Goodtimes Virus

Goodtimes Virus

Updated Aug 18, 2012 at 09:30AM EDT by Brad.

Added Aug 24, 2009 at 03:40PM EDT by Katie C..

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About

Goodtimes Virus is an Internet e-mail hoax about a computer virus named “Goodtimes,” which cautioned its readers not to open or delete any e-mail containing the phrase “Good Times” in the subject line or else their computers will be infected with the non-existent virus. The virus scare began to circulate online via chain e-mails in 1994, and despite its non-existence, the warnings themselves continued to spread in a virus-like manner for many years.

Origin

According to the Good Times FAQ[1] page, the first claim of its sighting dates as far back as April or May 1994, but the earliest known version of the e-mail was posted to the TECH-LAW mailing list by Rich Lavoie on November 15th, 1994. From there, it caught the attention of Rodney Knight, who forwarded the warning to the POSTCARD mailing list. The original message read:

FYI, a file, going under the name “Good Times” is being sent to some Internet users who subscribe to on-line services (Compuserve, Prodigy and America On Line). If you should receive this file, do not download it! Delete it immediately. I understand that there is a virus included in that file, which if downloaded to your personal computer, will ruin all of your files.


In 1997, the hacker collective Cult of the Dead Cow claimed responsibility for the propagation of the “Good Times” virus scare, which was apparently conceived as a social experiment to "prove the gullibility of self-proclaimed “experts” on the Internet."

Spread

As the e-mail warning continued to spread across the web in 1994, numerous derivative versions of the message began to emerge, the details of which became increasingly elaborate with each iteration. Some of the most widespread versions like the “Infinite loop” and “ASCII buffer” editions were much longer and persuasive, containing descriptions of its alleged effect on the computer upon infection, such as complete erasure of the hard drive data, irreversible damage to the processor or buffer overflow. In addition, other versions relied on meaningless technical jargons and empty references to governmental agencies like the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in order to convince the reader of the threat.

U.S. Department of Energy’s Response

On December 6th, 1994, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Computer Incident Advisory Capability (CIAC) issued an official statement addressing the virus scare, which dismissed the Good Times virus as non-existent and debunked its warnings as a hoax.

THIS IS A HOAX. Upon investigation, CIAC has determined that this message originated from both a user of America Online and a student at a university at approximately the same time, and it was meant to be a hoax. CIAC has also seen other variations of this hoax, the main one is that any electronic mail message with the subject line of “xxx-1” will infect your computer.


This rumor has been spreading very widely. This spread is due mainly to the fact that many people have seen a message with “Good Times” in the header. They delete the message without reading it, thus believing that they have saved themselves from being attacked. These first-hand reports give a false sense of credibility to the alert message.

As of this date, there are no known viruses which can infect merely through reading a mail message. For a virus to spread some program must be executed. Reading a mail message does not execute the mail message. Yes, Trojans have been found as executable attachments to mail messages, the most notorious being the IBM VM Christmas Card Trojan of 1987, also the TERM MODULE Worm (reference CIAC Bulletin B-7) and the GAME2 MODULE Worm (CIAC Bulletin B-12). But this is not the case for this particular “virus” alert.

Karyn Pichnarczyk
CIAC Team
ciac@llnl.gov

Debunking Efforts

Sometime after the viral spread of the Goodtimes virus scare, an anti-hoax e-mail spoofing the virus was spread around to inform internet users of the true nature of the virus.

Goodtimes will re-write your hard drive. Not only that, but
it will scramble any disks that are even close to your computer. It
will recalibrate your refrigerator’s coolness setting so all your ice
cream goes melty. It will demagnetize the strips on all your credit
cards, screw up the tracking on your television and use subspace field
harmonics to scratch any CD’s you try to play.


It will give your ex-girlfriend your new phone number. It
will mix Kool-aid into your fishtank. It will drink all your beer and
leave its socks out on the coffee table when there’s company coming
over. It will put a dead kitten in the back pocket of your good suit
pants and hide your car keys when you are late for work.

Goodtimes will make you fall in love with a penguin. It will
give you nightmares about circus midgets. It will pour sugar in your
gas tank and shave off both your eyebrows while dating your
girlfriend behind your back and billing the dinner and hotel room to
your Discover card.

It will seduce your grandmother. It does not matter if she
is dead, such is the power of Goodtimes, it reaches out beyond the
grave to sully those things we hold most dear.

It moves your car randomly around parking lots so you can’t
find it. It will kick your dog. It will leave libidinous messages on
your boss’s voice mail in your voice! It is insidious and subtle. It
is dangerous and terrifying to behold. It is also a rather
interesting shade of mauve.

