Wobbler Hoax

David Graddol d.j.graddol at OPEN.AC.UK
Thu Nov 2 16:30:45 UTC 2000

Ah, Helmut is right about the discourse markers of virus hoaxes.
Actually, there are several markers and I think the wobbler virus
hoax hit most of the buttons.

1. refer to some authority such as IBM, AOL or Microsoft. But
never give a named source.

2. Say it will trash your whole hard disk merely by viewing the
message. Perhaps there even more dire things which will befall
you. The more dramatic the better. This is a truly evil virus,
worse than anything before.

3. Tell everyone you know about it. Urgently. Use your entire
email contact book. It's a moral imperative.

4. Despite the strange lack of authenticated sources in the
message, you receive the message from a trusted source - such as
a friend or colleague. Sometimes there is spurious indication at
this point that it has been forwarded from an authoritative
source. (Neil Ferrick, Compaq Computer Corporation).

5. early hoaxes tended to contain a lot of technobabble such as
"...if the  program is not stopped, the computer's processor will
be placed in an nth-complexity infinite binary  loop which can
severely damage the processor..." but this seems to have declined
a little - perhaps people are getting too technically savvy. 

Wobbler has been around since May 1999. It's one of the few which
apparently also exists in French:

  Dans le cas ou l'information suivante puisse vous servir un jour je vous la

  J'ai été informe par mail d'un nouveau virus-WOBBLER. Il est
  transmis par un mail intitule CALIFORNIA. IBM et AOL ont annonce
  qu'il serait très puissant, encore plus que Melissa (connaît pas
  pour ma  part!), et il n'y a pas de remède (plus embêtant!). Il
  dévorerait toutes les informations situées sur votre disque dur
  et détruirait également Netscape Navigator et Microsoft Internet
  Explorer. N'ouvrez pas de mail intitule ainsi et transmettez ce
  message a tous vos contacts.

I tend to agree with Helmut that if you are warned then it must be a
hoax. Unfortunately, there now really are one or two evil things
around that can be triggered by opening them. But only if you
have an email reader which is set to automatically open/process

And there is the postmodern irony, of course, that there really
*is* a virus. It's the hoax message itself which you help
propagate and the consequential discourse which clogs up
discussion lists.

Another useful URL:



In message  <3A003B3F.65243342 at ruc.dk>
          Hartmut Haberland <hartmut at RUC.DK> wrote:

> The best computer virus hoax page, in my opinion, is
> http://www.Vmyths.com/
> Two remarks:
> 1. There has never, to my knowledge, been a computer virus warning that
> was not a hoax. In those rare cases that computer virusses actually have
> appeared, there was no warning.
> Most of the computer virus warnings that I've seen contain references to
> virus designs that are technically impossible. You cannot contract a
> computer virus by just reading your e-mail, even an "infected" message.
> Computer virusses travel in programs and an ordinary e-mail message is
> not a program. It may contain attachments, though, that are programs
> (like Word .doc documents), which, when read, can transfer a virus.
> 2. There seem to be discourse markers typical for virus hoaxes. Usually
> they take the form of references to authorities. "IBM and AOL have
> announced ..." is a very good example of such a hoax marker.
> Stay cool,
> Hartmut

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