While the Internet allows world-wide access to information, it also provides a means by which individuals can spread fear and doubt, often through computer virus hoaxes in electronic mail or newsgroups. A typical hoax warns that anyone reading email with a particular subject will release a computer virus which will destroy the files on the computer or even destroy the computer itself. It goes on to say that you should forward the message to as many people as possible to "warn" them too.
Never forward unconfirmed warnings to your friends!
Any message warning of dire consequences for simply reading an email message is most likely a hoax. The reason is quite simple - the act of reading a message doesn't involve the execution of any program which could contain malicious software. However, if a message warns against opening an attachment to an email message with a particular subject, it could be a valid warning; any executable program (or even a Word or Excel file) attached to an email message could contain a computer virus which would be started when the attachment is opened.
The following sites contain lists of known computer virus hoaxes:
- F-Secure Security Information Center
- McAfee - Virus Hoaxes
- Symantec AntiVirus Research Center - Virus Hoaxes
- Snopes.com (Virus Hoaxes & Realities)
Suspected incidents of computing, networking, or telecommunications abuses should be immediately directed to Security and Information Policy.