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Computer Virus? Yes or No?

You just received an e-mail asking you to check out the attached item or to delete a file from your computer because it is a virus or that your computer may be infected with a virus and you need to tell all your friends. Sound familiar? It's not always easy telling fact from fiction when it comes to computer hoaxes and viruses. There are, numerous online resources to help you determine if what you have received is "real" or not. So, before you begin to "send e-mail to everyone you know about..." (which happens to be one of the most common tactics and identifiers email hoax creators use in order to accomplish their goal) regarding the virus you may have received, check out the following helpful links. At most of these sites you can search their database/knowledgebase for the subject line of the email you received in order to find out whether it is legitimate or not....


So, what's the difference between a virus and a hoax?

Symantec provides the following descriptions of computer viruses and hoaxes... A computer virus is a small program written to alter the way a computer operates, without the permission or knowledge of the user. A virus must meet two criteria:


  • It must execute itself. It often places its own code in the path of execution of another program.
  • It must replicate itself. For example, it may replace other executable files with a copy of the virus infected file. Viruses can infect desktop computers and network servers alike.


Some viruses are programmed to damage the computer by damaging programs, deleting files, or reformatting the hard disk. Others are not designed to do any damage, but simply to replicate themselves and make their presence known by presenting text, video, and audio messages. Even these benign viruses can create problems for the computer user. They typically take up computer memory used by legitimate programs. As a result, they often cause erratic behavior and can result in system crashes. In addition, many viruses are bug-ridden, and these bugs may lead to system crashes and data loss. Virus hoaxes are messages, almost always sent by email, that amount to little more than chain letters. Following are some of the common phrases that are used in these hoaxes:


  • If you receive an email titled [email virus hoax name here], do not open it!
  • Delete it immediately!
  • It contains the [hoax name] virus.
  • It will delete everything on your hard drive and [extreme and improbable danger specified here].
  • This virus was announced today by [reputable organization name here].
  • Forward this warning to everyone you know!


Most virus hoax warnings do not deviate far from this pattern.  

Spyware... What is it, how does it get on my computer and what can I do about it???

One of the most common threats to any Internet connected computer is spyware. Even with the best precautions there is no completely effective way of avoiding spy ware. Browse to a web site, click on a button or link, close a pop up window the wrong way and you could be unknowingly installing spy ware on your computer. Also, some software you intentionally download (some weather tickers, some search bars, some wallpaper changers) have been classified as spyware. If you are in doubt, check the ca Spyware Encyclopedia BEFORE installing 3rd party software or utilities on your computer

Microsoft has numerous helpful video presentations you may download for personal use which you may access by clicking here. Topics include:


  • Protecting your computer from spyware
  • What you should know about phishing scams
  • Dealing with spam e-mail
  • Keeping your computer up to date
  • Protecting your privacy
  • Defending against viruses and worms
  • Teaching your kids about online safety

I didn't send that e-mail! Why did I get a reply? A Basic Explanation of "Email Spoofing"

A favorite technique of spammers and other “bad guys” is to “spoof” their return e-mail addresses, making it look as if the mail came from someone else. Sometimes you may only become aware spoofing has happened you have received a reply to an email YOU supposedly sent but know you did not. For detailed information about Spoofing and how it works, please follow this link to

Messiah College Virus Information Web Page

What's the big deal about computer viruses? What is Messiah doing to keep an upper hand on the problems? What can YOU do to help prevent your PC from becoming infected? This page offers some vital information for everyone who uses a PC. Visit the Messiah College Virus Information web page for more.

Computer Associates Virus Information Center

The Virus Information Center at Computer Associates ("CA") serves as a rich, up-to-the-minute resource, containing detailed information on viruses, worms, Trojans, and hoaxes, as well as valuable documentation on the implementation of comprehensive antivirus protection. CA’s eTrust Antivirus Research Centers monitor around-the-clock to defend against the damaging effects a virus outbreak could cause. Visit CA's Virus Information Center for more information.


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