by Paul Ducklin

We’ve written about internet hoaxes many times before on Naked Security.
Sometimes, hoaxes – made-up nonsense about software, bugs or hackers – get spread widely because they sound exciting and scary.
Even when a hoax sounds bizarre and unlikely, it may get picked up and repeated as an earnest truth by millions of people, all of whom really ought to know better.
A few years ago, for example, we had Talking Angela, where a rumour took off that an unexplained reflection depicted in an app’s image was actually a paedophile that could take pictures of your children via your phone’s camera.
More recently, we had the odious hoax known as the Momo Challenge, where parents around the world needlessly terrified their own children by warning them that the image of a chicken-headed woman was circulating online, and bad things would happen to them if they accidentally saw it.
Of course, all the endlessly repeated gossip and hearsay surrounding this Momo picture resulted in the image itself – which was scary but not actively dangerous in any cybersecurity sense – being widely circulated, so that every panicky parent would know what it looked like just in case…
…while every panicked child would probably see it too, causing an uncontrolled spiral of fear.

Not all hoaxes are fear-mongering ones, however.
There are also pranks, like the Rickroll, where you send someone a link that you say is one thing but when they click it, they see a video of Rick Astley singing Never Gonna Give You Up.
The rickroll has cult status, and it’s well-known enough that most people who get caught out don’t get offended, but take it as a bit of harmless fun.
Indeed, the rickroll, if not overused (warning: it gets old quickly), could even …

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Author: Paul Ducklin

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