3. Virus Hoaxes

There's something easier than writing a program to make computers mess themselves up. It's writing a letter to make humans mess computers up.

Virus hoaxes are just that - hoaxes. They're letters which pretend to be a virus alert, or some other sort of computer security alert, and which aren't. They're worded to frighten people and get them to forward the message to 'everyone they know' - or at least to a lot of other people.

This forwarded email can slow down or even stop a mail server, fill peoples' mailboxes, and, of course, frighten them and cause them to lose time and waste time and energy on something which is just a hoax.

You can't really defend yourself against receiving virus hoaxes except by educating everyone you know. But you can avoid sending hoaxes on. In a corporate environment, just forward the virus alert to the IT department. It's their job to know which ones are hoaxes and which are real.

If you're not in a corporate environment, and you feel you must pass on a virus alert, don't just forward the one you received. Write your own.

First, check with a list of virus hoaxes. Links to several of them are at the bottom of this article. If the forwarded email is a hoax, send the URL of the hoax page to the person you forwarded the mail to you, with a gentle note saying 'hey, you were hoaxed'.

If it's not a hoax, your mail should include:

Don't write a sensational letter. Just write something calm and helpful. People in this culture have learned to ignore sensationalism anyway.