Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why you should always ignore virus warning emails

In ye olden days of the Internet folk ran amok scared witless of terrible viruses that promised to destroy data, damage reputations and bestow cruelty on small kittens and cute puppies.  While it’s true that viruses do indeed present a significant threat there’s a very good reason why you should ignore emails you get from friends and well wishers warning you about new viruses hiding around every virtual corner.

The sad truth is that there are now probably many more of these virus warning emails whizzing around the internet than there are actual virus laden emails.  It would appear that the miscreants who like to cause a rum pickle for honest folk like thee and me don’t have to go to all the bother of actually writing viruses to disrupt email systems any more – they just write a virus warning email!  Why go to all the hassle of creating a virus that will send itself to someone’s entire address book when the owner of the computer will willingly do the job for you!?!

The chances are you are already protected by virus scanning carried out by your email provider, virus protection/ security software on your computer, and with any luck you are protected by your own common sense.  You are NOT protected by apparently vigilant friends forwarding you emails ABOUT viruses!  Incidentally if you use webmail like Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail then there’s a very good chance you’ll never see a genuine virus email – they’re removed long before they reach your account.

New viruses (the ones that actually do cause damage) do most of their damage within minutes of being launched (released into the wild as it were), and after which point they are made pretty much inert by anti-virus providers figuring out how to block them.  So when you get an email warning you about a virus – more often than not an email which has been doing the rounds for YEARS – then it’s already far too late for you to take any action!

There are two golden rules that will protect you from viruses far better than receiving (or heaven forbid forwarding) these useless virus warning emails:
  1. Don’t open attachments that you’re not expecting
  2. Keep your anti-virus software  up to date

I’ll leave you with this final thought in the hope that it might not only get you to stop forwarding these pointless virus warning emails, but also in the hope that you will help spread the word – when you forward a fake virus warning then there’s a very good chance you’re exposing not only your email address to spammers, but also the email addresses of all your friends.  Have a look at the next virus warning email you get, I’ll bet it contains the email addresses of a lot of people you don’t know; do you really want to be the one who exposes the personal email addresses of your friends to people they don’t know?

Please stop paying any attention to emails that warn you about viruses, just delete them!  Break the chain!