A virus hoax is a false warning about a computer virus, or other malicious software (e.g., malware or spyware), spread via e-mail or web postings. The message typically contains an urgent warning about a virus infection or other impending digital disaster, and encourages readers to quickly pass the message around to everyone they know for protection.
The purpose of a virus hoax is usually to cause unnecessary concern, disruption, and inconvenience among internet users, who may spend hours tracking down the hoax and being distracted from productive activities. Such hoaxes often rely on spreading fear and confusion by portraying the hoax virus in an exaggerated and sensationalized light.
Despite their relatively harmless nature, virus hoaxes can be extremely disruptive and cause huge amounts of wasted time and resources. Furthermore, as virus hoaxes become more sophisticated and convincing, they can lay foundations for real computer attacks, by chipping away at user’s defences and increasing computer vulnerability.
It is important to remember that it is not a computer virus, but rather a false warning about a virus, fraudulently designed to look like a legitimate security alert. The most common way to identify a virus hoax is to research the warning with one of the reputable, established anti-virus and security sites, such as Symantec (www.symantec.com), NASA or Kaspersky. If the warning is not found, then it is likely a hoax.
Despite anti-hoax measures that have been taken by some ISPs, virus hoaxes still abound on the internet. As such, it is important to be aware of them and not spread them around without verifying their accuracy first. Although they are non-malicious in nature, following them can be extremely counterproductive and result in time and resources being wasted. To avoid this, stay aware and take the time to research any message concerning a virus or other malicious software.