PERHAPS THE GREATEST thrill for any prankster is to have a hoax taken as truth.
Such a thing happened to Ray Owens, who runs a Web site called Joke A Day. Owens
sent an e-mail to his 342,000 subscribers on June 5 (after an initial mailing on
June 2 to another list) warning them of a new virus called aol.exe. Warning your
customers of a virus seems like a nice thing to do, except that aol.exe is not a
virus at all; it is the America Online application that provides Internet access
to millions of people worldwide.|
The "virus warning" is a riff on the sulfnbk.exe virus hoax that circulated at the end of May and warned users to delete the file sulfnbk.exe -- which is not a virus at all but a necessary Windows file, said Owens in a posting on his Web site. Owens chose aol.exe because "the absolute stupidest people [who write him letters] all proudly carry @aol.com [e-mail addresses]. ... The overwhelming majority of AOL people do not read instructions. They do not follow directions. They do not have any business near a computer whatsoever," he wrote.
The message his subscribers received warned them of a virus called aol.exe which would activate on June 8. The message instructed them how to remove the file from their computers.
The warning starts out innocently enough, saying that "deleting this file will fix a damaged 30MB area of your hard drive and restore it to full functionality." Perhaps victims of the hoax deserve less sympathy if they still deleted the file after being told that "keeping this file on the system after June 8 will cost you $1.95 more per month! [AOL is raising its monthly rates in July]. Failure to remove this file will keep your 'upper memory management' module of your intelligence quotient [IQ over 85] blocked.
Deleting aol.exe will free your IQ to go above 85!!! Deleting this file will allow you to spell correctly and use the English language properly."
The joke has caused a flurry of news stories worldwide and a flood of e-mails. Many users are angry at Owens, although some have praised his wit.
Perhaps this joke, like others before it, will cause people to look and think before they delete. Or maybe it will just mean that a few more AOL installation CDs will be in PCs this month.
Virus hoax warns people to delete AOL By Sam Costello June 11, 2001 10:19 am
To: Doug June 13,
2001 From: Bob C