Hoaxes are usually in the form of emails that do some or all of the following:
- Warn you that there is an undetectable, highly destructive new piece of malware
- Ask you to avoid reading emails with a particular subject line (e.g., “Justin Bieber”)
- Claim that the warning was issued by a major software company, Internet provider or government agency (e.g., IBM, Microsoft, AOL or the FCC)
- Claim that the new malware can do something improbable (e.g., the "A moment of silence" hoax says that “no program needs to be exchanged for a new computer to be infected”)
- Use techno-babble to describe malware effects (e.g., Sector Zero claims that the malware can “destroy sector zero of the hard drive”)
- Urge you to forward the warning
- Claim that liking a story or individual on Facebook can result in financial windfalls, charitable contributions and free prizes
Many users forwarding such hoax emails can cause a deluge of email, which may overload mail servers. Hoax messages may also distract from efforts to deal with real malware threats.
Since hoaxes aren’t malware, your antivirus and endpoint security software can’t detect or disable them.