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Larry's mouse after a virus attack!
Super bad virus attack!

Truth or. . . HOAX?

Larry James

Can you say, "The bunk stops here?"

When receiving an e-mail virus warning (chain letters & any forwarded e-mail, too), please check it out first to see if it's a hoax. It can be quite embarrassing when you forward an e-mail to all of your friends, then they find out it's a hoax. When in doubt. . . check it out! Check out our list of Websites where you can verify virus warnings and chain letters (or any other e-mails you may have doubts about) to be sure they are genuine alerts or if they are true "before" you forward them to your friends.

Larry's "Hoax Finder!"
"Search" before you forward!

For a humorous look at "forwarding e-mail," read, "The Forwarder's 12 Step Program."

If you are not familiar with the term "Phishing," you need to be. The scam is called 'phishing' - as in fishing for your password, but spelled differently.

Webopedia.com defines phishing as: "The act of sending an e-mail to a user claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft. The e-mail directs the user to visit a Web site where they are asked to update personal information, such as passwords and credit card, social security and bank account numbers, that the legitimate organization already has. The Web site, however, is bogus and set up only to steal user's information."

If you would like to protect yourself from this e-mail menace, click here for complete "Phishing" definition, valuable info and links to other resources!

Steps that you can take to help identify and to help protect yourself from deceptive (spoofed) web sites and malicious hyperlinks.

Go to: http://support.microsoft.com/Default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;833786&spid=2073&sid=global. Although obviously written by a techie and a little technical in places, it's an interesting article. Lots of good tips.

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E-mail Hijacking! (11/19/04)

If someone is "spoofing" (faking or hijacking) your e-mail address, making it appear as if the e-mail is coming from you, the solutions are to change all of your e-mail addresses, or get a good spam blocker and just try to stay on top of it. Find spam filtering tools here: http://www.datadoctors.com/hot/general.cfm?PageID=41.

The Lovegate Worm is Back! - (7/12/04)

It's a new variant that scans PCs for executable files and then renames them. This particular version of the worm spreads by e-mailing itself to addresses found on an infected machine. Once it has gained control of the system through a "back door," it then scans the network that the system is on. Learn about this worm and how to protect your PC by surfing to: http://news.com.com.

Severe Attack By Worm Variant W32.Sasser.B.Worm - (5/3/04)

A variant worm found on May 1st has already risen to a category 4 and has a very high distribution rating on the SARC site. This new threat is a self-replicating, self-installing worm that has nothing to do with e-mail. W32.Sasser.B attempts to exploit a vulnerability in Microsoft and spread by scanning randomly-chosen IP addresses for vulnerable systems. It is thought to infect home users more than corporate users, however this may change at any given moment. If you have a system that is already infected by this worm, then download the removal tool at: http://securityresponse.symantec.com.

Yet Another Mass-Mailing Worm Spreads - W32.Netsky.B - (2/21/04)

This worm is a mass-mailing worm that arrives as an attachment in your e-mail. This worm then searches through your drive for any folder names containing "Share" or "Sharing." Once again this worm spoofs the "from" address which confuses most people. For more detailed information, check out: The Data Doctor.

Mass Mailing e-mail worm in wide distribution. Named the W32.Novarg.A@mm (Norton), W32/Mydoom@MM (McAfee), WORM_MIMAIL.R (Trend Micro) - (1/26/04)

The worm generally arrives as an attachment to e-mail with the file extension .bat, .cmd, .exe, .pif, .scr, or .zip. If you open an infected attachment, a backdoor program will be installed into the system that will allow a remote attacker to access and make use of the computer. This worm is designed to attack all current versions of Windows but does not affect DOS, Linux, Macintosh, OS/2, UNIX, Windows 3.x based systems. Infected messages will generally have the following characteristics: From: Usually a spoofed 'from' address, meaning that the address used is not the actual sender... DO NOT BLAME THE SENDER, AS THEY ARE AN INNOCENT PARTY TO THE WORM! NOTE: We know that this virus has been sent from many variations of the CelebrateLove.com address. We are not the sender. Please delete this e-mail. For more detailed information, check out: Network Associates, Inc.

