A Brief E-Mail Primer
Some Thoughts on E-mail Virus Hoaxes
There is a computer virus that is being sent across the Internet. If you receive an e-mail message with the subject line "Good Times," DO NOT read the message, DELETE it immediately. Some miscreant is sending e-mail and files under the title "Good Times." If you receive this file, do not download it. It has a virus that rewrites your hard drive, obliterating anything on it. Please be careful and forward this mail to anyone you care about.
Heeding the last sentence, the sender will most likely have forwarded this warning to a few dozen friends, relatives, and colleagues. That's awfully thoughtful of him, but there's only one problem: This message is a hoax! There is no such virus, and the message is just some prankster's attempt to yank the Net's collective chain.
"Good Times" is the oldest (it's been around since 1994) and most famous of the e-mail virus hoaxes. It is not, unfortunately, the only one. While writing this book, I received many "warnings" forwarded by concerned readers about an alleged e-mail virus called "Win a Holiday." Other hoaxes include the "Penpal Greetings" virus, the "Deeyenda" virus, and the "Irina" virus. All of these are variations on the "Good Times" theme.
Other e-mail hoax annoyances take the form of chain letters. Some of these messages claim to be from malicious hackers who will do something nasty to your computer if you don't forward the message to ten of your friends. One of my favorites is the "Bill Gates $1,000" hoax, where a message allegedly from Bill Gates tells you to forward the message to everyone you know and, when 1,000 people have received it, you'll win $1,000.
The ironic thing about all this is that these messages act as a kind of virus themselves. With thousands of people naively forwarding tens of thousands of copies of the message all over the Internet, they end up clogging systems and wasting the time of those people who must refute their claims.
The Internet offers many sources of information on these virus hoaxes. Here are three of the best:
The artwork displayed throughout this primer is Copyright © Judd Winick.
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