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Issue 26 - Hoax-Slayer Newsletter

Issue 26: 4th June, 2004

This week in Hoax-Slayer:
MSN Contact Virus Hoax

From time to time this virus hoax gets trundled out for another run, each time with a new email address plugged into it. It may be an attempt to discredit or annoy the owner of the specified email address or just a practical joke. The latest "victim" appears to be munro1@hotmail.com

In fact there are dozens of variations of the hoax, all equally false. One of the earliest versions appears to have been in Portuguese. The number of versions alone is enough to strongly suggest that this is a hoax.

Furthermore, none of the versions actually name the "virus" nor do they provide any means of checking the veracity of the claim. None of the major anti-virus websites have information about a virus like the one described, except to identify it as a hoax.

Also, the technical aspects of the message are fundamentally flawed. Although it is possible for worms to spread via MSN Messenger, the message implies that the email address itself is a virus. This is not possible. To be infected, some sort of file transfer needs to take place. If Messenger was configured to automatically accept files from a contact list, then it is possible that a virus could be sent by this new and sinister "contact". But even if the virus was sent in this way, the recipient would still have to explicitly open the file before a computer was infected. Again, although it is possible to disguise a link to a malicious webpage in an HTML email so that it "looks" like an email address, the recipient would have to actually click on the link before any virus threat was downloaded.

If this was a real virus, the warning email would more than likely give details of how the actual transfer of the "virus" takes place and advise on how to avoid it. Instead, it states a technical impossibility.

Such hoaxes do nothing more than clutter up the information superhighway. These messages should be deleted without forwarding.

REFERENCES:
Symantec: Messenger Add a Contact Hoax
Munro Hoax
Shades of Chic Article

Examples:
If somebody called yagsnotae@hotmail.com adds you to your msn, dont accept it. Its a virus. Tell everyone on ur msn because if somebody on ur list adds them u get the virus too. Copy and paste this to EVERYONE AND FAST



if somebody called pins_and_neadles@hotmail com adds you to their msn dont accept it Its a virus Tell everyone on ur msn because if somebody on ur list adds them u get the virus too Copy and paste this to everyone you know



If somebody named, ( aflino at hotmail.com) adds you on msn,dont accept.Its an advanced virus that begins to slowly remove My Documents then goes out to all your hard drives. Send this to all people online in your msn list and address book.



IF popcorn_nails@hotmail.com ADDS YOU TO THEIR CONTACT LIST DO NOT LET THEM BECOME ONE OF YOUR CONTACTS AS THIS IS A VIRUS THAT WILL INFECT YOU AND EVERY ONE ON YOUR LIST. SO IF ONE OF YOUR CONTACT ADD'S THIS PERSON THEN YOU BECOME INFECTED AS WELL SO BE VERY SURE TO LET ALL YOUR CONTACT'S KNOW"



If meltdown@hotmail.com adds you to their msn list, don't add it because its a virus; tell everybody on your msn because if somebody on your list accepts it then you get the virus too!!! (Copy and paste this and pass it on!).



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AOL Phisher Scams

AOL customers have recently been the targets of a number of phisher scam emails. The fraudulent emails are supposedly from AOL and ask recipients to click on a link to verify their identity, update information or validate their account. The links lead to a bogus website where people are asked to submit a range of sensitive information including credit card details. The site is disguised to resemble a legitimate AOL webpage. Information entered into the fraudulent form will be sent directly to the scammers who will then have enough information to access the victim's credit card account.

Neither the websites nor the emails are connected to AOL in any way. If you receive one of these scam emails, do not click on the link provided nor should you reply to the email. Be wary of any email that asks you to provide sensitive information, either via an embedded form or via a website.

Read more information about phisher scams

A copy of one of the AOL phisher scams is included below:

Dear customer,

We encountered a billing error when attempting to renew your AOL membership services. This type of error usually indicates that either the credit card you have on file has expired or that the billing address we have on file is not current.

Please use the link below to update your billing information.

AOL Billing Center

If you feel this as an error and you want to discontinue your AOL membership, please disregard this message and call our customer service to cancel the service.

America Online Billing Department

2004 America Online, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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Cactus Spider Hoax

Yet another hoax that involves spiders is circulating. Spiders tend to be a common theme of hoaxes and urban legends. This one has morphed through a number of versions. In fact, the tale pre-dates the Internet, but email has given it new life. The example reproduced below boasts an Australian setting, but others have been set in a variety of locations around the world. In some versions, the cactus is a small potted specimen that is kept inside the house and does actually explode its load of spiders into the dwelling.

It hardly needs to be said that the tale is completely untrue. Most types of tarantula live in underground burrows while a few live in trees. However, there is no record of them building nests inside cactus plants. Furthermore, even if spider eggs were laid inside a plant, it certainly would not explode when the eggs hatched.

Tarantulas are the giants of the spider world. Given their size and frightening appearance, it is not surprising that they play a starring role in this lovely old tale as well as numerous horror stories and Hollywood films. They are often portrayed as being extremely venomous. However, according The Natural History of Tarantula Spiders, Tarantula venom is not considered to be of medical importance to humans. Of the hundreds of reported cases of tarantula bites very few cause anything more serious than temporary local inflammation.

Although this hoax email is a work of fiction, it is rather an entertaining tale.