Eureka! Mac's Are Not Invulnerable! - (12/30/03)

A series of seemingly innocuous default settings can cause an affected Mac OS X machine to trust a malicious machine on a network for user, group, and volume mounting settings. Read more.

Hacker Alert for Apple Computer OS X Users - (7/12/02)

A hacker has posted full instructions online about how to fool Apple's SoftwareUpdate feature to allow a hacker to install a backdoor on any Mac running OS X. it was just a matter of time until Mac users were going to become targets.   more. Apple users can get the latest security updates by going to: www.apple.com/support.

You are NOT under investigation - (2/22/02)

Some new ads that pose as an error message in your browser are using fear to sell their product. You may encounter a page that looks very similar to a "404 - Page not found" error that claims that you are being investigated and or tracked. Get the full story about these scumbags here.

  • NOTE: Delete! Delete! Remember, receiving a virus e-mail will not (in almost ALL cases) infect your computer. The damage is done when you OPEN the attachment. WHOOPS!! I understand that there may now be a rare exception to this. Stay tuned.

    Much of the info that is sent as an attachment, except photo images and a few other exceptions, can be included in the text of the e-mail. My first rule of e-mail is not to accept attachments! Although it is often a minor inconvenience, my friends know I don't accept attachments, therefore they know to send me an e-mail telling me they have something important to send, I then can choose to accept or not. Works for me.

    I also keep a "very private" e-mail address that only my "very close" friends know about. The e-mail with the ILOVEYOU virus attachment slipped through on that account, however my friend immediately sent another e-mail saying her computer was infected and to not open it. I'm not sure there is a perfect solution to this problem, except to NEVER accept e-mails with attachments. Think before you click!

BEWARE OF "PHISHING":  E-mail that impersonates an e-mail or Web page from a real, respectable company, in an attempt to get you to provide account information that they can use to steal money from you. For more info click here or here for a list of the most recent "Phishing Attacks!"

And now. . . back to the "Truth or HOAX" article. . .

Electronically Transmitted Diseases (ETD) continue to proliferate. Most everyone has received e-mail warnings about computer viruses, a message from Bill Gates inviting you to send chain letters in exchange for up to $1,000 worth of free software, a trip to Disneyland, an e-mail at the request of a dying boy, or someone with cancer begging you to forward it to everyone so that someone could live forever.

It is "Truth or Hoax?

Some of those chain letters are funny, however the fact is MOST ARE UNTRUE and serve no purpose other than to clog the Internet with junk e-mail or scare people. It also contributes to the overall slowing down of the Internet. Filling our inboxes with this junk e-mail is almost always a waste of the sender's energy and the receiver's time.

The "rule" is simple. Don't just forward it to all of your friends. When in doubt. . . check it out!

Current netiquette suggests that before forwarding *ANY* virus warning or possible hoax to hundreds of your closest friends, you take responsibility for checking it out. Writing a note at the top that says "I don't know if this is true or not" or "it was sent to us with the assurance that it is on the level" does not count as due diligence! As a matter of fact, if your friends would only admit it, this type of e-mail is at the very top of the "annoyance" chart.

Now. . . when someone sends you any suspicious e-mail requesting that you inform the universe. . . you will have a point of reference to share with them. Simply send them the link to this page. This page will provide you with the most recent links to many of the most informed and up-to-date websites that offer numerous resources that will help you know if it is "truth or HOAX?"

Here are a few example HOAXES that may have fooled you. . .

1. The WOBBLER Virus (aka California Virus) e-mail message is a HOAX. There is no "GOOD TIMES" virus. In fact, you should never, ever, ever forward any e-mail containing any virus warning unless you first confirm it at an actual site of an actual company that actually deals with virus information. And even then, I don't forward them. You can trust the information you get at Symantec Anti-Virus Research Center. Here's another trustworthy site for Hoax Warnings.

