situation is
not currently enough to release any sort or article.  We attempted to create
a web page on three different servers containing in-depth information on AOL
4.0, but all three were taken down within 2 days.  We were running very low
on time (4.0 is released early this winter), so we figured our last hope to
reveal this madness before it effects the people was starting something
similar to a chain letter, this letter you are reading.  Please do the
following, to help us expose AOL for who they really are, and to help us and
yourself receive personal gratification for taking a stand for our freedom:

1. Forward this letter to as many people as you can (not just friends and
family, as many as you can)!

2. Tell people who aren't on America Online in person, especially
important people (Private Investigators, Government workers, City Council)

3. If the information about the new version isn't exposed by the time AOL
is released early this winter, for your own protection, DON'T DOWNLOAD AOL

Thank you for reading and examining this information.  Me and my colleagues
hope that you will help us do the right thing in this situation.
Enjoy America Online (just kidding!).

Regards, A former AOL employee



AOL4FREE actually consists of three separate, independent items:

  1. The AOL4FREE Macintosh Program for gaining fraudulent accounts on AOL.
  2. The AOL4FREE Virus Warning Hoax.
  3. The AOL4FREE.COM Trojan horse program that deletes all the files on your hard drive.

The AOL4FREE Macintosh Program was originally written to provide illegal free access to America Online. In the March 1997 issue of the CSI Computer Security Alert the following statement was made concerning the creator of that program:

"A former Yale computer science student has pleaded guilty to defrauding America Online. AOL estimates it lost between $40,000 and $70,000 in service charges because the student distributed his computer program, AOL4FREE, to hundreds of other users."

Note that any attempt to use the original AOL4FREE.COM program may subject you to prosecution.

The second item is the AOL4FREE Virus Warning Hoax message. The following message has been circulating around the Internet, warning of a virus infected e-mail message:



   Anyone who receives this must send it to as many people as you can.	It
   is essential that this problem be reconciled as soon as possible.  A few
   hours ago, I opened an E-mail that had the subject heading of "AOL4FREE.COM".
   Within seconds of opening it, a window appeared and began to display my files
   that were being deleted.  I immediately shut down my computer, but it was too
   late.  This virus wiped me out.  It ate the Anti-Virus Software that comes with
   the Windows '95 Program along with F-Prot AVS.  Neither was able to detect it.
   Please be careful and send this to as many people as possible, so maybe this
   new virus can be eliminated.


This message has several problems that identify it as a hoax.

  1. A virus like program can not spread in an e-mail message. While an infected program could be attached to an e-mail message, the e-mail message itself cannot contain one in any form that could be executed.
  2. A virus or Trojan horse program can not infect a system by simply being read. The current mail readers do not execute an e-mail message, they display it on the screen for you to read. You must take care when downloading an attachment to an e-mail message. In some mail readers you can double click on the attachment icon to have it extracted and opened by whatever program created it. If that attachment is a program, it is downloaded and run, and running any program you have not scanned could cause you to be infected with a virus.
  3. While this warning message is a hoax, the things it describes could be accomplished with a Trojan horse program. That Trojan horse could then be attached to an e-mail message and if the reader downloads and executes the Trojan horse program, it could do the damage described in this message. In fact, someone has done that as is explained below.

The third item is the AOL4FREE.COM Trojan Horse. This program appears to be the AOL4FREE program that creates fraudulent AOL accounts (though it is a DOS program instead of a Macintosh program) but is actually a simple compiled DOS batch file that runs the DOS DELTREE command on the C:\ directory of a DOS/Windows machine. The DELTREE command deletes all files in a directory, including the directory itself and any subdirectories in that directory. The effect is to delete all files on the C: drive of a DOS/Windows machine. If you should come across this program from any source, do not run it. For more information see CIAC Bulletin H-47a: AOL4FREE.COM Trojan Horse Program Destroys Hard Drives.

CIAC ALWAYS recommends that software downloaded onto a computer from any source (BBS, e-mail attachment, floppy, web) be scanned with antivirus software prior to being run. Note that most antivirus software does not detect Trojans, so it is important to know where your software came from before executing it.


History of Virus Hoaxes

Since 1988, computer virus hoaxes have been circulating the Internet. In October of that year, according to Ferbrache ("A pathology of Computer Viruses" Springer, London, 1992) one of the first virus hoaxes was the 2400 baud modem virus:

	SUBJ: Really Nasty Virus

	I've just discovered probably the world's worst computer virus
	yet. I had just finished a late night session of BBS'ing and file
	treading when I exited Telix 3 and attempted to run pkxarc to
	unarc the software I had downloaded. Next thing I knew my hard
	disk was seeking all over and it was apparently writing random
	sectors. Thank god for strong coffee and a recent backup.
	Everything was back to normal, so I called the BBS again and
	downloaded a file. When I went to use ddir to list the directory,
	my hard disk was getting trashed again. I tried Procomm Plus TD
	and also PC Talk 3. Same results every time. Something was up so I
	hooked up to my test equipment and different modems (I do research
	and development for a local computer telecommunications company
	and have an in-house lab at my disposal). After another hour of
	corrupted hard drives I found what I think is the world's worst
	computer virus yet. The virus distributes itself on the modem sub-
	carrier present in all 2400 baud and up modems. The sub-carrier is
	used for ROM and register debugging purposes only, and otherwise
	serves no othr (sp) purpose. The virus sets a bit pattern in one
	of the internal modem registers, but it seemed to screw up the
	other registers on my USR. A modem that has been "infected" with
	this virus will then transmit the virus to other modems that use a
	subcarrier (I suppose those who use 300 and 1200 baud modems
	should be immune). The virus then attaches itself to all binary
	incoming data and infects the host computer's hard disk. The only
	way to get rid of this virus is to completely reset all the modem
	registers by hand, but I haven't found a way to vaccinate a modem
	against the virus, but there is the possibility of building a
	subcarrier filter. I am calling on a 1200 baud modem to enter this
	message, and have advised the sysops of the two other boards
	(names withheld). I don't know how this virus originated, but I'm
	sure it is the work of someone in the computer telecommunications
	field such as myself. Probably the best thing to do now is to
	stick to 1200 baud until we figure this thing out.

