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Viruses & Hoaxes

You have received an e-mail Warning or Alert from someone in a large university or big-name company that says that if you download a particular file, you will lose all your computer files or mess up your computer's hard drive. The sender asked that you forward this message "to as many people as you can", or asks you to open an attached fix-it file—and you do. In many cases, the warning has been false, and the "fix" was itself a virus. You've been "had". You are not alone. Even professors and non-security personnel of big-name companies have been "taken in" by these "hoaxters/hackers".

Suspicious if:

  • you don't know the sender.
  • the Alert contains grammatical or spelling errors.
  • the forwarded e-mail is not dated.
  • the Alert is not on any newscast.
  • the Alert does not appear on "source" company's web site.
  • the Alert has a chain-letter feel (i.e., pass it along to everyone or else suffer the consequences).
  • the Alert has no contact name and phone number.
  • the Alert has no valid web site address (URL) to authenticate it:
    • A URL slash-mark is backwards instead of forwards.
    • A generic URL is given instead of an exact page.
  • the Alert attaches a downloadable "fix".
    • Microsoft's patches are only available through its "security" web site.

Virus Verification:

Never forward an alert unless you first verify its authenticity through one of the web sites below—and then be sure to forward the URL of the exact page where the virus or hoax is discussed when you send your warning.

Verify—or Debunk—Virus Alerts:
· hoax search engine
· security advisory
Computer Incident Advisory Committee (CIAC)
· hoax busters
· computer security

Online Virus Tutorials

  • Panda Software (
    • About Viruses: General Concepts. Contents:  Threats and Malware. Viruses, worms and Trojans. What is a vulnerability? Hoaxes and jokes. What do they infect? Most common entry-points. Where do they hide? Symptoms and effects.
    • 2-Hour Basic Virus Course. Contents:  The beginning. Basics. Viruses and their effects. Types of virus. Example of virus. Example of hoaxes. Virus entry-points. What is an antivirus program? How to combat viruses? Is my computer protected? Suspected virus infection? Some tips. (Free after you register. Viewable only with Microsoft Internet Explorer browser. If you have dial-up Internet connection, your screen will turn blue for a minute while the course program and chapters load. Incorrect answers on exercises within a chapter disable the "next" page button; correct answers allow you to move forward in the course.)

Chain Letters

How do you find out if the urgent e-mail you received—a warning or a promise to make lots of money or receive free candy—is true or not? Sometimes the clues are in the e-mails themselves (an M&M offer comes from Hershey, PA, where their competitor is located, not them).

Myth Debunkers:

Report Mail Abuse:

Unsolicited mass-mailings sent through e-mail channels are called "spam". Report or forward spam and then delete it.

Mass-Emailing Clogs the Internet:

Other Scams

  • Identity-Theft Scams –
    • The web address displayed in the browser's address field is NOT the same as that portrayed on the web site.
    • You are asked to reveal your Internet Access username, password, and your credit card number to affirm or deny an alleged purchase.
    • Do not click on a link from an alleged company with whom you've not done business – your name, e-mail address, and "address book" addresses could be stolen and used in a scam
  • Scholarship Scams – (

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