An example of the hoax message:
A true story and its source was the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service in Adelaide.

A bloke and his family were on holidays in the United States and went to Mexico for a week. An avid cactus fan, the man bought a one-metre high, rare and expensive cactus there. On arrival back home Australian Customs said it must be quarantined for 3 months.

He finally got his cactus home. Planted it in his backyard, and over time it grew to about 2 metres. One evening while watering his garden after a warm spring day, he gave the cactus a light spray. He was amazed to see the plant shiver all over, he gave it another spray and it shivered again. He was puzzled so he rang the council who put him on to the state gardens people. After a few transfers he got the state's foremost cactus expert who asked him many questions. How Tall is it? Has it flowered? etc.

Finally he asked the most disturbing question. "Is your family in the house?" The bloke answered yes. The cactus expert said get out of the house NOW, get on to the front nature strip and wait for me, I will be there in 20 minutes.

Fifteen minutes later, 2 fire trucks, 2 police cars and an ambulance came screaming around the corner. A fireman got out and asked "Are you the bloke with the cactus?" I am, he said. A guy jumped out of the fire truck wearing what looked like a space suit, a breathing cylinder and mask attached to what looked like a scuba backpack with a large hose attached. He headed for the backyard and turned a flame-thrower on the cactus spraying it up and down.

After a few minutes the flame-thrower man stopped, the cactus stood smoking and spitting, half the fence was burnt and parts of the gardens were well and truly scorched. Just then the cactus expert appeared and laid a calming hand on the bloke's shoulder. "What the hell's going on?" he says. "Let me show you" says the cactus man. He went over to the cactus and picked away a crusty bit, the cactus was almost entirely hollow and filled with tiger striped bird-eating tarantula spiders, each about the size of two hand spans.

The story was that this type of spider lays eggs in this type of cactus and they hatch and live in it as they grow to full size. When full size they release themselves. The cactus just explodes and about 150 dinner plate sized hairy spiders are flung from it, dispersing everywhere. They had been ready to pop. The aftermath was that the house and the adjoining houses had to be vacated and fumigated: police tape was put up outside the whole area and no one was allowed in for two weeks.

And here's what one of the spiders looks like sitting on a full size dinner plate.

Tarantula Spider


Other spider hoaxes:
Camel Spiders in Iraq Hoax Email

Spider Under Florida Toilet Seat Hoax

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Virus Report: Weekly Virus Wrap-Up

The list below represents some of the most significant new virus threats identified by Symantec Security Response over the last few days.

A number of variations of the Korgo worm have been spreading. These worms use the LSASS vulnerability present in unpatched Windows 2000, and XP systems. Unpatched systems should be updated as soon as possible. One variant, W32.Korgo.F, has been given a category of 3 out of 5 by Symantec.

W32.Explet.A@mm is another mass mailing worm that searches the infected computer for email addresses and sends itself using its own SMTP engine. It also spreads via file sharing networks. The subject of the email will be one of the following:

RE: order
For you
Hi, Mike
Good offer.
RE:

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Discussion: Dealing with Spam

Spam is the scourge of the Internet and a steadily increasing problem. I would be interested in hearing about how you deal with spam. What tactic, if any, have you found most useful for dealing with spam? Software filters? Server-side spam filters? Simpler remedies such as using throwaway email accounts online? A combination of anti-spam strategies?

Let's discuss it! It doesn't matter if you are a computer newbie or an IT professional, your input is valuable and we can all learn from each other. You can discuss Spam Control issues on the Hoax-Slayer Forums here.

I've made this particular forum public, so that you don't have to register to post. Please pop in and have your say!

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Tip of the Week: Damn Small Linux

If you've always wanted to try out the Linux operating system, but haven't had the time or inclination to delve into it too deeply, Damn Small Linux might be just the right distribution for you. The whole thing weighs in at under 50 MB, which is very small for a complete operating system.

The OS boots from a CD, so you don't have to worry about installing it on your hard-drive or fiddling around with Linux partitions. It comes with some essential applications such as a browser, email client, word processor and graphics tools. Naturally, the OS is a little limited because of its small size, but this distribution represents an excellent way for Linux virgins to get their feet wet.

You will need a computer that allows you to boot from a CD. If necessary, you may need to access the BIOS and configure your machine so that it will boot from a CD, rather than a floppy disk.

Get more information and download a copy of Damn Small Linux.

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Feedback from Readers and Site Visitors

If you receive a hoax or scam email, I would appreciate it if you would send me a copy.

I've had many submissions this week about the Money From Microsoft Giveaway hoax. There is a new version circulating that has some minor changes, including the bogus claim that the message "TOOK TWO PAGES OF THE TUESDAY USATODAY - IT IS FOR REAL".

The HIV Needles Hoax was also the subject of quite a few submission and enquiries. This email hoax falsely claims that HIV infected needles are being deliberately placed where they can cause injury to unsuspecting members of the public.

Popular submission topics this week include:


Don't forget that you can discuss scams and hoaxes and other topics on the new Hoax-Slayer Forums. I've had a few people register, but I would be pleased to see some more activity in the forums :)

Once again, thanks very much for you submissions!

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The Hoax_Slayer Newsletter is published by:
Brett M.Christensen
Queensland, Australia
All Rights Reserved
©Brett M. Christensen, 2008
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