Virus Precautions and Hoaxes

Recent viruses can send infected e-mail messages from an infected computer and make the messages "look" like they came from you. This can be particularly confusing when a user asks you why you are sending virus infected messages when, in reality, you don't even have an infected computer.

Here is an example of how confusing these viruses can be: John, Mary, and Sue all know each other. Mary's computer gets infected with a virus and sends an infected e-mail to John that "appears" to come from Sue. John calls Sue and tells her that he received an infected message from her even though Sue's computer isn't infected. This happened because Mary's infected computer had John and Sue's e-mail addresses in the address book and then started sending forged e-mails with fake return addresses.

Observe the following guidelines to minimize risk from computer viruses and spyware and to prevent propagation of hoaxes:

  1. If you receive documents or spreadsheets through e-mail attachments, answer "NO" if asked to enable macros when loading the file (unless you are sure the sender is giving you a clean file).
  2. Do not execute any programs received through e-mail attachments unless you are sure of the sender.
  3. Keep your antivirus definitions up-to-date. Contact the IT Service Desk if you think your definitions are out of date.
  4. Scan your computer for "spyware" (programs that might track, display, or transmit information without your consent). Keep your spyware scanning software updated with the latest vendor patches. Click on the following FREE spyware scanning program: Ad-aware program installer
  5. Keep your computers updated with the latest vendor patches. Both Microsoft and Apple release updates on a regular basis.

Please bear in mind that computer viruses and computer hoaxes often rely upon e-mail to wreak havoc. Please do not be a part of this havoc by overusing the e-mail system to notify other users. System managers will generally take responsibility to notify their customers. Virus notifications should be forwarded to

If you wish to know how to distinguish between genuine viruses and computer hoaxes, a reputable source is the CERT Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon. ( click "What's New").


Other Hoaxes

Numerous hoaxes circulate on the Internet. Anytime you see a message that asks you to "tell everyone you know," then it generally means that the message is a hoax intended to overuse e-mail systems and networks. If you were to e-mail everyone you know, and they e-mail everyone they know, and so on, millions of unnecessary messages may be generated. The ultimate goal of these hoaxes is to overuse e-mail systems to the point that they crash e-mail servers or halt network traffic! These messages often promise money or good luck. Others often threaten with viruses or pending legislation.

If you receive a message that appears to be a hoax, offensive, or in violation of law or University policy, please forward the message to for analysis.