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A Card for You, Virtual Card For You, or Postcard Virus Warning-Mostly Fiction!

A Card for You, Virtual Card For You,-or Postcard Virus Warning-Mostly Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:

Warnings that Mcafee or Norton has identified the most destructive computer virus ever disguised as a Hallmark postcard email with the subject line “A Card for You,” “Virtual Card for You,” “Postcard” or a “Postcard from Hallmark” have been circulating for years.

The Truth:

Real computer viruses have been tied to email postcards in the past, but there weren’t any new threats or viruses identified by McAfee or Norton when the warning began circulating again in May 2017.

Postcard virus warnings that have made the rounds on social media since the early 2000s. There are many different versions, but they all have a few similar traits: McAfee or Norton has just identified the postcard virus, it has been deemed as the most destructive ever, the virus destroys hard drives and can send itself to everyone in your email address book.

It’s not clear where the postcard virus warning started, but it’s earliest versions date back to 2001. There have been a number of credible email postcard virus warning threats over the years. McAfee issued consumer virus alerts about a postcard phishing scam in 2005 and about a postcard virus worm in 2001. The postcard warning appears to be based on the 2001 threat alert, which explains that the “worm virus” could be spread via email and had been know to self-replicate and spread to other systems, just like in the postcard warnings:

This is a virus detection. Viruses are programs that self-replicate recursively, meaning that infected systems spread the virus to other systems, which then propagate the virus further. While many viruses contain a destructive payload, it’s quite common for viruses to do nothing more than spread from one system to another.
Even when the virus threat assessment was released in 2001, however, McAfee classified the threat level for both home and business users as “low.” By 2007, however, different versions of the postcard virus warning were still in circulation, even though it no longer posed a threat. Symantec issued a public notice that the “Virtual Card for You” virus warning, as it was called at the time, was a hoax in February 2007.

By July 2007, the virus warning had evolved. Now, instead of “a virtual card for you” appearing int he subject line, the term “postcard” was used instead. Some versions, like this one, actually used the phrase “Hallmark postcard” and included many of the old, and previously debunked, warnings:

You should be alert during the next few days.. Do not open any message with an attachment entitled ‘POSTCARD FROM HALLMARK,’ regardless of who sent it to you.. It is a virus which opens A POSTCARD IMAGE, which ‘burns’ the whole hard disc C of your computer. This virus will be received from someone who has your e-mail address in his/her contact list. This is the reason why you need to send this e-mail to all your contacts It is better to receive this message 25 times than to receive the virus and open it.

These Hallmark postcard versions of the rumor went viral again in 2010, and in 2017. However, there was no indication that there were any credible threats at the time — and the claim that McAfee and/or Norton had deemed the virus the most destructive ever are false. Aside from a a virus warning from 2001 that matched some, but not all, of the postcard virus warning’s particulars. That’s why we’re calling this one “mostly fiction.”

It is important, however, to always be vigilant about viruses that are spread via email. Scanning attachments before they’re downloaded, avoiding emails from unfamiliar senders, and never providing personal information via email are just a few recommendations. Click here for more information about steps to enhance email security.

Updated 5/4/17

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