Did you fall prey?
The Star (5th June 2001)

IN RECENT weeks a "virus warning" has been circulating via e-mail all over the world about a file called Sulfnbk.exe present on Windows PCs.

The "warning" is a hoax. Sulfnbk.exe is actually a valid Microsoft Windows file.

The message exhorts users to immediately delete this file because it is a supposedly undetectable virus that activates on June 1. And of course, users are advised to forward the warning to everyone they know.

Thousands of users apparently heeded the message and went on to delete the file, but there are no exact figures on the number of people affected.

Fortunately, the file is not really a critical one to Windows. It is a utility that is used to restore long file names, and is not needed for normal system operation, according to Symantec Corp, an antivirus and utility software company.

If you have deleted this file, restoration is optional, according to Symantec. Just follow the instructions in the "How to recover" sidebar on this page.

Gullibility virus

In.Tech received dozens of e-mail messages and phone calls during that time from Malaysian users asking about the warning message.

Those who contacted us at least managed to verify that it was a hoax, but a lot more people simply believed the hoax message and deleted the file from their computer systems.

That this hoax could have succeeded at all reflects the widespread reach of the Internet and how quickly information (or disinformation) can spread.

Some users mistakenly assume that information they pick up from the Internet is somehow more accurate or more important than other sources.

This hoax can also be regarded as a form of social engineering, which in information technology (IT) circles means tricking users into revealing passwords or performing steps that compromise a system's security.

A large percentage of computer users are still fairly IT-illiterate, and they are fearful of computer viruses.

To make matters worse, virus-scanning software or junk e-mail filters will not raise any alarms about the message because it doesn't actually contain a virus.

The e-mail message itself does not contain anything potentially harmful to computers.

In addition, several people who fell for the hoax said it was because the message came from friends or colleagues.

Stay alert

Still, security experts warn that such hoaxes will continue to be created and perpetuated, and in some cases could even be malicious.

For instance, the hoax message could just have easily have asked users to delete a critical system file, such as one of the numerous DLL files that Windows depends on.

Antivirus vendors also stress the need for scanning software and regular updates of that software to maintain an up to date virgil against viruses.

Needless to say, you should still be wary of opening any e-mail attachments, even if they appear to be from someone you know.



Details various Internet-related hoaxes, including the Sulfnbk.exe "warning."


Debunks virus hoaxes and other computer myths.


Website run by the Computer Incident Advisory Center (CIAC) which provides details on Internet hoaxes. Includes a search engine, history of Internet hoaxes, and advice on how to spot a hoax.


An About.com page that details how to restore the file if you've deleted it.