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 http://ciac.llnl.gov/ciac/CIACChainLetters.html
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.
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 http://ciac.llnl.gov/ciac/notes/Notes10.shtml 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 http://www.pkware.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 http://www.telegraph.co.uk. The original hoax message is as follows:
FYI 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 ).
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 (http://www-mcb.ucdavis.edu/info/virus.html) 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.
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.
READ THIS: 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.
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********** VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION, PLEASE READ! 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. Alex ----------- FCC WARNING!!!!! -----DEEYENDA PLAGUES INTERNET 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.
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
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.
FYI! 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 GREETINGS!". DO NOT DOWNLOAD ANY MESSAGE ENTITLED "PENPAL GREETINGS!" 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!!!!
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.
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.
IMPORTANT - VIRUS Alert!!! 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.
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.
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.
THEREE IS A VIRUS GOING AROUND CALLED THE A.I.D.S VIRUS. IT WILL ATTACH ITSELF INSIDE YOUR COMPUTER AND EAT AWAY AT YOUR MEMORY THIS MEMORY IS IRREPLACEABLE. THEN WHEN IT'S FINISHED WITH MEMORY IT INFECTS YOUR MOUSE OR POINTING DEVICE. THEN IT GOES TO YOUR KEY BOARD AND THE LETTERS YOU TYPE WILLNOT REGISTER ON SCREEN. BEFORE IT SELF TERMINATES IT EATS 5MB OF HARD DRIVE SPACE AND WILL DELETE ALL PROGRAMS ON IT AND IT CAN SHUT DOWN ANY 8 BIT TO 16 BIT SOUND CARDS RENDERING YOUR SPEAKERS USELESS. IT WILL COME IN E-MAIL CALLED "OPEN:VERY COOL! :) DELETE IT RIGHT AWAY. THIS VIRUS WILL BASICLY RENDER YOUR COMPUTER USELESS. YOU MUST PASS THIS ON QUICKLY AND TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSLE!!!!! YOU MUST!
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 THIS MESSAGE WILL AGAIN BE REPEATED IN MID FEBRUARY. *** 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 Internet. 3. Disconnect all disks and hardrives from any connections to the Internet. 4. Refrain from connecting any computer to the Internet in any way. 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 *****
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.
FROM: GatesBeta@microsoft.com ATTACH: Tracklog@microsoft.com/Track883432/~TraceActive/On.html 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 database. 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. Enjoy. 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.
VIRUS WARNING !!!!!! 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 ASAP.
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 WARNING: 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. CAUTION: THERE WILL BE A VIRUS UPLOADED ON AOL'S MAIN SERVER ON JUNE 1, 1998. ANY USERS WHO HAVEN'T FORWARDED THIS MESSAGE WILL AUTOMATICALLY HAVE THE VIRUS DOWNLOADED INTO THEIR SYSTEM. WE SUGGEST YOU FORWARD THIS MESSAGE OR YOUR COMPUTER WILL BE FRIED. ***** 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! ***** LIST OF LcW HACKERS ON AOL We represent LcW The following Hackers will be co-ordinating the Riot and hacking AOL's mainframe computer, and uploading viruses into the system. WaReZxHaCk MaGuS ReDxKiNG HaVoK SkiD SeMeN NoStRa PhoneTap InetXWeb Psy Acid PoiSon iV PaUsE CooLant InFeRnO XStatic Chronic Burn Zone Degreez WaTcHeR ----- 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 warned. ----- Where f*** is a common vulgar expletive.
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 letter. 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 4.0 UNDER ANY CONDITION !!! 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:
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:
************************************************************************************ VIRUS ALERT!!! DON'T OPEN E-MAIL NOTING "AOL4FREE" 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.
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.
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 AREA: GENERAL (1) 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 From: ROBERT MORRIS III Read: (N/A) Subj: VIRUS ALERT Status: PUBLIC MESSAGE 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 mainframes. 9) Don't use electric lights, electric or gas heat or airconditioning, running water, writing, fire, clothing or the wheel. 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. ---RTM III
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.
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.
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 http://ciac.llnl.gov/ciac/CIACChainLetters.html.
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: http://ciac.llnl.gov/ You can find the addresses of other response teams by connecting to the FIRST web page at: http://www.first.org. 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" (http://www.kumite.com/myths/) which contains descriptions of several known hoaxes. In most cases, common sense would eliminate Internet hoaxes.