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Relax, it's a Hoax

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Director of Technical Services, Baka Industries Inc.

Early in December, many well-intentioned people forwarded email messages warning of a virus called "Good Times" that was being distributed as an email message that would erase your hard drive if you read it. These messages sparked much confusion and even some reports of virus sightings, but investigators have determined that the warning messages were merely a hoax.

The Computer Incident Advisory Capability office (CIAC) of the U.S. Department of Energy released a bulletin on 06-Dec-94 explaining that the message originated from an America Online user and a student at a university at approximately the same time, and that it was meant as a hoax.

Karyn Pichnarczyk of the CIAC team said the warnings gained a false aura of credibility when many users received messages with "Good Times" in the subject line and deleted them without reading them, "thus believing that they have saved themselves from being attacked."

Some computer professionals have commented that the message itself is the virus; one offered the term "memetic virus" to describe the way this warning has prompted well-meaning readers to propagate it.

CIAC says that at this time there are no known viruses which can infect merely through the reading of an email message. A program must be executed for a virus to be spread. Trojan horses, programs that do something other than expected but that don't replicate by themselves, have appeared as executable attachments to mail messages.

Pichnarczyk suggests that anyone receiving a warning about a "Good Times virus" should "simply ignore it or send a reply stating that this is a false rumor."

As always, we strongly urge that, if you find evidence of a virus, or receive a warning of one, you forward it directly to an anti-virus expert. Spreading unverified reports just creates panic, and allows this sort of thing to happen. Gene Spafford at Purdue University <> has said he's willing to receive such material.

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