Viruses and Virus Hoaxes

By Judith Maginnis Kuster

When you first ventured on the Internet, you worried about getting a virus and ruining your computer. It can happen! Viruses do attack computers, and often are spread by people who don't know they have a virus.

Never open an email attachment, a disk, or a program downloaded from the Internet, without first running it through current virus-protection software such as Norton (www.symantec.com) or McAffee (www.mcafee.com).

Here are some recent viruses:

If your computer becomes infected, virus remover tools are available at www.ciac.org/ciac/SecurityTools.html and http://securityresponse.symantec.com.

Internet users also need to be aware of "virus hoaxes." Some of the early hoaxes were "Good Times," "Join the Crew," "Trojan Horse," and "Penpal Friends." The primary warning (which isn't true) was that opening an email message with the subject line of one of these hoaxes would do something terrible to your computer, like destroy your hard drive. Typically, email won't infect your computer unless there is an infected attachment that you open. However, recently there have been rare instances of certain computers being infected without the receiver intentionally opening the attachment. For example, the Batrans virus is programmed in such a way that if the attacker is sending an HTML email with an executable attachment and modifies the MIME header information in a certain way, Internet Explorer 6 on a Windows 95, 98, 98E, or ME will launch the attachment automatically unless a patch is installed on IE. (www.microsoft.com/technet/treeview/default.asp?url=/technet/security/bulletin/MS01-020.asp)

Sometimes, even longtime Internet users get caught up in a virus hoax. One interesting one was the Sulfnbk.exe hoax that warned people to delete a file from their PC. It turned out to be a normal file that then had to be restored (www.symantec.com/avcenter/venc/data/sulfnbk.exe.warning.html). A new version of this virus hoax (Jdbgmgr.exe virus) has been making the rounds recently.

Whenever you receive any virus warning, check the latest computer security bulletins from the U.S. Department of Energy -- Computer Incident Advisory Capability (http://ciac.llnl.gov/ciac). Another resources to read about virus hoaxes is Vmyths.com. (www.vmyths.com), or you can insert the name of the virus into a search engine. Always check out virus warnings before you forward alerts about them! Don't be caught by a "hoax."


Judith Kuster is in the department of speech, hearing, and rehabilitation services at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Contact her by email at judith.kuster@mnsu.edu. All of Kusteršs Internet columns are on the ASHA Web site in html format with active links (professional.asha.org/news/news.cfm), although URLs change and there is no guarantee that links from previous articles are still functional.
Kuster, JM, Viruses and Virus Hoaxes, ASHA Leader, September 24, 2002, p. 16