Avoid Virus Hoaxes

There are more virus hoaxes than there are actual viruses. That's probably because it's a lot easier to write a clever little email and send it out to a few hundred people than it is to learn a computer programming language and write some ingenious piece of code that exploits existing hardware and software computer vulnerabilities and copies itself off to millions of systems worldwide under the radar of dozens of antivirus programs. Well, that, and you can't get prosecuted for violations of international commerce laws for writing a chain letter.

Here are some red flags that usually spell a hoax email message:

  • Instructions to forward the email to every single person you've ever known. Usually the hallmark of a chain letter, not a true virus warning.

  • Technical sounding language, meant to impress the novice, but which upon further inspection reads like the specs for a flux capacitor.

  • Someone touting their professional connections: "I got this passed to me from Brian Culp, who is Bill Gates's personal email screener, and he warned…" or something similar that sounds like it originated from someone who knows what they're talking about.[1]

    [1] Brian Culp really does know what he's talking about, however.

  • Breathless, end-of-the-world predictions: "This virus will cause your entire hard drive to be deleted! The power companies have already gone into manual power generation to prevent their computers from being taken down!"

  • Declarations of national panic: "CNN and the LA Times are saying that their switchboards are being overrun!!"

Any of these should trigger your BS detector. In fact, real viruses spread precisely because they aren't well known. Once a virus becomes well known, antivirus software can be updated, and programs can be patched to combat the virus's spread. Remember: viruses spread most commonly when people open attachments. If you receive an email with attachments, be aware of these potentially unsafe file extensions:

  • .EXE executable files

  • .BAT batch, or script, files

  • .VBS or .VBE Visual Basic scripts

  • .COM command files; essentially the same as .exe files

  • .SCR script files

Any of the preceding file extensions signify code that can be run on your computer, which is essentially what a virus iscode that tells you computer to do something you don't want it to do.

Most antivirus vendors keep an updated list of virus hoaxes on their Websites. Here are few places to go before forwarding that dire-sounding email to all the people in your address book.

  • www.trendmicro.com/vinfo/hoaxes/hoax.asp

  • www.f-secure.com/hoaxes/hoax_index.shtml

  • vil.mcafee.com/hoax.asp

  • vmyths.com/hoax.cfm

  • www.symantec.com/avcenter/hoax.html

And the best site of its kind not only for ferreting out email hoaxes but also for debunking all sorts of urban myths is: www.snopes.com

Commit that one to memory, especially the "Inboxer Rebellion" section. The site is well researched and thoroughly referenced.

As you'll learn at this site, Bill Gates isn't sending you a dime for trying an email tracking program, and he didn't give a snotty little commencement speech where he said that you'll one day end up working for a nerd.

And no, Al Gore never said he invented the Internet.

Spring Into Windows XP Service Pack 2
Spring Into Windows XP Service Pack 2
ISBN: 013167983X
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 275
Authors: Brian Culp

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