Mid-Michigan Computer Consultants, Inc.
Bay City, Michigan
Sales (989) 892-9242
Support (989) 686-8860
E-MAIL VIRUS WARNINGS
We're writing these answers to the typical end-user.
Other computer types will probably find things that
they'd describe differently.
If you are one of those people,
please bear with us and see if
you agree that the general idea is correct.
Over the past couple of years there has been an increasing number of
e-mail VIRUS WARNINGS.
Most are hoaxes.
The typical warning starts with an opening that seems like an
inter-office message or a message from one collegue to another.
There is usually a huge list of addresses to whom the message
has been sent. The subject line mentions virus.
Typically there will have a statement asking the receipients to forward
the message to everyone they know.
Here's a typical message we received:
From: Edgewood Administrator
Sent: Monday, March 30, 1998 12:04 PM
Subject: VIRUS WARNING
To all Associates:
If you receive an email titled "WIN A HOLIDAY" DO NOT open it.
It will erase everything on your hard drive. Forward this
letter out to
as many people as you can. This is a new, very malicious virus
many people know about it. This information was announced
morning from Microsoft. Please share it with everyone that
Once again, pass this along to EVERYONE in your
book so that this may be stopped. Also, do not open or even
look at any
mail that says "RETURNED OR UNABLE TO DELIVER." This virus
itself to your computer components and render them useless.
delete any mail items that say this. AOL has said that this is
dangerous virus and that there is NO remedy for it at this
practice cautionary measures and forward this to all your
A virus that's not a virus
We say that these are hoaxes
but in some sense they are real .
When you analyze it,
the message itself is the "virus".
A computer "virus" is not, by definition, bad.
Instead, a virus is
simply a program that replicates itself automatically
when loaded by a computer.
It may be totally harmless.
Computer viruses have a bad reputation because some are malicious
and are intended to do harm. They will delete files or alter
a computer's settings or just crash the entire system.
These virus warning e-mail letters can are not malicious.
But the do automatically replicate themselves by causing you,
the reader, to send copies of them to all your friends who
in turn send the message to all of their friends.
That's the virus behavior .
The objective of the e-mail virus creator is to see just
how many people he can fool and just how
far his creation will spread. The prize is to find his
message documented as a hoax by the "virus police" at
Norton or at McAfee.
REAL E-MAIL VIRUSes
Although most of these e-mail messages are hoaxes,
the internet HAS made it possible to send viruses via e-mail.
For a long time that was considered impossible.
Here are some possible scenarios:
The MS-WORD virus:
It is now well documented that the latest "macro"
facility in Microsoft WORD allows one to very easily
create a lethal virus and hide it in a plain old
word processing document. When that document is opened
the macro executes and does its damage.
The WEB threat:
HTML is the language of the internet.
In general it's a "read only" entity that can cause no harm.
Web sites should be very safe.
The latest versions of HTML, however, have been empowered
Creative programmers can do some very "interesting" things
with those environments and you can hardly stop them.
The HTML e-mail threat:
The latest crop of e-mail clients all have the ability
to receive and display HTML based messages. Those
messages have the ability to open a web site or web
document in your browser, without your permission.
The threat is that they could launch a JAVA based program
that could do mischief.
The AUTO LAUNCH threat:
The old safety advice was "never open a suspicious package".
A problem is emerging now where applications launch automatically.
It is possible to browse to a web site, click on a Microsoft ACCESS
database and suddenly find the database files on your computer and
ACCESS running to process the tables. Surprize!
A whole pile of other auto launch scenarios are out there.
Essentially any file extension that you "register" with Windows
has the potential of being automatically launched without
The HTML REPLICATOR:
In the past few months there have been reports of a troublesome
"virus" in adult newsgroups.
They have aparrently been placed by well meaning people who
want to sabatoge the distasteful material.
This particular threat sets up a recursive loop by executing a
link to a site that spawns a new copy of your browser then links
back to itself. What you experience is the sight of your task bar
filling up with broswers faster than you can kill them. If you
don't get ahead of the game you'll soon overwhelm your system and
it will crash.
These are just a few scenarios.
Those folks who enjoy the challenge of finding the chinks in
the armor and breaking in will continue to do their thing.
The only true safety for you the computer user is to exercise
general caution. Make backups regularly. Stay out of the "dark
alley's" of the internet. Be observant.
LINKS OF INTEREST:
Write to MMCC Technical Support at:
600 W. Midland
Bay City, MI 48708
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