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Tips & Hints

Take care with e-mail viruses.

16 May 2001

"I only open e-mail from people I know" was one rule to avoid e-mail viruses, today the people you know are the most likely to send you a virus. Modern e-mail viruses highjack the victim's address book and use those addresses to spread. Some of the more clever viruses look at the victim’s in-box and use both the sender’s address and the mail subject line in the infected e-mail. You receive an e-mail from someone you know regarding something you sent them, in that situation it is very likely you will open it.

Even updating your virus checker is not foolproof. The Homepage virus spread across Australia, New Zealand and East Asia because it was released before the US and Europe based anti-virus vendors became aware of it. The impact was small in Europe and North America because users and software companies had plenty of warning. It is a clever virus in that the title, message and attachment appeared to be harmless.

When you receive an e-mail from someone with an attachment ask yourself if the attachment is appropriate. Would you expect a dirty joke from your grandmother? Are you expecting more correspondence about a project that has been completed?

If the attachment seems appropriate, is it the right type of attachment? In a previous article, what is in your inbox? We discussed the type of files that could be viruses. If the attachment is a pif or vbs file then you should not open it, executable files could be compressed files or joke programs but you should take care before opening them.

Virus writers are getting more cunning in fooling you into infecting your computer. You should treat any attachment with suspicion. If you are suspicious about an attachment contact the sender or check one of the virus resource sites that are listed in our links section.

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