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When someone receives an email message, possibly forwarded by someone they know, describing the horrible new computer "virus" that's just been released on the world, it's a fairly natural reaction to want to immediately forward the message to everyone you know. Resist the urge. Please.

Many, if not most, of the "virus" alerts you'll hear about via email are simply hoaxes. Perpetuating the hoax by passing it on to others without verifying the information helps the prankster create disruption and panic, and can cause others to either pass on the hoax or spend time tracking down the truth.

Virus hoaxes cost millions of dollars annually in time spent by countless people diverted from productive work, resources devoted to virus detection and defense, and bandwidth utilized flooding the Internet with useless and harmful email.
,br> At least, before you take any action regarding a reported "virus alert", check with someone you trust, or check it out yourself, to make sure it's just not one of many Internet hoaxes.

Many hoaxes have made the rounds for months, even years, before an average e-mail user may hear about them.

Most virus "alerts" are posted to LARGE groups of people. Many people simply blindly repost any "alert" they see to everyone they know. Resist the urge.

If you want to forward virus alerts, you should at least check with your network administrator or ISP or other informed source to see if you can verify that the reported "alert" is real. OUPD uses sources like Rob Rosenberger at the Computer Virus Myths homepage, Hoaxbusters and Snopes.com (the "Urban Legends Reference Pages") to validate possible virus alerts before passing them on to anyone.

If you receive a virus alert from anyone, one thing to check for is if provides any reliable web links to sites you can trust to validate the information given in the warning letter. If there are no links shown, or you follow a link mentioned and it is non-existent, be very suspicious.

Here at OUPD our police network administrator often has to investigate possible virus alerts. When we do find a valid virus alert we NEVER send out a warning to users unless we can include URLs in the warning that the USER can follow to provide independent verification.

We'd suggest you never trust any virus warning that can't be verified, through at least one URL in the warning, at a legitimate (a URL you can verify independently) virus-expert site, such as the CIAC homepage, Computer Virus Myths homepage, or a major Anti-Virus software manufacturer's homepage, such as:

Symantec Antivirus Research Center
Stiller Research Virus Information
Virus Bulletin Home Page
Joe Well's Wild Lists - Viruses in the wild.
NIST Virus Information Page
McAfee Virus Pages
Sophos Virus Information Page
Seven Locks Software
CA Antivirus

You don't have to be a virus expert - you just need to know where to find them.

If you haven't already done so, you might wish to check out the:

Computer Virus Myths homepage at: http://kumite.com/myths/

which is an excellent resource for information on a variety of computer virus myths, chain letter hoaxes, and other urban legends.

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