	Mike RoChenle

This bogus virus description spawned a humorous alert by Robert Morris III :

	Date: 11-31-88 (24:60)	Number: 32769
	To: ALL Refer#: NONE

	Warning: There's a new virus on the loose that's worse than
	anything I've seen before! It gets in through the power line,
	riding on the powerline 60 Hz subcarrier. It works by changing the
	serial port pinouts, and by reversing the direction one's disks
	spin. Over 300,000 systems have been hit by it here in Murphy,
	West Dakota alone! And that's just in the last 12 minutes.

	It attacks DOS, Unix, TOPS-20, Apple-II, VMS, MVS, Multics, Mac,
	RSX-11, ITS, TRS-80, and VHS systems.

	To prevent the spresd of the worm:

	1) Don't use the powerline.
	2) Don't use batteries either, since there are rumors that this
	  virus has invaded most major battery plants and is infecting the
	  positive poles of the batteries. (You might try hooking up just
	  the negative pole.)
	3) Don't upload or download files.
	4) Don't store files on floppy disks or hard disks.
	5) Don't read messages. Not even this one!
	6) Don't use serial ports, modems, or phone lines.
	7) Don't use keyboards, screens, or printers.
	8) Don't use switches, CPUs, memories, microprocessors, or
	9) Don't use electric lights, electric or gas heat or
	  airconditioning, running water, writing, fire, clothing or the

	I'm sure if we are all careful to follow these 9 easy steps, this
	virus can be eradicated, and the precious electronic flui9ds of
	our computers can be kept pure.


Since that time virus hoaxes have flooded the Internet.With thousands of viruses worldwide, virus paranoia in the community has risen to an extremely high level. It is this paranoia that fuels virus hoaxes. A good example of this behavior is the "Good Times" virus hoax which started in 1994 and is still circulating the Internet today. Instead of spreading from one computer to another by itself, Good Times relies on people to pass it along.

How to Identify a Hoax

There are several methods to identify virus hoaxes, but first consider what makes a successful hoax on the Internet. There are two known factors that make a successful virus hoax, they are: (1) technical sounding language, and (2) credibility by association. If the warning uses the proper technical jargon, most individuals, including technologically savy individuals, tend to believe the warning is real. For example, the Good Times hoax says that "...if the program is not stopped, the computer's processor will be placed in an nth-complexity infinite binary loop which can severely damage the processor...". The first time you read this, it sounds like it might be something real. With a little research, you find that there is no such thing as an nth-complexity infinite binary loop and that processors are designed to run loops for weeks at a time without damage.

When we say credibility by association we are referring to whom sent the warning. If the janitor at a large technological organization sends a warning to someone outside of that organization, people on the outside tend to believe the warning because the company should know about those things. Even though the person sending the warning may not have a clue what he is talking about, the prestige of the company backs the warning, making it appear real. If a manager at the company sends the warning, the message is doubly backed by the company's and the manager's reputations.

Individuals should also be especially alert if the warning urges you to pass it on to your friends. This should raise a red flag that the warning may be a hoax. Another flag to watch for is when the warning indicates that it is a Federal Communication Commission (FCC) warning. According to the FCC, they have not and never will disseminate warnings on viruses. It is not part of their job.

Validate a Warning

CIAC recommends that you DO NOT circulate virus warnings without first checking with an authoritative source. Authoritative sources are your computer system security administrator or your computer incident advisory team. Real warnings about viruses and other network problems are issued by different response teams (CIAC, CERT, ASSIST, NASIRC, etc.) and are digitally signed by the sending team using PGP. If you download a warning from a teams web site or validate the PGP signature, you can usually be assured that the warning is real. Warnings without the name of the person sending the original notice, or warnings with names, addresses and phone numbers that do not actually exist are probably hoaxes.

Another area of concern is Internet chain letters that may or may not be true. For more information on Internet chain letters reference

What to Do When You Receive a Warning

Upon receiving a warning, you should examine its PGP signature to see that it is from a real response team or antivirus organization. To do so, you will need a copy of the PGP software and the public signature of the team that sent the message. The CIAC signature is available at the CIAC home page: You can find the addresses of other response teams by connecting to the FIRST web page at: If there is no PGP signature, see if the warning includes the name of the person submitting the original warning. Contact that person to see if he/she really wrote the warning and if he/she really touched the virus. If he/she is passing on a rumor or if the address of the person does not exist or if there is any questions about the authenticity or the warning, do not circulate it to others. Instead, send the warning to your computer security manager or your incident response team and let them validate it. When in doubt, do not send it out to the world.

In addition, most anti-virus companies have a web page containing information about most known viruses and hoaxes. You can also call or check the web site of the company that produces the product that is supposed to contain the virus. Checking the PKWARE site for the current releases of PKZip would stop the circulation of the warning about PKZ300 since there is no released version 3 of PKZip. Another useful web site is the "Computer Virus Myths home page" ( which contains descriptions of several known hoaxes. In most cases, common sense would eliminate Internet hoaxes.

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