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Truth about computer security hysteria
Truth About Computer Security Hysteria

AOL IM Trojan/virus

CATEGORY: Hoax virus alerts

A July 1997 chain letter warned malicious users can steal AOL passwords or erase hard disks if a user merely responds to an "instant message" (IM). And like most hysterical alerts, it urges you to "pass this on to every one you know!!!"

The simple act of responding to an IM will not divulge your password or erase your precious data. Someone might try to con you into disclosing your AOL password, but they can't automagically steal it from you.

The July 1997 chain letter shows subtle signs of a hoax:

  1. The originator goes out of his way to say "I AM NOT joking about this or trying to start some stupid rumor."
  2. The originator claims an AOL employee personally warned him of it — and urges everyone to call AOL's Community Action Team "if you don't believe me." He gave the CAT's toll-free number, of course. CAT representatives long ago dismissed the chain letter as "absolutely false."

Last updated: 2000/9/19