Classic: Panicing User Virus

As part of my great website adventure, I am moving content from my old website to’s Greymatter database. This classic (i.e. old) gem comes from 1998, when virus hoaxes ran wild like herds of buffalo in the Great American Southwest (pre-European invasion).

The “Panicing User Virus” e-mail was one I composed in response to yet-another-virus-hoax being sent through my company’s e-mail system. The worst part of it … I work for a computer company, where the people should know better! It might have been a bit harsh, but tough love is sometimes the best.

Subject: RE: Virus Warning
Date: Mon, 30 Nov 1998 10:35:44 -0500
MIME-Version: 1.0
X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.0.1460.8)
Content-Type: text/plain

On the heels of this warning, I would like to alert the general public to
another computer threat. Please read, for this is important.

The newly released “Panicking User” e-mail virus is causing a widespread loss of bandwidth and office productivity around the world. This text-based virus is designed to bring down the Internet’s infrastructure, causing worldwide panic expected to reach the proportions of the Y2K problem.

It diabolically simple: here’s how it works …

– A user gets an e-mail that warns them of a deadly computer virus that is spread by merely reading an e-mail with a certain title (PENPAL, GOOD TIMES, DEATH, FRIENDS, etc.). This message warns of side-effects such as data loss, severe rash, firestorms, global warming, damage to system components, and presidential impeachment.

– The user, not aware that viruses cannot be spread by merely reading ASCII text in an e-mail program, panics and passes the message on to everybody in their office plus a few people they met at a Tupperware party. While they think they are doing a good deed, this only begins the vicious cycle of the “Panicing User” e-mail virus.

– As more and more clueless people get the message, they pass it on to others.
Since nobody bothers to research the virus at sites such as (which list all viruses and several hoaxes such as PENPAL and GOOD TIMES), the e-mail begins an exponential growth as it bounces rapidly across the Internet. Soon, every AOL user has received this message. Since they also don’t known any better, they flood the e-mail system forwarding this message. The resulting bandwidth overflow soon crashes the Internet.

– This crash undermines all of the industries dependent on computers, and the world economy collapses. Work stops as people read the e-mail, and computer systems fall as the message passing exceeds all known bandwidth quotas.

In other words, DON”T PASS THOSE &^%$ MESSAGES TO EVERYBODY YOU KNOW! Send one copy to your local MIS department, and delete the &^%$ thing!

> ———-
> Sent: Monday, November 30, 1998 9:38 AM
> Subject: Virus Warning
> If you receive an e-mail titiled..
> —> DONOT OPEN IT!!!!!
> It will erase EVERYTHING on your hard drive!
> Send this letter out to as many people as you can….this is a new virus
> and not many people know about it!!This information was received by
> IBM.Please share it with anyone that might access the internet PENPAL
> appears to be a friendly letter asking you if you are intter asking you
> if you are interested in a penpal…..but by the time you read this letter
> it is TOO late. The Trojan horse virus will have already infected the boot
> sector of your harddrive, destroying all the data present.
> It is a self-replicating virus, and once the message is read it will
> AUTOMATICALLY forward itself to anyone who’s e-mail address is present in
> your box!!! This virus will destroy your hard drive and holds the potential
> to DESTROY the hard drive of anyone whose mail is in your box and whose
> mail is in their bo and so on and on!!!!!!
> So delete any message titled PENPAL or JOIN THE CREW…….this virus can
> do major DAMAGE to worldwide networks!!!! PLEASE PASS THIS ALONG TO ALL

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