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VIRUS ALERT

INTERNET HOAXES

PKZ300, Irina, Good Times, Deeyenda, Ghost

The following information is from the CIAC bulletin number H-05 -- November 20, 1996
CIAC Is the U.S. Department of Energy Computer Incident Advisory Capability

PROBLEM: This bulletin addresses the following hoaxes and erroneous warnings: PKZ300 Warning, Irina, Good Times, Deeyenda, and Ghost.exe
PLATFORM: All, via e-mail
DAMAGE: Time lost reading and responding to the messages
SOLUTION: Pass unvalidated warnings only to your computer security department or incident response team.
See below on how to recognize validated and unvalidated warnings and hoaxes.
VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENT: New hoaxes and warnings have appeared on the Internet and old hoaxes are still being cirulated.

Introduction

The Internet is constantly being flooded with information about computer viruses and Trojans. However, interspersed among real virus notices are computer virus hoaxes. While these hoaxes do not infect systems, they are still time consuming and costly to handle. At CIAC, we find that we are spending much more time de-bunking hoaxes than handling real virus incidents. This advisory addresses the most recent warnings that have appeared on the Internet and are being circulated throughout world today. We will also address the history behind virus hoaxes, how to identify a hoax, and what to do if you think a message is or is not a hoax. Users are requested to please not spread unconfirmed warnings about viruses and Trojans. If you receive an unvalidated warning, don't pass it to all your friends, pass it to your computer security manager to validate first. Validated warnings from the incident response teams and antivirus vendors have valid return addresses and are usually PGP signed with the organization's key.

PKZ300 Warning

The PKZ300 Trojan is a real Trojan program, but the initial warning about it was released over a year ago. For information pertaining to PKZ300 Trojan reference CIAC Notes issue 95-10, that was released in June of 1995. http://ciac.llnl.gov/ciac/notes/Notes10.shtml The warning itself, on the other hand, is gaining urban legend status. There has been an extremely limited number of sightings of this Trojan and those appeared over a year ago. Even though the Trojan warning is real, the repeated circulation of the warning is a nuisance. Individuals who need the current release of PKZIP should visit the PKWARE web page at http://www.pkware.com. CIAC recommends that you DO NOT recirculate the warning about this particular Trojan.

Irina Virus Hoax

The "Irina" virus warnings are a hoax. The former head of an electronic publishing company circulated the warning to create publicity for a new interactive book by the same name. The publishing company has apologized for the publicity stunt that backfired and panicked Internet users worldwide. The original warning claimed to be from a Professor Edward Pridedaux of the College of Slavic Studies in London; there is no such person or college. However, London's School of Slavonic and East European Studies has been inundated with calls. This poorly thought-out publicity stunt was highly irresponsible. For more information pertaining to this hoax, reference the UK Daily Telegraph at http://www.telegraph.co.uk.

Good Times Virus Hoax

The "Good Times" virus warnings are a hoax. There is no virus by that name in existence today. These warnings have been circulating the Internet for years. The user community must become aware that it is unlikely that a virus can be constructed to behave in the manner ascribed in the "Good Times" virus warning. For more information related to this urban legend, reference CIAC Notes 95-09. http://ciac.llnl.gov/ciac/notes/Notes09.shtml

Deeyenda Virus Hoax

The "Deeyenda" virus warnings are a hoax. CIAC has received inqueries regarding the validity of the Deeyenda virus. The warnings are very similar to those for Good Times, stating that the FCC issued a warning about it, and that it is self activating and can destroy the contents of a machine just by being downloaded. Users should note that the FCC does not and will not issue virus or Trojan warnings. It is not their job to do so. As of this date, there are no known viruses with the name Deeyenda in existence. For a virus to spread, it must be executed. Reading a mail message does not execute the mail message. Trojans and viruses have been found as executable attachments to mail messages, but they must be extracted and executed to do any harm. CIAC still affirms that reading E-mail, using typical mail agents, can not activate malicious code delivered in or with the message.

