Everyone who has an ISP, understands, or at least knows about how hackers use viruses, Trojans and other web nasties, to infect and mess up your computer. No headline news there. (Unfortunately, we still don’t understand why they do it, or at least I don’t.) But hackers don’t have to write malicious code or hijack your browser to do some serious damage to your system. Oh no… A well written email with no attachments, can do the trick. They only have to start a rumor.
Hackers can easily manipulate you into trashing your own computer. All they have to do is begin a hoax.
What do I mean by that? Let me explain.
Have you ever gotten emails from people you know that say something like: Scan your hard drive for such and such a file! If you find it delete it immediately! Pass this on. Warn everyone you know!
These emails are originally generated by a hacker and spread throughout the Internet to get you to delete files you need, thus creating havoc for your system. They are hoaxes.
Hoaxes work incredibly well for getting average people to cause their own computers to malfunction. the hacker doesn’t have to spend any time creating malicious code and a method of distribution, all they have to do is play on the human tendency for hysteria; send out a warning that something evil is spreading, and if you find it on your computer, get rid of it!
Recently I was tracking a thread on a forum, where the moderator warned everyone about a file that he found on his system that was a keylogger. (A keylogger is a malicious program designed to track your every move through monitoring your keystrokes.) He warned everyone to search for a file, ans2000.ini and, “delete the booger.”
I scan my system every day, with several different virus/ spyware programs, and I never picked up this file with any of them, so I decided to do a Windows Explorer search for it. Sure enough, I found it on my hard drive. Oh My God!
Before hitting the delete key though, I looked it up on the web. I Googled the specific file and found quite a bit of information on it. The file ans2000.ini is used in the keylogger program known as ProBot SE. However, it is also used in many other legitimate programs as well. Ok, so now what do I do?
Well, I contacted my go-to guy, Jim Gray, owner of Quikonnex, and asked him what his thoughts were. He told me to open the ini file, in Notepad, and read it. Sure enough, this file did have an association to another program on my system. It is part of ActivEbook Compiler. It was right there in print, at the top of the file.
Now had I just freaked out when I found the file, and deleted the booger, I would’ve trashed my ebook compiler, making it useless to me. Two points for the hacker who started the hoax!
Hoaxes are just as dangerous as live viruses, because they inspire you to destroy your own programs. I am sure they are a particular kick for the one starting the hoax, as they are getting you to do bad things to your own system. Fear is a powerful motivator, and hoaxes, by design, are created to cause panic and fear in the less experienced Internet traveler.
So, before going and deleting files from your hard drive, go check them out. Do a search for them and read the information you find. Don’t just go deleting things without learning about them first, or you just may end up cutting your own throat. And, NEVER forward these types of warning emails to others until you know for a fact that the information is correct, or you’re likely to have your friends and family after you for misinforming them.
Resources for validating virus/ hoax information:
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