Virus Warning Emails

Unsubstantiated rumors that are being passed on

by Michael Smith

Time and again we see the Internet being swamped with people passing around “virus warnings” by email, as well as on the non-tech forums of various kinds, that state that they have had this information from this or that anti-virus software company or that one of their associated got that from there and that this report also is Snopes verified, and then always claiming that, if one clicks on a link in this or that titled email a virus is released that wipes all the contents of the computer.

Those are then headed as “Computer Danger – Please Read!” or other such like and, as mentioned above, make those claims, and claims that the information, as said, came from this or that company and that it is verified on “Snopes”.

Such emails are like the chain letters the the “Bill Gates wants to share his billions with you” and clog us the systems like all spam mail does.

The truth is that while it is very possible indeed to release a virus, Trojan, worm, or other kind of malware by clicking at links in emails, or even simply by opening an email that comes with a payload, the virus that is designed to destroy hard drive contents is hardly ever seen nowadays– in fact there has not been one of those for years now.

The aim of today's virus and malware creators is not to show what they can do by destroying a PC and its contents but their aim is to extract data from personal computers and especially company networks for financial gain, such as passwords, and complete identities.

Thus the malware creator of today is not interested in destroying the contents of your computer; far from it. The primary thing that he is interested in is that his little program can remain on a PC or a network undetected for as long as possible in order too phone home with the information it is programed to gather. It is this information that the writers, or those that the writers sell the virus kit to, are interested to gather to sell on too other criminals to exploit.

The virus writer of old often had only one intention and that was to get his virus noticed, after it had gotten through onto the computer(s), by the program destroying information or holding information captive, as in some cases, and for those that wanted the information back to pay a ransom. This is no longer the case today. Hence anyone talking about viruses being in the wild that are out to destroy your PC are talking a lot of bull dust, as the Australians would say.

Most infections today also no longer – though some people still try – on emails but on “drive by shootings” where the infection is downloaded automatically by simply visiting a website, genuine or spoof.

Even one or two anti-virus software companies' own sites had been injected with malware that would download to computers in such a manner when people visited their, totally legitimate, sites.

So, the adage must remain to “be careful out there” on the Net and to have adequate protection software and, and this is most important, such software that is updated on a daily basis.

Anti-virus software, firewalls and other such programs are a must.

While some people keep on about the need to keep the Windows system always patched with the latest patches from Microsoft I have found that many of those downloads have caused havoc to my system and rather keep ports secure and run all the protection software that I can run (and all of it is free), updated as regularly as possible.

Both BitDefender and ThreatFire, for instance, check for updates at two-hourly intervals, and while this can be annoying as, while such checking and updates are applied the system may run a little sluggish, it ensures that the system is protected.

If one would want to avoid the possibilities, to a 99% chance, of virus and malware attacks to a computer one best run an operating system that is not Microsoft.

I know that people will now look as say “but Apple Mac is too expensive”, to which I say (1) you are right and (2) those that know me will know I am not talking Apple Mac. I am talking Linux and all Linux distributions, whether Ubuntu, Fedora, or whichever, are free to obtain. In the case of Ubuntu the distributor, Canonical Ltd., will even send you a CD free of charge, if you do not wish to download the ISO and burn it yourself.

Yes, Linux does not – as yet – work with every bit of hardware and software but we are getting there, slowly but surely.

In conclusion let me stress once again that while we must be careful on the Net and especially not to open any emails that we are not sure about, if they are downloaded onto the PC via an email client, viruses that destroy your hard drives are nowadays about as rare as gold dust on the streets of London.

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009