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PC911 > How-To > Safe Computing > Say "No" to Hoaxes

- Alex -

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As much good stuff as there is on the Internet, unfortunately there is even more bad stuff such as spam, virii, scams, porn, crackers, etc. Another one of the annoying things found in abundance online are hoaxes.

What is a Hoax?

A hoax is usually an e-mail you receive with a supposedly very important message, urging you to pass this info on to as many people as possible to make them aware of this info. However, the message is bogus and passing it on will accomplish nothing else but create unnecessary junk e-mail messages, very similar to chain letters. The only purpose of hoaxes is to waste your time and make you help generate junk Internet traffic.

Hoaxes are essentially another type of virus. Think about the similarities:

  • a virus is a malicious piece of code camouflaged as a harmless program or file - a hoax is a bogus message camouflaged as a true story, important message, etc.
  • a virus spreads over the Internet via e-mail - so does a hoax
  • a virus interrupts productivity by screwing with your computer - a hoax interrupts productivity by making you waste time reading it and forwarding it, as well as bogging down e-mail servers around the globe

How does a hoax work?

Here's the big difference between a virus and a hoax. A lot of virii are malicious programs that spread themselves in secret by e-mailing themselves to some or all people in your address book without you even noticing. But a hoax is not a program or script and therefore cannot replicate and spread itself. It has to be a lot trickier. The secret is that a hoax has to be convincing enough to make you believe it's true so that you spread the hoax yourself! This means a hoax not only wastes your time by making you read it, it also tries to manipulate you and make you do something against your will - spread the hoax and waste other people's time as well!

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