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Hoax alert mimics real virus threat

Email warning about MS backup utility creates confusion

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Anti-virus firms are fielding a large number of calls after a message warning of a virus called SULFNBK.EXE began circulating in large numbers on the Internet.

An email doing the rounds on the net tells users to search their hard drives for a file called SULFNBK.EXE which, the message states, should be deleted because it is infected with a virus that may trigger on June 1.

In fact, though the alarm has some basis in fact, it should be treated with scepticism.

Many PCs have a legitimate version of SULFNBK.EXE, a program that comes with Windows 95/98 to backup and restore long filenames, and deleting the file may cause serious problems for a PC user.

The situation is complicated, however, by the fact that the Magistr-A virus - a particularly nasty bug which deletes files and attempts to flash a user's BIOS chip - is capable of sending infected copies of SULFNBK.EXE to innocent users.

Anti-virus firm Sophos believes this is how the scare started and that the warning, however well intentioned, is likely to do more harm than good.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said its help desk staff was dealing with more enquiries about the hoax email today than legitimate virus threats.

Internet users should not pass on virus warnings to friends but check them against the facts on an anti-virus Web site instead, he advised.

Sophos said users should routinely delete unsolicited emails containing executable files. It also advises that the best way to check whether a PC is infected with the Magistr virus, or by any other bug, is to run an anti-virus program on a machine. ®

External Links

SULFNBK: Virus or hoax.. or both? (from Sophos)

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