Category Archives: hoax

About those alligators….

I don’t know what Peter Norton  is up to these days. In the anti-virus industry, he’s probably best remembered for (a) the security products marketed by Symantec that still bear his name (though not the famous pink shirt photograph), though he sold his company to Big Yellow about 20 years ago. In researcher circles, he’s also remembered for telling Insight magazine in 1988 or thereabouts that “We’re dealing with an urban myth. It’s like the story of alligators in the sewers of New York. Everyone knows about them, but no one’s ever seen them. Typically, these stories come up every three to five years.” Well, quite a few people put computer viruses in the same category as flying saucers around that time. Commodore, for instance, reacted to questions about Amiga malware by saying that it sounded like a hoax, and moved on (1) to ignoring it altogether.

Not long after that, he lent his name to Symantec’s antivirus product, which I suppose makes it the world’s first anti-hoax software.

I’ve no idea whether there really are or ever were alligators in the sewers of New York, but according to the BBC, Scotland ‘s sewage system has quite a few equally bizarre inhabitants. Notably:

  • A Mexican Kingsnake
  • A goldfish called Pooh
  • An anonymous frog
  • An equally anonymous badger (no, it wasn’t in the company of the frog: what a story that could be…)

 The above were all alive and well, if not as sanitary as one might hope. However, a sheep found in a manhole chamber and a cow found in a storm tank did not survive the experience. Other inanimate objects found included credit cards, a working iron, false teeth, jewelry, and some of the hundreds of thousands of mobile phones that Brits are alleged to flush down the loo. 

It’s not known whether the very smelly aggregation of money mules that is apparently operating out of Scotland and associated with the “London scam” described here is operating out of the same network

(1) Yes, I’m paraphrasing myself. “Viruses Revealed”, Chapter 2, published by Osborne in 2001.

Security Author/Consultant at Small Blue-Green World
Chief Operations Officer, AVIEN
ESET Research Fellow & Director of Malware Intelligence

Also blogging at:

Blackberry Flavour: Old Whine in a New Bottle

Connoisseurs of hoaxes will be pleased that an old friend has turned up in a new dress for a new platform.

Oliver Devane has reported on the Avertlabs blog (wow! that’s a long URL!) that he’s received an example of the type of message that reads something like “if you get a message from [whoever] don’t open it: he’s a hacker and will bring down your system”.

I’ve seen a heck of a lot of these over the years, but this one is different in one or two respects. Most significantly, it’s tailored for the Blackberry and sent out via Blackberry Messenger. I rather like the fact that the alleged hacker is apparently female. Somehow, this seems appropriate at a time when over 50% of the US workforce is, apparently, now also female. I guess the glass ceiling is cracking: maybe it’s the cold weather.

Interestingly, Oliver suggests that the explosion of social networks may be contributing to a rise in hoaxes, chain letters and other spam, because it’s getting easier all the time to add contacts across platforms.

Chief Operations Officer, AVIEN
Director of Malware Intelligence, ESET

Also blogging at: