While emails and instant messages are the primary channels for a virus hoax, they are certainly not the only ones. Malicious programs known as rogue ware are known for posing as bona fide antivirus (AV) apps and duping users into believing that a virus is on their computer or device. Focused strategies are far more profitable. This is why when electronic messages are used to create a virus hoax, they usually arrive in the shape of an organizational memo—even by way of an organization’s internal network.
Cost of a Virus Hoax
A virus hoax may not carry a cost beyond the time spent analyzing its authenticity. This, in and of itself, can be a costly process. It the user or organization find themselves as the subject of the virus hoax, the cost associated with protecting or salvaging one’s reputation is much greater.
Then, there are times when a virus hoax can be as costly as an actual breach in security. Users and system administrators who are responsible for digital assets often panic at the mere sound of the word virus, taking what they believe are remedial actions. A business, for example, might shut down its systems in fear of data integrity, ceasing normal operations. A user who’s device is plagued with rogue ware might be tempted to provide their credit card information in hopes of dispelling an empty threat.
What Motivates the Person Behind a Virus Hoax?
When money is not a factor, it is important (and perhaps interesting) to understand what motivates someone to carry out such a questionable task. The number of virus hoaxes have grown exponentially over the years and are proving to be more than just a nuisance. Research has unveiled the following reasons behind one of Tech’s most bizarre phenomenons:
A virus hoax may be result of curiosity, with the perpetrator wanting to see just how far the scheme will go.
Like hackers, the creators of a virus hoax may suffer from a god-complex. They may take malicious pleasure in harassing people and seeing them react to false information. In some ways, this is a form of cyber bullying.
A virus hoax may be an act of vengeance, in which the perpetrator wishes to sully the reputation of a person or organization. This, too, is a form of cyber bullying.
In some cases, a virus hoax may be the precursor to an actual attack, as is the case with most strands of rogue ware.
Dealing with a Virus Hoax
It can be argued that the best way to deal with a virus hoax is to not act upon it. This, of course, may leave a user or organization vulnerable to an actual attack, particularly if the hoax turns out to be a real threat. Determining the legitimacy of a threat in a timely manner can effectively stop a virus hoax in its tracks, since there will be no need to spread news of it to additional people.
The spreading of misinformation is where a virus hoax gains it power. Unfortunately, a large number of users are constantly duped—by rogue ware, and chain messages with false claims. Authoritative communication is always a strong tactic, which is why perpetrators go to great lengths to simulate the legitimacy of the tools they use. They realize that most users are do-gooders and seek to exploit this characteristic.
For users whose devices are plagued with rogue ware, a reputable antivirus (AV) app should be helpful in detecting and removing malicious programs. For organizations the stakes are much higher. System administrators should implement advanced security measures, and executives should set policies which guide the distribution of warnings messages. One such rule might delegate that responsibility to a single person, so that all threats can be vetted for authenticity.
Ultimately, a balance must be struck between diligence and discretion. Both can be used to stifle a plethora of warning messages which might otherwise run amuck and disrupt a company’s workflow. As the phenomenon of fake news continues on the Internet, the meaning of cybersecurity if constantly redefined. A virus hoax should be considered as real a problem as any other, properly handled to ensure its demobilization.