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Virus Warnings in E-mail Messages

  • If you've ever received an e-mail message that begins with "Virus Warnings—Be Careful!" you probably wondered, "Do I need to worry?"

    Whenever you receive a message about a potential virus threat, the first thing you should do is consult the F-Secure Corporation Hoax Warnings page to determine if the message is a hoax. This website describes virus hoaxes and false alerts and provides details on whether the virus is real or not.

    What is a virus hoax? Basically, it's like yelling "fire" in a crowded theater. Hoaxes are started by malicious people hoping to prey on innocent e-mail users who will do exactly what they ask—forward the message, thereby perpetuating the hoax.

    Are some virus threats real? Can you receive a virus via e-mail? Yes, you can, but you can also protect yourself from harm by following a few simple guidelines:

    • Make sure that you are using virus protection on your computer. The university currently uses Sophos Endpoint Security and Control, which can be downloaded for free by students and employees.
    • Update your virus protection software regularly. Since new viruses are created every day, it is important that your software is able to detect new viruses. PCs attached to the administrative network are updated on a regular basis.
    • Whenever you receive a message containing an attachment from an unknown source, do not open it directly from your e-mail software (for example, Thunderbird). Save it to your hard drive first. This will give your anti-virus software an opportunity to scan it for viruses when you open it.
    • Never open a hyperlink received in an e-mail message from an unknown source.

    Viruses are a very real threat, but a little prevention can go a long way in protecting your computer and your data.