By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Bomb hoax is a passe. Now virus hoax seems to be the in-thing. Computer users are being flooded with e-mail messages warning that a potentially dangerous virus called "Invitation" will attack computers in the next few days "burning" hard discs.
Software companies, however, dub the "warning" e-mail as a spam and allays the fears of net users saying that no virus by name "Invitation", has ever been detected in any part of the world.
The "Invitation" virus, also called "Olympic Torch" is projected as something dangerous, the first-ever "virus" capable of damaging the hardware like "burning" the whole hard disc C of computer. The virus and worms detected so far only damages the software and data stored in computers.
"The Invitation virus is a hoax," says H Topiwala, a city-based ethical hacker, who had graduated from the Ethical Hackers' School, London. He describes the e-mail as nothing more than a mass spam to create a sense of fear pshychosis among people.
The content of the e-mail spreading the virus hoax reads like this: "You should be alert during the next days: Do not open any message with an attached filed called "Invitation" regardless of who sent it . It is a virus that opens an Olympic Torch which "burns" the whole hard disc C of your computer".
The e-mail further says that "this virus will be received from someone who has your e-mail address in his/her contact list, that is why you should send this e-mail to all your contacts. It is better to receive this message 25 times than to receive the virus and open it. If you receive a mail called "invitation", though sent by a friend, do not open it and shut down your computer immediately. This is the worst virus announced by CNN, it has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive virus ever".
To give credence to the virus hoax, the generator of the e-mail says, "this virus was discovered by McAfee yesterday, and there is no repair yet for this kind of virus. This virus simply destroys the Zero Sector of the Hard Disc, where the vital information is kept".
The CNN website does not refer to the virus at all while McAfee's website describes the virus threat as a hoax.
Says security specialist Ganga Raju of Networks Data, "the e-mail is created to increase the bandwidth. The more the number of friends you forward the e-mail, the more the usage of bandwidth. This simply means more money to the internet service provider". He suggests that anti-spam software should be deployed to prevent such virus hoax messages.
Snopes.Com, a website on rumours, describes the "Invitation" virus as nothing but a rehashed hoax call about "virtual card for you" virus. "The classics never go away, it seems, so just in time for the 2006 Winter Olympics someone has dusted off an old virus warning hoax (most commonly seen in its incarnation as the "[Virtual] Card for You" hoax) and reintroduced it as an "Olympic Torch" virus warning," it points out.
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