Ghost.exe Warning

The Ghost.exe program was originally distributed as a free screen saver containing some advertising information for the author's company (Access Softek). The program opens a window that shows a Halloween background with ghosts flying around the screen. On any Friday the 13th, the program window title changes and the ghosts fly off the window and around the screen. Someone apparently got worried and sent a message indicating that this might be a Trojan. The warning grew until the it said that Ghost.exe was a Trojan that would destroy your hard drive and the developers got a lot of nasty phone calls (their names and phone numbers were in the About box of the program.) A simple phone call to the number listed in the program would have stopped this warning from being sent out. The original ghost.exe program is just cute; it does not do anything damaging. Note that this does not mean that ghost could not be infected with a virus that does do damage, so the normal antivirus procedure of scanning it before running it should be followed.


History of Virus Hoaxes

Since 1988, computer virus hoaxes have been circulating the Internet. In October of that year, according to Ferbrache ("A pathology of Computer Viruses" Springer, London, 1992) one of the first virus hoaxes was the 2400 baud modem virus:
	SUBJ: Really Nasty Virus
 	AREA: GENERAL (1)
	
 	I've just discovered probably the world's worst computer virus 
 	yet. I had just finished a late night session of BBS'ing and file 
 	treading when I exited Telix 3 and attempted to run pkxarc to 
 	unarc the software I had downloaded. Next thing I knew my hard 
 	disk was seeking all over and it was apparently writing random 
 	sectors. Thank god for strong coffee and a recent backup. 
 	Everything was back to normal, so I called the BBS again and 
 	downloaded a file. When I went to use ddir to list the directory, 
 	my hard disk was getting trashed again. I tried Procomm Plus TD 
 	and also PC Talk 3. Same results every time. Something was up so I 
 	hooked up to my test equipment and different modems (I do research 
 	and development for a local computer telecommunications company 
 	and have an in-house lab at my disposal). After another hour of 
 	corrupted hard drives I found what I think is the world's worst 
 	computer virus yet. The virus distributes itself on the modem sub-
 	carrier present in all 2400 baud and up modems. The sub-carrier is 
 	used for ROM and register debugging purposes only, and otherwise 
 	serves no othr (sp) purpose. The virus sets a bit pattern in one 
 	of the internal modem registers, but it seemed to screw up the 
 	other registers on my USR. A modem that has been "infected" with 
 	this virus will then transmit the virus to other modems that use a 
 	subcarrier (I suppose those who use 300 and 1200 baud modems 
 	should be immune). The virus then attaches itself to all binary 
 	incoming data and infects the host computer's hard disk. The only 
 	way to get rid of this virus is to completely reset all the modem 
 	registers by hand, but I haven't found a way to vaccinate a modem 
 	against the virus, but there is the possibility of building a 
 	subcarrier filter. I am calling on a 1200 baud modem to enter this 
 	message, and have advised the sysops of the two other boards 
 	(names withheld). I don't know how this virus originated, but I'm 
 	sure it is the work of someone in the computer telecommunications 
 	field such as myself. Probably the best thing to do now is to 
 	stick to 1200 baud until we figure this thing out.

	Mike RoChenle
This bogus virus description spawned a humorous alert by Robert Morris III :
 	Date: 11-31-88 (24:60)	Number: 32769
 	To: ALL	Refer#: NONE
 	From: ROBERT MORRIS III	Read: (N/A)
 	Subj: VIRUS ALERT	Status: PUBLIC MESSAGE
 	
 	Warning: There's a new virus on the loose that's worse than 
 	anything I've seen before! It gets in through the power line, 
 	riding on the powerline 60 Hz subcarrier. It works by changing the 
 	serial port pinouts, and by reversing the direction one's disks 
 	spin. Over 300,000 systems have been hit by it here in Murphy, 
 	West Dakota alone! And that's just in the last 12 minutes.
 	
	It attacks DOS, Unix, TOPS-20, Apple-II, VMS, MVS, Multics, Mac, 
 	RSX-11, ITS, TRS-80, and VHS systems.
 	
