The Simon Ashton hacker hoax, spreading via email

Filed Under: Spam

A colleague from Sophos's finance department came down to my desk this morning. It's always a bit scary when someone visits you from the top floor - and I worried for a moment that maybe he wanted to know if I'd charged the life-size Doctor Who cutouts I have surrounding me on expenses..

But actually he wanted to know if I could shed any light on an email he had received:

Simon Ashton email hoax

Here's the full text of the email:

THIS IS NO JOKE

IF A PERSON CALLED SIMON ASHTON (SIMON25@HOTMAIL.CO.UK ) CONTACTS YOU THROUGH EMAIL DON'T OPEN THE MESSAGE. DELETE IT BECAUSE HE IS A HACKER!!

TELL EVERYONE ON YOUR LIST BECAUSE IF SOMEBODY ON YOUR LIST ADDS HIM THEN YOU WILL GET HIM ON YOUR LIST. HE WILL FIGURE OUT YOUR ID COMPUTER ADDRESS, SO COPY AND PASTE THIS MESSAGE TO EVERYONE EVEN IF YOU DONT CARE FOR THEM AND FAST BECAUSE IF HE HACKS THEIR EMAIL HE HACKS YOUR MAIL TOO!!!!!....

Anyone-using Internet mail such as Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL and so on. This information arrived this morning, Direct from both Microsoft and Norton. Please send it to everybody you know who has access to the Intern et. You may receive an apparently harmless e-mail titled 'Mail Server Report'

If you open either file, a message will appear on your screen saying: 'It is too late now, your life is no longer beautiful.'

Subsequently you will LOSE EVERYTHING IN YOUR PC, And the person wh o sent it to you will gain access to your name, e-mail and password.

This is a new virus which started to circulate on Saturday afternoon. AOL has already confirmed the severity, and the anti virus software's are not capable of destroying it .

The virus has been created by a hacker who calls himself 'life owner'..

PLEASE SEND A COPY OF THIS E-MAIL TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS, And ask them to PASS IT ON IMMEDIATELY!

Of course, this is all nonsense - and just the latest example of the many hoaxes we have seen spreading over the internet for some years.

To deal with the hoax point-by point:

  • Adding someone to your email contact list does not allow them to hack into your email
  • If a hacker did break into one of your friend's emails it doesn't mean they can also access your account.
  • Microsoft and Norton did not issue a warning about this
  • AOL has not confirmed the threat's severity, because the threat does not exist

Interestingly the hoax does make a vague reference to another hoax called "Life is Beautiful" and echoes the Bum_tn007 hoax which was unwittingly propagated by Facebook and MySpace users a couple of years ago.

Hoaxes like this never seem to die - there will always be someone who thinks it's better to be "safe than sorry" and forward the warning to all of their friends and family, thus giving it another burst of life. But if you receive a warning of a new virus, please take a few seconds to Google for more information - if it's a known hoax it's likely that it will already be discussed, and if the threat is genuine chances are that security companies have issued an advisory about it.

By the way, if you must know, the cut-outs by my desk are of a Dalek, Cyberman and David Tennant. If you ever visit the Sophos offices and are given the grand tour you now shouldn't find it too hard to work out where I sit.

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.