-- Vendor-Independent Anti-Virus Information and Education Site --
By Bill Grogg
Virus hoaxes are relatively common and have received more than their share of publicity and hype. Most of the recent hoaxes have concerned e-mail viruses and information on them has been widely circulated through e-mail forwarded around the Internet.
The e-mail virus hoaxes generally carry the same theme: Reading an e-mail message with a particular title will cause your system some major damage. Many concerned computer users have been taken in by the hoax and in an effort to help others have forwarded the message to a wide list of recipients. This helps add to the hysteria, not to mention wasting valuable network bandwidth with a flood of unneeded e-mail.
It can be readily determined that these are hoaxes by remembering how viral infection occurs: Executable code must be run. The simple act of reading a text message does not run any executable code in the message (see below for information on HTML messages). The e-mail reader simply displays the text contents of the message. A virus-infected executable file (or document containing a macro virus, or dangerous script file) could have been attached to the message, but the virus won't have a chance to activate until the attachment has been extracted and executed. That is why it is a good idea to scan attachments received in e-mail after extracting them, but before use.
Of course, recent history has confirmed that reading certain kinds of e-mail CAN cause an infection. Again, text messages are not executed, but HTML-formatted e-mail can contain HTML script which could be harmful. It is a good idea to disable the running of script in HTML messages through the configuration of your e-mail client.
Some currenly spreading hoaxes include: