Hoax, chain letters and viruses
Dear family & friends,
Since several months we receive a series of mails from you which are in fact
forwards of mails you received. While we always appreciate to hear from you, we
also want to inform you on a phenomenon of modern society that can cause damage
to you and your installations.
To tell you the little story first:
|We received a specific warning from one of our friends, a
knowledgeable computer guy. He informed us that he personally had sent
us a virus, and he gave the description. The file mentioned was only on
the one of our computers where we received his mail. He recommended to
His warning was a hoax, circulating in his specific community. He had
translated it into French. We would have deleted a system file on our
His recall of its first message came several hours later. No damage
happened, but we have never been that close.
We give you here a little collection of advise and explanation. We are living
in a world where terrorist attacks come daily to our computer installations.
|Why fight hoaxes and chain letters?
|Please find the following notice from the http://intranet.chrysler.com/admin/cmipsite/hoax_chain_letters.shtml
|Virus Hoaxes and
|Have you received an e-mail message recently warning of a
potential computer virus and asking that you forward the message to
warn others? The Internet community is constantly being bombarded
with chain letters in the form of e-mail messages. They claim all
manner of warnings and dire notices of doom and gloom for your
computer systems or for some poor soul somewhere, all of which will
be saved if you just send this message on to all of your friends.
|In the years before computers, chain letters were common and were
sent by U.S. mail and required a stamp. This limited the extent to
which chain letters were passed on, because sending them involved a
real, up front cost in time and money to type the letters, address
the envelopes and purchase the stamps. Today, with the click of a
button, a message can be forwarded to hundreds of people at no
apparent cost to the sender. If each of the so-called good
Samaritans sends the letter on to only ten other people (most send
to huge mailing lists), the ninth resending results in a billion
e-mail messages, thereby, clogging the network and interfering with
the receiving of legitimate e-mail messages. Factor in the time lost
reading and deleting all these messages and you see a real cost to
organizations and individuals from these seemingly innocuous
|How do you recognize a chain letter?
|They all have a similar pattern. From the older printed letters to
the newer electronic kind, they all have three recognizable parts:
- A hook
- A threat
- A request
|First, there is a hook, to catch your interest and get you to read
the rest of the letter. Hooks used may be "Bud-Frogs screen
saver virus," "Make Money Fast," "Get
Rich," "Free Money," "Danger!," "Virus
Alert," or "A Little Girl Is Dying."
|When you are hooked, you read on to the threat. Some threats warn
you about the terrible things that will happen if you do not
maintain the chain; others play on greed or sympathy to get you to
pass the letter on. The threat often contains official or technical
sounding language to get you to believe it is real.
|Finally, you reach the request. Some older chain letters ask you
to mail a dollar to the top ten names on the letter and then pass it
on. The electronic ones simply admonish you to "Distribute this
letter to as many people as possible." They never mention
clogging the Internet or the fact that the message is a fake, they
only want you to pass it on to others.
|What should you do if you receive a chain letter in
|Delete it! Don't forward the message!! If you want to
confirm that the message is indeed a hoax, check it out: There is a
description of all viruses and hoax virus warnings in the Symantec Antivirus Center.
There are several websites for hoax
|Now, i will not sent virus warnings any more, and
never ask again to delete a file on my system. But how about that nice
PowerPoint presentation that matches the Sunday sermon in church? The poem
i got from a good friend? The funny picture i got yesterday? The joke i
thought so funny? The little swinging comic or dancing christmas tree?
There is no one-fits-all answer. But beware: Viruses travel by mail,
but for now they mostly do this via attachments. So while you are watching
that little show with the cute girl dancing on your screen, your files
might be wiped in the background. But of course not every animated picture
is a virus - most of them aren't!
How to be safe(r) against viruses?
First, you need a good antivirus software.
Second, you need to update the virus definitions. These updates can be
downloaded from the net. You need to do this about once a week. (Yes: once
a week. The updates are needed to fight against the actual viruses
circulating. You hardly need to fight against a virus that run havoc on
your PC when Bill Gates was still in highschool.)
Third, sorry Bill, today's trend is to use macro viruses. Most of the
time, they attack Outlook, the mail system, and have it do weird things.
Outlook is a good software. I do not use it because of this. Why buy a
sleek car if every thief learns how to steal it?
See which Viruses are around today. Are you protected?
Interactive Map showing the actual Virus threats:
This is my policy:
- I erase every mail with an attachment that comes from a person i
do not know.
- I have installed a free mail address on an Internet-based server
for all jokes etc. I never try an attachment from my computer at
home. I try them once i am protected behind a firewall. Now, many of
those little programs do not like this and will not run. Then i have
no regret to delete them.
- I do not forward received mail to others when the sender requests
this. Probably all my soul problems are due to non-forwarded
soul-saving mail. Specially, i do not clog the mailboxes of my
friends with heavy files that take hours to download. (I do not own
shares in their telecom provider neither, maybe that is why.)
- I forward good thoughts or jokes if they come as plain text. Plain
text does not execute anything on the computer. (I erase the
'forwarded by' tails, courtesy to the reader).
- I will not forward virus warnings. I might tell my friends to
upgrade their virus definitions.
- It happened twice that good jokes had the form of a virus warning
or a chain letter. In this case, i marked them as such before