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About Viruses, Hoaxes and Urban Legends

Welcome to the internet.  Every few days, you will be receiving an "URGENT" warning that you should "E-MAIL TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW" (and even those you don't) to avoid some catastrophic calamity that will beset your loved ones or your computer if you don't participate.  Yeah Right!

WHY?

Who knows?  Maybe its all an inside joke to generate e-mails, waste time and overwhelm e-mail servers.  

WHO?

YOU!  Every time you forward any of these hoaxes and legends, you become a part of the problem.  If you really want to protect your loved ones, and your computer, take a few EXTRA minutes and find out what the real problem is, if any.

WHAT?

Any e-mail that warns that "THIS IS TRUE" or "THIS REALLY HAPPENED TO MY FRIENDS/COUSIN/PET/EMPLOYER/ETC." is suspect.  Real information comes from real sources, not from e-mail chain letters, for reference, lets just call these chain letters "SPAM."

HOW?

If you cannot trust SPAM for your urgent news, how can you possibly identify important events that might affect your computer, friends and family?  Read on.

URBAN LEGENDS

It may "Take Guts to Say Jesus" and its going to be hard to turn down the free money from GAP/MICROSOFT/COKE/INTEL/BUDWEISER or the free services from AOL but you really weren't expecting much anyway were you?  Of course you cannot ignore "sick and dying little children," the American Cancer Society  or the Make-a-Wish foundation, but the e-mails you're receiving have nothing to do with either of these agencies.  If you really want to help them, try their legitimate web sites:  American Cancer Society  and Make A Wish Foundation

 
There is no current public technology for tracking every e-mail sent or forwarded, so:  (a) money is not being donated every time you forward e-mails to everyone on your mailing list; (b) the United States Postal Service is unable to enact or promote e-mail legislation, or taxes on the e-mail you send; (c) you will receive "NOTHING" for forwarding e-mails.

Your family is not under siege from "roach eggs in envelope glue" and will not be killed by gang initiation rites for "flashing headlights" or "using payphones".
 

But, suppose its real?  

News:  Check a real news source, such as CNN, New York Times, ABC News, or Philadelphia Newspapers

Computers:  Check with real computer resources such as C-Net, Ziff Davis


Can I find out if its just a hoax?  

Of course.  An excellent reference (includes a great deal of trivia, and the history of these things) is The Urban Legends Reference Page.  You can even conduct a search using keywords such as "gangs", "cancer", "envelope glue" to find your topic of interest.  You'll be amused, and possibly embarrassed to find how OLD your URGENT warning really is.

VIRUSES

        True.  There have been a few viruses around lately, such as the "Love letter Virus", the "Anna Kournikova virus" and the "Snow White and the Seven dwarfs" virus.  But, what about all the rest of those e-mail warnings you received?  Do you think you're just that lucky?  Of course not!  Many of the supposed virus e-mails are merely hoaxes, like the Urban Legends above.

 

IS THIS VIRUS REAL?

Check it out.  Of the last several real viruses, McAfee and Symantec have posted warnings & information within hours of the discovery of the virus.  Go here:

McAfee AntiVirus
Symantec Anti-Virus Resource Center 

HOW DO I PROTECT AGAINST REAL VIRUSES?

1.  Check every attachment to your e-mail before you open it.  (You can usually identify an attachment before opening it by "right-clicking" then choosing to "view attachment" or "properties.")  NEVER open an attachment that is named, or includes in the e-mail "<filename>.vbs", "<filename>.exe" unless you are certain of the attachment's origin.  These extensions refer to a "program" that will run on your computer, not a "document" or "image" that you open.

2.  Buy Protection.  You  need to spend a few bucks (approximately $30.00), but BUY Anti-virus protection, from McAfee or Symantec (formerly Norton).  Information is available on their sites referenced above, or at your friendly neighborhood computer superstore.

3.  Update often.  Once you have an anti-virus Program, you need to update your virus definitions often to insure you are up-to-date.  Read your software literature for information on updates.

4.  Backup Often.  To protect against big-time losses to your computer data, you should back-up often.  Depending on your hardware, you can backup your important documents and data to:  another driver; a Zip Disk, A Record able CD, an Online Storage and retrieval service.

What Next?

    Follow the steps outlined above:

  1. Buy Virus Protection.
  2. Keep your virus protection updated.
  3. Don't open suspect e-mail attachments.
  4. Verify "Urban Legends" at The Urban Legends Reference Page.
  5. Verify possible viruses at McAfee AntiVirus AND
    Symantec Anti-Virus Resource Center .
  6. NEVER send an e-mail to EVERYONE you know :)

 

 

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