From time to time email warnings regarding viruses make the rounds. A very small percentage of the warnings are for real viruses. However, the majority of the warnings are virus hoaxes.
Please do not forward any of these warnings or other chain emails on. If you - or your company - use regularly updated antivirus software and take sensible precautions, you are relatively safe from viruses.
Forwarding virus hoaxes reflects negatively, both on the person forwarding the hoax and any organisation that they might be associated with. In particular, if you are an IT Professional or somebody whom others look to as a computer authority, forwarding such messages without checking their validity first detracts from your credibility and frankly, can make you look like a bit of a dork.
Here is some information on virus hoaxes and the avoidance of actual viruses. The following message is a possible response you could send, to people who have sent hoax messages to you:
A FRIENDLY MESSAGE ABOUT THE WARNING YOU JUST SENT The warning you have forwarded is a hoax. The danger is imaginary and the problem is nonexistent. Security experts request that no-one circulates unverified warnings of vague, alarming dangers.
Key indicators that a message is a hoax
- Use of exclamation marks [no official warning uses them]
- Use of lots of UPPERCASE text [typical of young players]
- Misspellings and bad grammar
- No date of origination or expiration
- References to official-sounding sources [i.e., Microsoft, CIAC, CERT] but no web link to check these details
- No valid digital signature from a known security organisation
- Requests imploring you to circulate widely [no such request is made in official documents]
Guidelines for avoiding viruses & Trojan Horse programs
- Always run a good [i.e. ICSA-certified] antivirus program in the background on your system
- Keep your virus strings up to date [i.e. at least weekly updates, daily for businesses]
- Don't run unknown software, even if you know the person who sent it to you
- Don't forward attachments unless you downloaded them from a trustworthy source [i.e. a legitimate web site]
- If you forward something you have personally downloaded, include the URL for the origin of the file
- Save your MS-Word files as RTF, not DOC [RTF files don't have macros and cannot carry macro-viruses]
In addition, before alerting anyone to suspected threats, check the anti-hoax pages on the Web. Examples include:
Snopes.com - also an interesting read for other scams and rumours
About.com | Urban Legends - you'd be amazed at what you thought was true but isn't
Symantec.com - more cautions about spreading hoaxes