Goodtimes will give you Dutch Elm disease. It will leave the
toilet seat up. It will make a batch of Methanphedime in your bathtub
and then leave bacon cooking on the stove while it goes out to chase
gradeschoolers with your new snowblower.

Listen to me. Goodtimes does not exist.

It cannot do anything to you. But I can. I am sending this
message to everyone in the world. Tell your friends, tell your
family. If anyone else sends me another E-mail about this fake
Goodtimes Virus, I will turn hating them into a religion. I will do
things to them that would make a horsehead in your bed look like
Easter Sunday brunch.


Despite various efforts and initiatives to debunk the hoax, the virus scare continued to prevail across the web for most of the 1990s, particularly among unexperienced Internet users around major holidays when e-mail and letter mail usage reaches their highest points. The viral spread of warnings against the non-existent virus soon led the well-known cyber security firm Symantec to include an entry on the “Good Times virus,” which simply dismissed the rumors of its existence as a hoax.

In Popular Culture

One of the demo videos included with the Windows 95 CDs was the music video “Good Times” by American songwriter Edie Brickell, which became falsely associated with the virus on some occasions. In 2006, American singer-songwriter and parodist Weird Al Yankovic composed and produced a parody song of the Goodtimes virus titled “Virus Alert,” which was included in his 12th studio album Straight Outta Lynwood.



Notable Examples

Happy Chanukah Version

Here is some important information. Beware of a file called Goodtimes.

Happy Chanukah everyone, and be careful out there.There is a virus on America Online being sent by E-Mail. If you get anything called “Good Times”, DON’T read it or download it. It is a virus that will erase your hard drive. Forward this to all your friends. It may help them a lot.

ASCII Version

Thought you might like to know…

Apparently , a new computer virus has been engineered by a user of America Online that is unparalleled in its destructive capability. Other, more well-known viruses such as Stoned, Airwolf, and Michaelangelo pale in comparison to the prospects of this newest creation by a warped mentality.


What makes this virus so terrifying is the fact that no program needs to be exchanged for a new computer to be infected. It can be spread through the existing e-mail systems of the InterNet.

Luckily, there is one sure means of detecting what is now known as the “Good Times” virus. It always travels to new computers the same way – in a text e-mail message with the subject line reading simply “Good Times”. Avoiding infection is easy once the file has been received – not reading it. The act of loading the file into the mail server’s ASCII buffer causes the “Good Times” mainline program to initialize and execute.

The program is highly intelligent – it will send copies of itself to everyone whose e-mail address is contained in a received-mail file or a sent-mail file, if it can find one. It will then proceed to trash the computer it is running on.

The bottom line here is – if you receive a file with the subject line “Good TImes”, delete it immediately! Do not read it! Rest assured that whoever’s name was on the “From:” line was surely struck by the virus. Warn your friends and local system users of this newest threat to the InterNet! It could save them a lot of time and money.


FCC Version

The FCC released a warning last Wednesday concerning a matter of major importance to any regular user of the InterNet. Apparently, a new computer virus has been engineered by a user of America Online that is unparalleled in its destructive capability. Other, more well-known viruses such as Stoned, Airwolf, and Michaelangelo pale in comparison to the prospects of this newest creation by a warped mentality.

What makes this virus so terrifying, said the FCC, is the fact that no program needs to be exchanged for a new computer to be infected. It can be spread through the existing e-mail systems of the InterNet. Once a computer is infected, one of several things can happen. If the computer contains a hard drive, that will most likely be destroyed. If the program is not stopped, the computer’s processor will be placed in an nth-complexity infinite binary loop – which can severely damage the processor if left running that way too long. Unfortunately, most novice computer users will not realize what is happening until it is far too late.

Usage in Computer Virus

In 1995, shortly after the onset of the hoax, a group of virus programmers known as the VLAD (Virus Labs and Distribution) wrote an actual MS-DOS virus and named it “Good Times” although it did not act in any way resembling the original hoax. However, self-executing computer viruses via e-mail eventually became a reality with rapid developments in e-mail systems and client applications like Microsoft Outlook, giving rise to advanced computer worms like ILOVEYOU, Melissa and Anna Kournikova viruses at the dawn of the 20th century.

Derivative Hoaxes

Once the dissemination of the hoax began to subside in the 2000s, a number of other computer virus scares began to appear in the wake of Good Times, many of which similarly warned its readers not to open messages containing specific subject lines. Some of the most notable examples include “Penpal Greetings,” “Free Money,” “Deeyenda,” “Invitation,” "Win a Holiday and “Bad Times,” which is a direct reference to the original Good Times hoax.

External References

[1]Good Times Virus Hoax – Good Times FAQ

[2]Symantec – Good Times Hoax

[3]Wikipedia – ILOVEYOU

[4]Wikipedia – Goodtimes Virus

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