E-Mail Hoax Exploits Terror Fears

London Transport has issued a warning about misleading spam e-mail. The widely circulated messages claim that by dialing 112 you can get through to London’s emergency 999 service even without having an available signal on your mobile phone. London Transport said this is completely untrue.

“This e-mail is incorrect. The 112 number does link people through to 999, but it only works if you have a signal on your mobile phone. If you have no signal bars on your phone, it will not work. It will not divert to a satellite signal,” a London Underground spokesperson said.

“Even with a satellite mobile phone (which very few people have), you would need to have a clear line-of-sight to the satellite. You would have to be outside, not in a building or a tube tunnel. The 112 number is the European equivalent of 999.”

Taking Advantage of Terrorism

Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox told TechNewsWorld that what’s interesting about this particular e-mail hoax is the timing and locale — London.

“With the series of bombings in London certainly officials are reasonably concerned that people have access to emergency services,” Wilcox said. “Regardless of the motivation, the consequences of a hoax could be devastating if there were another attack and people were unable to reach services because they have misinformation.”

Earlier this month, security firm Sophos issued a report chronicling the top 10 viruses and hoaxes reported in June. Ranked at number five is another terrorism-related hoax called “WTC Survivor” that refers to the attack on the World Trade Center in New York. The text of the first version of this hoax reads as follows:

“I received this from a reliable family friend this morning. 10/28/01 Big Trouble !!!! Do not open ‘WTC Survivor’ It is a virus that will erase your whole ‘C’ drive. It will come to you in the form of an E-Mail from a familiar person.

“I repeat a friend sent it to me, but called and warned me before I opened it. He was not so lucky and now he can’t even start his computer! Forward this to everyone in your address book. I would rather receive this 25 times than not not all.”

Hotmail Hoax Reigns

Other popular e-mail hoaxes include the Applebees Gift Certificate, Budweiser frogs screensaver, and the Bill Gates fortune. But the Hotmail hoax still tops the charts. There are several versions of this hoax, which claims Hotmail is attempting to find out who is actively using their account and instructs users to forward the phony e-mail to other registered users.

“The Hotmail hoax continues to be the most prevalent, increasing this month to more than 20 percent of all reported hoaxes, ” said Carole Theriault, security consultant at Sophos. “The best advice for hoaxes hasn’t changed: avoid forwarding or responding to unsolicited emails. Instead, simply delete them to save your business’s bandwidth from being gobbled up by this drivel.”

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