July 15, 2008

A Quick Lesson On Viruses & Hoaxes

This morning I got a forwarded email from my mom with the subject line "FW: Virus Warning." She went on to ask me to try and verify if this message was what it said it was. The original email read as follows:
This was sent to me by a friend and it reads.
/> > http://www.[address removed].asp
/> >
/> > Hi All, I checked with Norton Anti-Virus, and they are gearing
/> > up for this virus!
/> > I checked Snopes (URL above:), and it is for real!! Get this
/> > E-mail message sent around to your contacts ASAP. PLEASE FORWARD THIS

(the full email and its variants can be read in this about.com article)

I carefully read through the body of the email and the more I read the more I realized that this email was not a warning of a coming virus but was in fact a type of virus in itself. After doing a little googling on this subject I found an article on the trustworthy About.com website confirming my suspicions that this email is a hoax. It is apparently just one variant of an email hoax that has been circulating for years. In the article on About there are some great tips for how to distinguish hoax & malicious emails from legitimate ones. There are 3 things to keep in mind.

(quoted from about.com)

  1. It is true that there are real viruses, trojans, and other forms of malware currently being distributed by means of fake e-card notices.
  2. In general, forwarded email warnings such as the 'POSTCARD' alerts above cannot be trusted to provide accurate information.
  3. Protecting yourself from real virus and trojan threats entails a few simple but critical measures. Follow them religiously.
The article elaborates on each one of these points.
It all basically comes down to this: protecting yourself from scams and viruses requires that you consistently maintain a small amount of skepticism and the willingness to do a little quick research online. Google is your friend (or whichever search engine you prefer).

Protecting yourself from scams and viruses is easy as long as you consistently take simple and easy precautions. Keep your computer updated, regularly scan for viruses, and use anti-spyware software.

For more info on the best anti-virus software check out lifehacker.com.

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