Is your Facebook full of “dire warnings” about a new Windows virus? Relax. There’s a good chance that this Facebook virus alert is actually a hoax.
The false warning, which is reportedly being shared by tens of thousands of Facebook users, describes a virus labeled “Update Windows Live” that “burns” hard drives. To give more credence to the claim, the hoax includes fraudulent information purportedly from Microsoft, McAfee and CNN.
Don’t fall for it. Like most “urgent” Facebook security alerts shared on user timelines, the warning is totally made up. Despite the giant font and technical jargon, this is just another viral hoax. Resist the urge to sound the alarms!
Fake Online Threat Shared by Thousands of Facebook Users
The shared item in question is a simple image containing text with details about the alleged virus.
More than 35,000 people have shared this hoax on their personal Facebook timelines so far, perhaps fooled by the name-dropping of major software companies or scary-sounding technical phrases like “destroy Sector Zero.”
Sophos printed a transcript of the fake warning:
!!!!!!!!!! RED ALERT for YOUR COMPUTER
Please circulate this notice to your friends, family and contacts!
In the coming days, warning: do not open any message containing an attachment called Archive (Windows live) regardless of who sends you. This is a virus that burns the entire hard disk. This virus comes from a known person you have in your mailing list, which is why you should send this message to all your contacts. If you receive a message called “UPDATING WINDOWS LIVE”, even if is sent by a friend, do not open it and stop immediately. This is the worst virus announced by CNN. It has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive virus that ever existed. The virus was discovered yesterday afternoon by McAfee, and there is no chance of repair for this type of virus. Simply destroys Sector Zero of the hard disk. Just copy and paste…
The absence of any links to reputable news sources, and the sensationalist language of the warning, all point to this message as a hoax.
However, many users seemingly ignored these suspicious details and liked or shared the photo anyway. After all, a burned hard disk is a nasty image for any computer user, and Facebook’s social media culture encourages rapid-fire sharing over actual fact-checking.
Quickly Debunking Virus Alerts
Although most Facebook users who shared this hoax warning likely had good intentions, it’s clear that most people don’t bother to research urgent claims like these.
A quick Google search for this hoax finds no information on CNN (or any other news outlets) and no official warnings from either Microsoft or McAfee. But we did find mentions of a very similar virus warning that spread in previous years in the form of online chain letters and email spam.
If more curious users looked into the virus warnings so commonly shared on social media, we might experience a decrease in spam and traffic across the Internet.
Plus, warnings like these have potential to cause unnecessary panic and even convince people to buy excess anti-virus software they don’t need.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled for Virus Hoaxes: 3 Tips
We know viruses suck — no one wants to see the infamous blue screen of death.
But don’t be fooled by a hoax! Follow our simple tips for protecting yourself from a fake virus warning:
1. Do a quick online search for the supposed virus or computer issue. See if the problem has been covered by Snopes, tech news outlets or our own Scambook Blog Technology section.
2. Check with your online security provider before putting any protective measures in place. Never install software you haven’t procured from a real anti-virus company.
3. When in doubt, don’t share. In addition to freaking out your friends, you don’t want to be known as the resident scam guy on your social media networks.
Ever been fooled by an urgent-sounding chain letter or Facebook post? What’s your favorite anti-virus software? Tell us in the comments!