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E-Mail Hoax & Virus Information

A public Service Message from

Have you ever gotten an e-mail that says a little Taco Bell dog will magically appear on your screen after you forward the message to a bunch of your friends? Ever get one that promises Microsoft, Bill Gates, the Gap or AOL will send you money, coupons or free computers if you forward the message to all your friends?  Or ominous sounding messages, like the ones that threaten deadly viruses will destroy your hard drive, all your data, Internet Explorer, etc. and that there is NO CURE?

While there are many truly evil viruses going around all the time, some are purely hoaxes.  I know this may sound silly, but the whole point of many e-mails like these is to get you to forward the message to as many people as possible, in effect, an electronic 'chain letter'.

Messages of this type are designed to use up mail server resources, and cause annoyance to legitimate mail users that are attempting to send and receive 'real' mail, and theoretically, gain fame & notoriety for the perpetrator.  Others contain links to websites with viruses, or even worse, YOUR email address may eventually wind up in the hands of spammers after being forwarded to several hundred or thousand other people.

The main thing thing to remember is this

Contact that person to see if he/she really wrote the warning and if he/she really touched the virus.  If he/she is passing on a rumor or if the address of the person does not exist or if there is any questions about the authenticity or the warning, do not circulate it to others.  Instead, send the warning to your computer security manager, Internet Service Provider, or your incident response team and let them validate it. 
When in doubt, do not send it out to the rest of the world.

If it is a real e-mail based virus, you will be sending it to your friends to infect their computers too.  If it is a hoax, you then become a participant in their electronic chain letter scheme.

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If you get an e-mail like this, here are some good websites you can visit to determine whether or not a virus warning or other free offer is a hoax:

McAfee: Urban Legends, myths, rumors, dispelled!


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A few tips you can use to help identify these kinds of messages:

bulletThe sender usually says it comes from AOL, IBM or Microsoft, or some other 'reputable' source. Some will say "my friend does not send me junk". Others will claim you will 'magically' get coupons or money from companies just by forwarding the message to others. Mailings from Microsoft will typically only come to you directly from them, not a third party, and will NEVER offer to pay you for forwarding messages.
bulletThe message will say something to the effect that you should send a copy to all your friendsI counted 76 recipients in one copy of a message I got a few months ago, and you can bet all 76 of them probably forwarded it to five or six of their friends, which makes 380 recipients, and it just grows exponentially from there. So you can see how this is designed to take up valuable disk space and processor time on mail servers, and YOUR home PC's hard drive.
bulletThere is usually some reference to Microsoft being able to 'spy' on you, or having the ability to track your e-mail usage. This is classic hoax material, because it preys on the unsuspecting user's fear of being monitored or watched.
bulletThere is an offer or claim that you will get money from Microsoft, AOL or some other software company. No reputable manufacturer will ever send money to anyone for free, unless they are getting something of value FROM YOU. I doubt that sending a chain letter to a bunch of friends is of any value to a company. This is a typical Microsoft/AOL bashing technique.
bulletViruses are also sent using mail messages of this nature. They usually come with a file attachment of some sort, which when opened, triggers the virus on your computer, and then spreads it to everyone you send it to. A recent virus will, upon opening, compose a message to everyone in your personal address book and send it without your knowledge, forwarding the virus to all of them, after infecting your PC.
bulletThe best way to fight these kinds of viruses is to purchase a good virus detection program like McAfee or Norton, and keep it upgraded with the most current virus definitions, at least once a week.  Yes, they propagate that fast!

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