News Column

FACT CHECK ; 'Black Muslim' virus found to be outright hoax Variation of a prank that's been around since at least 2000

January 26, 2014

Carole Fader

Times-Union readers want to know:

An urgent email warns against opening any message with an attachment called "Black Muslim in the White House," no matter who sent it to you, or else your hard drive will be destroyed. Is this true?

We've received one of these warning emails ourselves. There are many false "virus warnings" that are passed around via email. Some, like this one, are outright hoaxes, according to Snopes.com, the fact-finding website that confirms or debunks rumors and urban legends; Hoax-slayer.com; and Ted Emery, urban legend researcher for the information website About.com.

Others overstate the risks of the threat, or are outdated.

Now, be aware that there are viruses that can enter your computer through attachments, web links and such. They can do nasty things. But according to computer experts, there is not, nor has there ever been, a virus that fits the drastic characteristics like those described in this email.

The "Black Muslim" email claims that if you open the attachment, it will simply destroy the zero sector of the hard disk, where vital information functions are stored. It also states that this was reported by CNN and that Microsoft called it the most destructive virus ever.

The fact-finders say the "Black Muslim in the White House" email is a variant of the same basic hoax that has circulated around the world since at least 2000.

The original was most commonly seen as the "Virtual Card for You" hoax, Snopes.com reports. Then, in time for the 2006 Winter Olympics, someone reintroduced it as an "Olympic Torch" virus warning (also known as the "Invitation Virus"). Others were the Merry Christmas Virus and the Hallmark Postcard Virus.

In July 2007, malicious eCard notification emails began hitting inboxes, according to Hoax-slayer.com. Some claimed to be notifications about a postcard from a family member; others said they were a July 4th celebration eCard notification from a colleague or friend.

Clicking on links in these emails opened a website that would download and install malware. A hacker might get access to the infected computer - bad enough - but the malware did not destroy the computer's hard drive, Hoax-slayer reports. The malware campaign, however, was totally unrelated to the original "virtual card" hoax.

After the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009, here came essentially the same warning called "Black in the White House" (since modified to "Black Muslim in the White House"), the fact finders report. The warning came again in 2010.

The bottom line is that no matter what the title of a warning email might be, this "killer" warning is a hoax: No such disk- destroying virus like the one described in "Black Muslim in White House," has been identified by McAfee, the world's largest computer security company. Neither was it reported by CNN.

Here's a real warning, though: Maintain up-to-date antivirus software, and be careful about which attachments you open, which files you download and which links you click.Carole Fader: (904) 359- 4635FACT CHECKWant something checked out? If you see or hear about something that needs a Fact Check, e-mail carole.fader@jacksonville.com


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Source: Florida Times Union


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