The AOL.EXE Virus Hoax
20 years ago my full-time every-day job was . . .
I used to own a company called Joke A Day. At its highest point, I had 342,000 daily subscribers to my mailing list. And every day I would send those 342,000 subscribers . . . jokes. Joke A Day was the largest daily humor mailing list on Earth.
Yes, I made a living telling jokes on the Internet.
A target of my ever-lasting scorn was AOL and the idiot users AOL seemed to attract. AOL was the training wheels of the Internet and most of the people who hung out at AOL really had no business jumping over their walls and joining the adults out on the ‘Net.
In May 2001 there was a rumor that went around about a file in windows named SULFBNK.EXE. People were told that file was a virus, which was going to “activated” soon and the world would come to an end.
Nothing could be further from the truth. All that file did was allow for long file names in Windows. That was it. But that didn’t stopped thousands — if not millions — of the clueless horde from deleting the file.
Which prompted me to write THIS and send it out to my 342,000 subscribers . . . 20 years ago TODAY:
It has been brought to my attention that there’s an insidious new computer virus which has already affected close to 30 million computers.
Even though I’m running the latest McAfee and Norton viri scans, neither have picked up this virus as it’s a mutating virus which isn’t set to go off until Friday, June 8, 2001.
As many viri are, this one is transmitted by email. I’m required by law to contact everyone that has received email from me in the last six months and warn them about this virus.
TO REMOVE THIS VIRUS BEFORE IT BECOMES EFFECTIVE:
** Click your start button.
** Click on “Find”.
** Click on Files / Folders.
** Change the “look in” input box to “My Computer”.
** The named input file should have: AOL.EXE
Once the find engine has located the file, highlight it and press the delete button.
Deleting this file will fix a damaged 30 megabyte area of your hard drive and restore it to full functionality.
WARNING: KEEPING THIS FILE ON THE SYSTEM AFTER JUNE 8 WILL COST YOU $2.90 MORE PER MONTH!
FAILURE TO REMOVE THIS FILE WILL KEEP YOUR “UPPER MEMORY MANAGEMENT” MODULE OF YOUR INTELLIGENCE QUOTIENT (IQ OVER 85) BLOCKED. DELETING AOL.EXE WILL FREE YOUR IQ TO GO ABOVE 85!!!
DELETING THIS FILE WILL ALLOW YOU TO SPELL CORRECTLY AND USE THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE PROPERLY.
BADLY INFECTED SYSTEMS (I.E., SYSTEMS THAT HAVE DESTROYED YOUR ABILITY TO FOLLOW THE SIMPLE INSTRUCTIONS ABOVE) CAN HAVE THE VIRUS REMOVED BY TELEPHONE. CALL 1-888-265-8008 AND TELL THE OPERATOR TO CANCEL THE VIRUS. THE OPERATOR WILL DEACTIVATE THE VIRUS FROM THEIR END.
TECHNICAL NOTE: YOU **MUST** EXPLAIN TO THE OPERATOR YOU’RE ATTEMPTING TO DEACTIVATE THE AOL.EXE VIRUS. THE TECHNICAL SUPPORT OFFICE YOU’RE TALKING TO IS EXTREMELY PROFESSIONALLY EMBARRASSED BY UNLEASHING THIS VIRUS ON THE WORLD AND WILL DELAY DEACTIVATING IT. FOR LEGAL REASONS, THEY MAY EVEN *DENY* THE EXISTENCE OF THE AOL.EXE VIRUS. DON’T FALL FOR THEIR STORY!
I was always particularly fond of the part about deleting that file to raise your IQ raised above 85. And then being able to use English properly.
The story LITERALLY went WORLD-WIDE. At one point my made-up fiction story was topping the story of Timothy McVeigh’s execution. (He’s the guy who blew up the federal building in OK City.)
You can read all about this — and all the stories around the world, along with reader reactions — at the Wayback Machine’s Internet Archive by clicking the button below.