Kling Free

Viral Sponge Terror a Hoax

Hoaxes take no holiday, and the damnable nuisances who craft them appear to derive a blighted joy in the power of electronic mail to rattle people's chains at times of national stress. So it is not surprising that the myth of the Klingerman virus continues to enjoy malicious life around a year and a half after its first appearance as an Internet annoyance.

Renewed in recent weeks, perhaps because of omnipresent news reports of the potential use of chemicals and microbes by terrorists, the Klingerman hoax arrives as an e-mail warning. In it the reader is warned of an unknown dysentery-causing virus arriving impregnated on a sponge in a blue envelope, ostensibly a gift from some nefarious organization, usually referred to as the "Klingerman Foundation." The hoax also contains information to the effect that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating.

The real Centers for Disease Control and Prevention flatly states: "There is no 'Klingerman virus'. . . . If you receive an e-mail message about 'Klingerman virus,' please do not forward it to others."

One characteristic of Klingerman, and of bogus e-mail warnings in general, is its use as raw material by even more hoaxers. Klingerman floats around in a number of rewrites, most of which are meticulously documented at www.snopes.com. One of its more recent mutations strips tell-tale references to the foundation and warns of a poison-dealing package that killed "[a] friend" of "Jim's mom" because it "contained deadly gas," according to "Hoax du Jour" (www.korova.com), another well-regarded Internet source. Alas, such sadness. In any case, electronic mail hoaxes remain stubbornly refractile to infection control, and while there is no national remedy for Klingerman-like e-tales of nastiness, there is prophylaxis: liberal use of the Delete command.

 
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