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Merry Christmas Virus Hoax

Summary:
Email claims that a message with an attachment named "Merry Christmas" contains a destructive virus that will "burn" the hard drive on the infected computer thereby destroying the Zero Sector (Full commentary below).



Status:
False

Example:(Submitted, November 2007)
Subject: FW: Virus alert

PLEASE FORWARD THIS WARNING:


You should be alert during the next days:

Do not open any message with an attached file called "Merry Christmas" regardless of who sent it, It is a virus that opens as an Open Log Fire and will burn the whole hard disc in your computer.

This virus will be received from someone who has your e-mail address in his/her contact list, that is why you should send this e-mail to all your contacts. It is better to receive this message 25 times than to receive the virus and open it.

If you receive a mail called "Merry Christmas", though sent by a friend, do not open it and shut down your computer immediately. This is the worst virus announced, it has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive virus ever.

This virus was discovered by McAfee yesterday, and there is no repair yet for this kind of virus. This virus simply destroys the Zero Sector of the Hard Disc, where the vital information is kept




Commentary:
According to this warning message, a new and very destructive virus is being distributed that carries an attachment named "Merry Christmas". The message claims that opening the attachment will activate an "Open Log Fire" that will "burn" the hard drive in the computer, thereby damaging it beyond repair.

However, this information is untrue. There is no virus like the one described in the message. This "virus warning" is another incarnation of a long running virus hoax email. Aside from the Christmas references, the message is virtually identical to the widespread Olympic Torch Invitation Virus Hoax. The following example of the Olympic Torch version illustrates the similarities between the two:
You should be alert during the next days: Do not open any message with an attached filed called "Invitation" regardless of who sent it. It is a virus that opens an Olympic Torch which "burns" the whole hard disc C of your computer. This virus will be received from someone who has your e-mail address in his/her contact list, that is why you should send this e-mail to all your contacts. It is better to receive this message 25 times than to receive the virus and open it.

If you receive a mail called "invitation", though sent by a friend, do not open it and shut down your computer immediately.

This is the worst virus announced by CNN, it has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive virus ever. This virus was discovered by McAfee yesterday, and there is no repair yet for this kind of virus. This virus simply destroys the Zero Sector of the Hard Disc, where the vital information is kept. SEND THIS E-MAIL TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW, COPY THIS E-MAIL AND SEND IT TO YOUR FRIENDS AND REMEMBER: IF YOU SEND IT TO THEM, YOU WILL BENEFIT ALL OF US
And both versions are derived from the Virtual Card For You Virus Hoax, which has been circulating continually since 2001:
WORST VIRUS EVER --- CNN ANNOUNCED PLEASE SEND THIS TO EVERYONE ON YOUR CONTACT LIST!! A new virus has just been discovered that has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive ever. This virus was discovered yesterday afternoon by McAfee . This virus simply destroys Sector Zero from the hard disk, where vital information for its functioning are stored.

This virus acts in the following manner:
It sends itself automatically to all contacts on your list with the title: "A Card for You".

As soon as the supposed virtual card is opened the computer freezes so that the user has to reboot. When the ctrl+alt+ del keys or the reset button are pressed, the virus destroys Sector Zero, thus permanently destroying the hard disk. Yesterday in just a few hours this virus caused panic in New York , according to news broadcast by CNN.

This alert was received by an employee of Microsoft itself.
So don't open any mails with subject: "A Virtual Card for You. " As soon as you get the mail, delete it !! Please pass this mail to all of your friends.

Forward this to everyone in your address book. I'm sure most people, like myself, would rather receive this notice 25 times than not at All.
All three versions of the warning are equally false and should not be taken seriously. Forwarding bogus warnings such as these is counterproductive. Forwarding false virus warnings can cause unnecessary alarm, and people who have received such hoaxes may be more likely to ignore genuine warnings. They also needlessly clutter inboxes.

While the information in these messages is invalid, it should be noted that malicious emails that are designed to look like email greeting card notifications are being distributed. As Christmas approaches, the criminals responsible may send out fake Christmas greeting emails. Some versions of the Virtual Card For You hoax try to make the claims seem more legitimate by including some factual information about these malware eCard notifications. However, this genuine threat is in no way related to the fictional viruses featured in these hoax emails. The eCard notification emails try to entice the recipient to visit a malicious website that can download and install a trojan. This trojan can give a hacker access to the infected computer but it certainly does not destroy the computer's hard drive.

Before forwarding any virus warning email, it is important to check that the information is valid. Even virus warnings that were originally legitimate often become seriously exaggerated or hopelessly outdated during their random and uncontrolled journeys through cyberspace. For these reasons and others, sending virus warnings via email may not be the best way to alert Internet users of potential security threats.

References:
Olympic Torch Invitation Virus Hoax
Virtual Card For You Virus Hoax
Should Virus Warning Emails be Forwarded?
Postcard From a Family Member Malware Email

Last updated: 13th November 2007
First published: 13th November 2007

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen

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