2. The e-mail about a 5-cent surcharge on all e-mail is a HOAX. The "Washingtonian," an actual publication quoted in this HOAX e-mail, says it NEVER wrote about such a surcharge and that the congressmen quoted in the hoax e-mail don't exist. You can read the entire disclaimer at: Washingtonian Online - Letter from the Editor.

3. Bill Gates is not giving you $1000. Big companies don't do business via chain letter. There is no baby food company issuing class-action checks. You can relax; there is no need to pass it on "just in case it's true". Furthermore, just because someone said in the message, four generations back, that "we checked it out and it's legit," does not actually make it true.

4. There is no kidney theft ring in New Orleans. No one is waking up in a bathtub full of ice, even if a friend of a friend swears it happened to their cousin. If you are hellbent on believing the kidney-theft ring stories. Here is a partial quote: "The National Kidney Foundation has repeatedly issued requests for actual victims of organ thieves to come forward and tell their stories. None have." That's "none" as in "zero". Not even your friend's cousin.

5. Neiman Marcus doesn't really sell a $200 cookie recipe. And even if they do, we all have it. And even if you don't, you can get a copy (supposed to be the original) at: http://www.bl.net/forwards/cookie.html. Then, if you make the recipe, decide the cookies are that awesome, feel free to pass the recipe on.

6. NASA E-mail Hoax. Even if the latest NASA rocket disaster(s) DID contain plutonium that went to particulate over the eastern seaboard, do you REALLY think this information would reach the public via an America Online chain-letter?

7. Craig Shergold in England is not dying of cancer or anything else at this time and would like everyone to stop sending him their business cards. He apparently is also no longer a "little boy" either.

8. The e-mail that involves a story of how Stanford University began is a HOAX.

9. Disney is not giving you a free vacation. The Disney offer signed by Walt Disney's son is a HOAX. Surprise! Walt Disney had no son!

10. The "FREE M&M's!" message is a hoax. David Emery debunks the hoax in detail on the About.com Urban Legends and Folklore website at: Free M&M's for the Millennium HOAX. Go there and click on the "Free M&M's for the Millennium HOAX" link. Free M&Ms just for forwarding a chain-letter? I think not.

Here are a few of the discrepancies in that e-mail: Mars, Inc., makes M&Ms -- Mars is based in Virginia, not Hershey, Pennsylvania -- The Mars company says this e-mail is a hoax -- The Mars company does not employ anyone named "Jeffrey Newieb" -- This hoax is similar in many respects to the "Free Beer from Miller" hoax spotted some time ago -- E-mail "tracking" is a myth -- The "bad luck" threat is an element of traditional chain-letters. Don't fall for it.

Soooo. . . the next time an urgent message pops up on your screen, check some of the well-maintained, legitimate Web sources of hoax info on the following page to debunk the hoax and then press the delete key to avoid continuing to clutter up the Internet with hoax e-mail. Remember, "rumors" are a form of e-mail virus.

What if the e-mail is a real virus?

If it is, IT WILL APPEAR TO COME FROM SOMEONE YOU KNOW, PROBABLY A TRUSTED FRIEND OR CO-WORKER! The moral of the story is - NEVER click on (or open) an attachment that you receive in an e-mail, unless you are expecting it and know exactly what it is, NO MATTER WHO IT IS FROM. If you have any doubts, call or e-mail the sender first before opening the attached file.

This is important to know. Most experts agree that you cannot get a computer virus from an e-mail. You can only get the virus if you open the attachment to the e-mail. As a safety precaution, I turned off the attachment feature on my e-mail. If I receive a call from someone who is trying to send me an attachment, I can choose to turn it back on or not. Often text information sent as an attachment can fit into the body of an e-mail.

Be especially wary of any attachment that is a file type .EXE, although viruses can also come in Microsoft Word (.doc) or Excel (.xls) files, as well as a few others.

Because of this problem, it is bad judgement to send jokes or cartoons as e-mail attachments. Your smart friends won't look at them and you will be teaching your less paranoid friends bad habits. Besides, most text jokes will fit into the body of an e-mail, so why bother with an attachment?

