Penpals Greetings is the most recent hoax to do the rounds. It takes the form of a message usually headed ?Virus Alert?. The text warns of dire consequences for anyone attempting to read an email message entitled ?Penpal Greetings?. After explaining how the alleged virus will cause mayhem for the world?s computers, it urges you to pass on the message to all your friends.
How can you tell that this message is a hoax? Apart from the evidence in the text itself ? the generally crazed tone ? the easiest way to find out is to do a little browsing.
Try visiting IBM?s anti-virus resource at www.av.ibm.com, or the US Government Computer Incident Advisory Capability at http://ciac.llnl.gov.
For background information there are excellent sites at www.kumite.com/myths, www.ot.com/~dmuth/virus and www.stiller.com. The Internet newsgroups comp.virus and alt.comp.virus contain the latest reactions by both amateur and professional virus watchers ? it is surprising how quickly they come to a consensus.
The Penpals message is very similar to the Good Times hoax of two years ago, so it is surprising that anyone professionally involved in IT security took it seriously.
But it seems that many did. There is a genuine worry here ? if you cannot spot a phony threat like Penpals, how likely is it that you?ll take the correct measures to deal with a real one?
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