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18 July, 2006

Friends don't send friends virus warnings

Never, ever, under any circumstances, circulate a virus warning message.  Ever.  Almost invariably – no, there's no 'almost' about it; invariably it's a hoax and the warning itself is the virus, inflating e-mail traffic and spamming discussion groups.

I've been active on the web for over a decade, and have seen a huge number of such virus warning e-mails and forum postings. None – not even one – have been genuine. If you receive a warning, whether forwarded by a stranger or your closest friend, visit the website of a well-known manufacturer of anti-virus software and check the details of the alleged threat.
Think about it: how likely is it that your anonymous friend-of-a-friend has discovered something that's totally eluded every anti-virus professional on the planet? Really?

If (when) you discover it's a hoax, delete the e-mail: take it out of circulation. Never circulate another e-mail telling people it's a hoax – that's just as bad! Simply let it die.

If, by some miracle, you find the warning is about a genuine threat, delete the e-mail. Do not pass on the warning. Yes, really. If the anti-virus companies know about it, their updated software will handle it, so there's absolutely no point in telling people.
If people have outdated or missing anti-virus protection, well, they're on their own. If they can't handle the routine basics, they're unlikely to respond to the exceptional.

Bottom line: if you receive an anti-virus warning, even from someone you trust absolutely, delete it.

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