Know Your Enemy
Source: www.InfoWorld.com

If you visit the anti-virus labs at Network Associates or Symantec, you will be quickly corrected after an indiscriminate use of the "v" word. Virus experts prefer the terms "malicious code" or MalWare. A virus is just one type of malicious code. Following are explanations of the primary types of malicious code.

VIRUS - A true virus is capable of self-replication on one machine. It may spread between files or disks, but the defining characteristic is that it can re-create itself on its own without traveling to a new host. Transmission time to a new host is relatively slow, on the order of days or weeks.

WORM - A worm is designed to spread from one machine to another over any type of network. Currently, the most notorious worms take advantage of the Internet to spread. Transmission time here is on the order of seconds. Technically, the Melissa virus was a worm, not a virus.

TROJAN HORSE - A Trojan horse cannot replicate and need not spread; it is any code that does something you don't expect it to do. Something that looks like a cute graphics file, for example, might actually forge bogus e-mail messages.

These distinctions are important for historical and technical reasons, but Roger Thompson, diretor of malicious code research at ICSA, says the lines are blurring a little.

"It used to be the case that a Trojan horse was very limited in scope," Thompson says. "But now, with the Internet and access to directories, a Trojan horse can get 57 million e-mail addresses and fire itself off instantly around the globe. So it hardly matters whether or not it can replicate itself."

One of my pet peeves!

A word about "forwarding" e-mail. I love a funny story as much as anyone. I even collect funny "relationship" stories, but if you absolutely MUST forward that 10th-generation message from a friend, at least have the decency to trim the eight miles of headers showing everyone else who's received it over the last 6 months.

Recently, I received an e-mail with a joke that had so many headers in it that there wasn't room in the e-mail for the joke! Now THAT'S a joke! Besides, if it has gone around that many times - most people have probably already seen it. It sure wouldn't hurt to get rid of all the "" or the angle brackets (<< >>) that begin each line.

There is a handy $39.95 shareware application (and worth it!) for both MACs and PCs called, TEXTSoap that literally cleans up all of the HTML code from a forwarded e-mail. Take an extra minute to copy and paste the e-mail you want to forward in TEXTSoap, click a few buttons, and BINGO. . . it looks like you typed everything from scratch. Your friends will be amazed and appreciate you for it! It's available from Unmarked Software. OR. . .

Do it yourself. . . How to remove angle brackets (<< >>), line breaks, and extra spaces from forwarded e-mail messages:

You can clean up that e-mail message by using Word's or WordPad's "Find And Replace" feature.

1. Copy the message.

2. Paste the message contents in a new Word or WordPad document.

3. Click "Edit" from the menu bar then "Replace". (You can also press Ctrl + H)

4. Type the character you'd like removed- leave the Replace With text box blank.

5. Click "Replace All".

The final word on "Forwarding e-mail" - All of the people you send an e-mail to by placing their e-mail addresses in the "To:" area are now at risk if others in that list do the same thing. If anyone's computer on the list gets hacked, all those e-mail will will now be a part of the hacker's spam list. This is one of the main ways that computer virus' spread.

Almost all e-mail programs allow you to send multiple e-mail as a "blind carbon copy" (BBC). When sent as a BBC, each person who receives your e-mail cannot see the e-mail addresses of the others you sent it to. My suggestion is that if you forward e-mail, copy & paste the part you want to forward in a new e-mail, then put the e-mail addresses in the BBC area.

Yeah. . . I know. It takes a few minutes to do, but at least you are doing your part to stop spreading spam and computer virus'. Perhaps, you should consider whether you should even consider forwarding it at all. I forward a lot less e-mail now because of the time it takes to strip all the e-mail addresses out before I forward.

I started added the following to all e-mail that I forward recently:

If you forward this message, PLEASE delete the forwarding history which includes MY e-mail address. Only forward as a "blind carbon copy" (BCC) which keeps everyone's e-mail who forwarded it before from appearing in the e-mail. Erasing the history helps prevent spammers from mining addresses and viruses from being propagated. Thank you.

Read: A Brief Tutorial on the BCC e-mail Field!

Follow the links to more great Internet info!

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