What To Do About...
Warnings in Your Email

( These comments often apply to Hoaxes as well.)

 Has a friend or relative ever sent you an e-mail warning that some terrible virus will soon destroy your computer? How about an email offering you money ' if you send their message to all your friends right now ' ?

   Here are some things that you (and everyone else!) should do:

  1. Do NOT ( and I cannot emphasize this enough! ) quickly forward the msg. to everyone you know!

    There have been numerous FALSE virus warnings on the Net (and "hoaxes" abound!); do you really want to help people, or just add to the confusion?

  2. Reply immediately to the sender asking them how they verified that the warning (or any other undocumented information) is real.
      Here's a brief example of the points you could include:

      Thank you for warning me about the _______ virus.  Obviously you
    have good intentions, but since there have been so many false e-mail
    warnings and hoaxes on the Internet, how do we know this one is real?
      Even the CIOs of some corporations have even been 'taken-in' by a
    rumor, so I simply wish to confirm the facts. Can you please send me
    a link which has info about this new virus? (Some anti-virus software
    company should already have data about it!) I want to have some sort
    of reference to pass along as verification before telling anyone else
    about it.
  3. Study these pages from other sites for a reference to the virus name you were warned about ( or a hoax name related to the subject title); hoaxes have been flying through e-mail servers for years, circling the globe over and over again, so I recommend that you begin your search with the "hoax pages" -- you'll likely find variations in the wording between any warning you received ( if it turns out to be a hoax) and recorded copies of the original from long ago:

    Note that all the links on this page are to other domains!
    (They will open in a new window.)

    http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/hoax.html - The Hoax page from Symantec's
    AntiVirus Research Center (SARC) website. (Norton Anti-Virus software.)

    http://www.stiller.com/hoaxes.htm - Stiller Research's Hoax News page. (Makers of
    Integrity Master anti-virus software.)

    http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org/ - The Computer Incident Advisory Capability
    (CIAC) Hoax page. The CIAC is primarily a computer security organization which provides "response teams" for all of the U.S. Department of Energy sites ("Keeping DOE Secure"). This page has links to EVERYTHING you should know about Hoaxes!

    Note: Although the CIAC (or others) may appear to encourage readers to pass along virus alerts, this is in reference to those in charge of a government computing agency or company LAN system administrator, not private individuals surfing the Net at home! (See further comments on "chain letters" below, under step number 4.)

    http://vmyths.com/hoax.cfm - Rob Rosenberger's Computer Virus Myths Hoax page.
    There is much that you can learn here, look for your "virus" now, but come back later.

    If you still cannot find a reference to this warning, then you can write to me using: This Online Reply Form .

  4. If you do identify the warning as a hoax, then direct its sender to the site(s) where you found it. But please do not embark on a writing campaign trying to inform everyone on the Net!  ( The only people who really need to hear from you are those whom you may have already told yourself and obviously the person who passed the hoax along to you! )

    Any msg. which contains something like, "please send this to all of your friends," should be thought of as a "chain letter." And as far as most ISPs and Routers are concerned, these are often worse than any SPAM ads, because they have a tendency to never die out! Without proper controls, such as a closing date after which no one should relay a message, people simply keep on sending these chain letters!!
    The CIAC maintains not only one web page, but three for various types of chain letters here:
    http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org/HBChainLetters.shtml. Most hoaxes are chain letters really.
    http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org/HBThreats.shtml. Threat Chains, and...
    http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org/HBScams.shtml. Scam Chains.

  5. If the sender writes back with a reference, but it is from some magazine, newspaper, or local "virus expert," then realize that this does not actually verify that the virus exits! ( It's a definite lead, but they may have been deceived by a cleverly written message themselves.)

    The bottom line here is that only someone who spends time researching viruses, and has tested this particular virus on a computer, can actually be trusted as an authority on it. (Too many people "cry virus" whenever anything they don't understand happens on their computers!) Verification must come from a recognized Anti-Virus authority.

    If you still cannot find it listed at an Anti-Virus website, then write to me for help (including all relevant e-mail and links).

  6. If the sender writes back with references from an Anti-Virus authority (such as Symantec, the CIAC, etc.), then please forward the link(s) to me (making it easier for me to help others).

Further Comments from The Starman

I've had this page here for years, and quite frankly it's starting to bug me that so many people who should know better continue to use their email programs UN-wisely! Not only do they pass along rumors without ever checking them out; or, ask me LATER and then have to admit to others they goofed, BUT far too many users are opening executable file attachments (actual VIRUSes!) without ever thinking about the damage it might do -- EVEN AFTER they've been warned! Why?! The author of one of the last big email worms to hit the Internet said something like: 'Well, if they opened an attachment and ran it, that shouldn't have anything to do with me; it's their fault for doing so!' I have to admit that I kind of agree with him when it comes to all the people who REALLY DO KNOW BETTER! I mean, come on... Why, for example, should someone who 'claims' to be an upright moral person, even think about opening pornographic picture attachments?! The only legitimate purpose might be if a trained PC tech were trying to find out how a virus/worm operates for an Anti-Virus company, or similar reasons. If not, then in effect, they really did get what they deserved didn't they? FOR ALL OF the NEW Internet computer USERS: I may have a great deal of sympathy for YOU depending upon your particular situation and circumstances... To help YOU out further, read my page(s) here on 'Surfing the Net Safely' such as: How to Keep Viruses/Trojans out of your Computer.
Just remember: Don't Open Email Attachments or run any programs from un-reliable sources* without a very good reason to do so(!) and you can avoid almost all of the REAL viruses 'out there' today!
[ * Even a good friend can be 'very unreliable' when it comes to computer viruses! And most of the infected file attachments sent by email today are actually sent by the worm itself to everyone in some friend's address book! So what looks like an email from a friend may often be a worm/virus that he doesn't even know about yet.]

Revised: 20 August 2001.
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Since July 26, 1998.