May 16 2009

FAQ: How can I spot a hoax computer virus/worm alert?

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First ask yourself: “did a genuine computer security expert send this alert to me?” If your mother-in-law forwarded a chain-letter alert to you, which came from her dentist, who got it from a podiatrist, who got it from his secretary’s daughter, who supposedly received it at college directly from a janitor who works at IBM…

Then ask yourself: “does it urge me to forward it to everyone I know?” Genuine experts won’t ask you to participate in a chaotic email distribution scheme.

Then ask yourself: “does the email offer a link to an authoritative details page?” Email alerts shouldn’t go into detail about an alert. Rather, it should summarize the threat and provide a link to a “for more info” page hosted on a well-known computer security website. But beware! Some hoax alerts provide a generic link to a respected website, to make you assume that website contains important information about the (hoax) virus. A genuine alert will contain a direct link to information about the threat. If it doesn’t, then you should chide the sender for failing to give you accurate information.

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