I just got a virus alert from a friend. What should I do?

  • Ignore it.  Delete it.  DO NOT PASS IT ON!!!!!!  Most virus alerts you receive in your email are hoaxes, and passing them on does more harm than good - it causes people to ignore warnings about real viruses, causes excess traffic over the server (just like a real virus), and spreads fear. Some hoaxes even cause real damage to your computer by tricking you into deleting files that are needed for your computer to run properly. Some signs of hoaxes are:
    • They usually tell you you'll get the virus just by reading or opening a particular email message. Few real viruses work this way - normally you have to open an attachment to get a virus. Those that do work this way can be prevented by having your browser patched or upgraded to the latest verson.
    • They usually emphasize that you should send this to as many people as possible. This is the author's way of getting you to send his or her hoax on.
    • The supposed virus they describe is unusually destructive - they claim it will wipe out your hard drive, erase your BIOS, or do something else that will completely destroy your computer.  (I've even seen one hoax that claimed your computer would go out, stomp on household pets and mock the pope - obviously a hoax!  See http://securityresponse.symantec.com/avcenter/venc/data/freemoney.html)
    • They often refer to an official source, such as Microsoft, AOL, IBM or even the FCC, to make the alert sound authentic. Microsoft, AOL, IBM, etc. don't send virus alerts via email.
    • The date the virus was found or announced is very vague - "yesterday", "last week", etc.  If there isn't a specific date such as May24, 2006, the "yesterday" they're talking about could have been 10 years ago when the hoax first went out!
    • They claim the virus is undetectable. If it's undetectable, how did the people who sent the email detect it?

    Virus hoaxes are listed at http://www.snopes.com/computer/virus/virus.asphttp://securityresponse.symantec.com/avcenter/hoax.html and http://vil.mcafee.com/hoax.asp? Please check these sites before forwarding any virus warnings.

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