 	To prevent the spresd of the worm:
 	
 	1) Don't use the powerline.
 	2) Don't use batteries either, since there are rumors that this 
 	  virus has invaded most major battery plants and is infecting the 
 	  positive poles of the batteries. (You might try hooking up just 
 	  the negative pole.)
 	3) Don't upload or download files.
 	4) Don't store files on floppy disks or hard disks.
 	5) Don't read messages. Not even this one!
 	6) Don't use serial ports, modems, or phone lines.
 	7) Don't use keyboards, screens, or printers.
 	8) Don't use switches, CPUs, memories, microprocessors, or 
 	  mainframes.
 	9) Don't use electric lights, electric or gas heat or 
 	  airconditioning, running water, writing, fire, clothing or the 
 	  wheel.
 	
 	I'm sure if we are all careful to follow these 9 easy steps, this 
 	virus can be eradicated, and the precious electronic flui9ds of 
 	our computers can be kept pure.
 	
 	---RTM III
Since that time virus hoaxes have flooded the Internet.With thousands of viruses worldwide, virus paranoia in the community has risen to an extremely high level. It is this paranoia that fuels virus hoaxes. A good example of this behavior is the "Good Times" virus hoax which started in 1994 and is still circulating the Internet today. Instead of spreading from one computer to another by itself, Good Times relies on people to pass it along.

How to Identify a Hoax

There are several methods to identify virus hoaxes, but first consider what makes a successful hoax on the Internet. There are two known factors that make a successful virus hoax, they are: If the warning uses the proper technical jargon, most individuals, including technologically savy individuals, tend to believe the warning is real. For example, the Good Times hoax says that "...if the program is not stopped, the computer's processor will be placed in an nth-complexity infinite binary loop which can severely damage the processor...". The first time you read this, it sounds like it might be something real. With a little research, you find that there is no such thing as an nth-complexity infinite binary loop and that processors are designed to run loops for weeks at a time without damage.

When we say credibility by association we are referring to whom sent the warning. If the janitor at a large technological organization sends a warning to someone outside of that organization, people on the outside tend to believe the warning because the company should know about those things. Even though the person sending the warning may not have a clue what he is talking about, the prestigue of the company backs the warning, making it appear real. If a manager at the company sends the warning, the message is doubly backed by the company's and the manager's reputations.

Individuals should also be especially alert if the warning urges you to pass it on to your friends. This should raise a red flag that the warning may be a hoax. Another flag to watch for is when the warning indicates that it is a Federal Communication Commission (FCC) warning. According to the FCC, they have not and never will disseminate warnings on viruses. It is not part of their job.

CIAC recommends that you DO NOT circulate virus warnings without first checking with an authoritative source. Authoritative sources are your computer system security administrator or a computer incident advisory team. Real warnings about viruses and other network problems are issued by different response teams (CIAC, CERT, ASSIST, NASIRC, etc.) and are digitally signed by the sending team using PGP. If you download a warning from a teams web site or validate the PGP signature, you can usually be assured that the warning is real. Warnings without the name of the person sending the original notice, or warnings with names, addresses and phone numbers that do not actually exist are probably hoaxes.

What to Do When You Receive a Warning

Upon receiving a warning, you should examine its PGP signature to see that it is from a real response team or antivirus organization. To do so, you will need a copy of the PGP software and the public signature of the team that sent the message. The CIAC signature is available from the CIAC web server at: http://ciac.llnl.gov
If there is no PGP signature, see if the warning includes the name of the person submitting the original warning. Contact that person to see if he/she really wrote the warning and if he/she really touched the virus. If he/she is passing on a rumor or if the address of the person does not exist or if there is any questions about the authenticity or the warning, do not circulate it to others. Instead, send the warning to your computer security manager or incident response team and let them validate it. When in doubt, do not send it out to the world. Your computer security managers and the incident response teams teams have experts who try to stay current on viruses and their warnings. In addition, most anti-virus companies have a web page containing information about most known viruses and hoaxes. You can also call or check the web site of the company that produces the product that is supposed to contain the virus. Checking the PKWARE site for the current releases of PKZip would stop the circulation of the warning about PKZ300 since there is no released version 3 of PKZip. Another useful web site is the "Computer Virus Myths home page" (http://www.kumite.com/myths/) which contains descriptions of several known hoaxes. In most cases, common sense would eliminate Internet hoaxes.


This document was prepared as an account of work sponsored by an agency of the United States Government. Neither the United States Government nor the University of California nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation or favoring by the United States Government or the University of California. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or the University of California, and shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes.



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