Hoaxes, Smears, Urban Legends, and Viruses

It is real?

Suppose that you (and a long list of others on the CC list) have just received a message with shocking information along with a notice that you should forward this to all your friends immediately to amuse them, amaze them, shock them, make them rich, or save them from some horrible fate -- heart attack, financial ruin, computer virus, legislation proposed by evil politicians.

Before you press the forwarding button to pass this message on to all your friends please take the time to see if the note is a hoax, a smear, an urban legend, a Trojan horse carrying a virus, or just another attempt to create an avalanche of worthless Email.

Let's face it, there are some bad and/or sick people out there who stay up late nights fabricating almost-believable lies to spread on the Internet.

If it's an unlikely story, check it against the Mining Company's list of urban legends.

If it is a virus warning, check it against the one of the following:  

  the U.S. government's up-to-date list of virus warning hoaxes
  Symantec's list
  Kumite's list

If it doesn't seem to follow your common sense and understanding of fair play, question its motives and consider its source.  Some people consider it amusing to create and spread false stories about a political figure they dislike so as to make them seem foolish or evil.  Do not aid and abet the spreading of such slander by passing it on to others.

It may be harder for you to check the facts than to spread false witness with a wink and a nod, but you will more respected by yourself and others for doing so.  Consider how you would like this to be done unto you and check the story before passing it on.

Thank you!

Some Simple Definitions

from USAToday [http://www.usatoday.com/life/cyber/zd/zd3.htm]

Virus - "A virus commonly inserts itself into other program files, in the same manner that a virus in nature takes over the apparatus of normal cells.  When the infected program runs, the virus code gets a chance to inspect its environment and look for and infect new carriers in the form of other program files.  The CIH virus (a k a Chernobyl) is an attacker of this kind.  If a user transmits an infected file to another user, or if infected storage media move from one machine to another, the virus may spread rapidly.

Worm - "A worm, as defined by some authorities, is a self-replicating program that does not alter files but resides in active memory and duplicates itself by means of computer networks.  Worms use facilities of an operating system that are meant to be automatic and invisible to the user.  It is common for worms to be noticed only when their uncontrolled replication consumes system resources, slowing or halting other tasks.

Trojan Horse - "The most elementary form of malicious code is the Trojan horse.  This kind of program appears to do something useful, or at least entertaining, such as putting up an attractive screen saver.   Like its legendary namesake, however, a Trojan horse program conceals a destructive purpose:  While running, such a program may destroy files or create a 'back door' entry point that enables an intruder to access your system.   A Trojan horse program does not propagate itself from one computer to another.

Further Comments

You most likely will never get a virus from reading your e-mail or participating in an on-line conversation.  Most dangerous viruses are spread by infected e-mail attachments that you may accidentally download.   Itís the file ATTACHED to an e-mail message that may be infected with a virus.   But itís not unleashed until you DOWNLOAD it, so set your Email system's options so that it does NOT download attachments and does NOT unzip compressed file attachments on download.  When you are notified that a piece of Email has an attachment, consider the source of the message and the content (since some viruses may use your friend's Email list to send you a fake message with an attached virus) before you decide to download and open or unzip the attachment.  The exception to this are various version of worms (i.e. Beagle, etc.) which can infect your system - if your system meets their needs.  For more information please check the various security software sites for details.

Attached files may also contain Trojan Horse programs that may compromise the security of your Email account, contain objectionable graphics, or damage computer files.  No matter how enticing the file or program may appear, you put yourself and your computer at risk when you download a file from an unknown source, even if it appears to be some sort of official communication.


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