Seriously folks, you should know that Facebook warning about a virus *burning* your hard disk is bunk

Filed Under: Facebook, Featured, Spam

Laptop fire. Image from ShutterstockIt's easy to become cynical about human nature if you're fighting online criminals day-in-day-out, but the comforting truth is that that the vast majority of people are actually decent and well-meaning, and keen to help others if they think they can.

And it's the desire to help others that all too often unwittingly perpetuates hoaxes and chain letters and helps them to spread.

Take, for the instance, the following photograph that has been shared widely on Facebook, claiming to be a "Red Alert" warning for computer users.

(Although it looks like a lump of text, it's actually being shared in the form of a Facebook photo - which certainly makes it more dramatic, as the font is so large)

Facebook hoax

Of course, the warning is complete and utter balderdash.

There is no such virus, your hard disk is not going to be burnt, CNN has said no such thing, Microsoft has not classified any malware as "the most destructive virus that ever existed", and as for the claims of hardware destruction... come on!

Too anyone with a more than basic computer knowledge, it's clear that there's something not quite right about the warning when you come to read it - and yet, at the time I took the screenshot, some 35,000 people had shared it with their Facebook friends and family members, presumably believing it to be true.

My guess is that many of those people didn't even bother to read the warning. Many of them just quickly shared it on to their friends without critically evaluating the information they had received.

!!!!!!!!!! RED ALERT for YOUR COMPUTER

Please circulate this notice to your friends, family and contacts!

In the coming days, warning: do not open any message containing an attachment called Archive (Windows live) regardless of who sends you. This is a virus that burns the entire hard disk. This virus comes from a known person you have in your mailing list, which is why you should send this message to all your contacts. If you receive a message called "UPDATING WINDOWS LIVE", even if is sent by a friend, do not open it and stop immediately. This is the worst virus announced by CNN. It has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive virus that ever existed. The virus was discovered yesterday afternoon by McAfee, and there is no chance of repair for this type of virus. Simply destroys Sector Zero of the hard disk. Just copy and paste..

Wouldn't a real warning have included links to a reputable security website, giving more details on the so-called virus? Shouldn't there be links to a CNN news report, or an advisory from McAfee where they announce that they have given up attempting to build a repair for the malware?

In fact, a little searching on the net would have revealed to any of those 35,000 people that there have been plenty of "virus warnings" in the past, which have looked remarkably similar, and have been exposed as hoax chain letters.

It's a serious problem. As well as adding to the general glut of spam and unnecessary messages floating across the net and clogging up corporate networks, hoaxes have also been responsible for panicking computer users into making very poor decisions.

Remember to always get your computer security advice from a computer security company. Friends may be well-intentioned in passing on warnings, but it's always good to check your facts before forwarding them any further.

Don't forget you should join the Sophos Facebook page, where we not only debunk hoaxes and chain letters, but we also keep you up-to-date on the latest rogue applications, scams and malware attacks threatening Facebook users.

Image of Laptop on fire courtesy of Shutterstock.

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6 Responses to Seriously folks, you should know that Facebook warning about a virus *burning* your hard disk is bunk

  1. Machin Shin · 372 days ago

    " Shouldn't there be links to a CNN news report, or an advisory from McAfee where they announce that they have given up attempting to build a repair for the malware?"

    Yup, but you should be happy there are not any links. If there were any links they would likely be to blackholes or phishing sites.......

  2. Huw3481 · 372 days ago

    Hello? Good Times? Is that you again after all these years?

  3. David · 372 days ago

    I think Graham Cluley is overestimating what the ordinary computer user (like me) can be expected to know. I sometimes get warnings from search engines or anti-virus services saying (.e.g.) 'Files of this type can damage your computer. Do you wish to open the file?' A phrase like 'damage your computer' could be interpreted as physical damage. I assume that in fact it refers to the corruption of data or programs, but I don't see how we can even be sure of that. When we read about things like Stuxnet, which can damage physical equipment like centrifuges, it is not absurd to think that some malware might cause physical damage to a computer, perhaps by causing it to overheat.

  4. Roger · 372 days ago

    Yet another variant of the ancient 'Olympic Torch' hoax e-mail, whereby opening the (non-existent) e-mail will result in a range of dire and impossible consequences no doubt ranging from a toasted hard drive to a severe bout of the dreaded lurgi. The breathless 'ooh ah' tone of these missives and the alleged comments by McAfee and Microsoft (would Microsoft ever admit in public that their operating systems can be compromised?!) about the danger are all pointers to the fact that this is a load of old cobblers.

  5. Banquo · 371 days ago

    People should know by now, seeing as computers are a big part of our culture. You would think that it would be common knowledge to most computer users.

    But, think of how many people still fall for fake alert trojans, advertisements on TV claiming that they can "speed up" your computer, or those people that cannot properly differentiate between basic computer components.

    Tech ignorance is the norm. Companies spend millions to advertise the latest internet capable technologies,but no one is telling people the things they should really know. There is a large portion of the population the only pays attention to mainstream media outlets. If the information isn't thrown at them, they won't get it.

    We can expect this nonsense to continue until there is more accessible education about this kind of stuff.

  6. snert · 370 days ago

    Ever hear of Snopes? They either refute or confirm stuff like this.

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About the author

Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, and 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.