Viruses - viruses and hoaxes
Lately, lots of persons have been receiving warnings about computer viruses
sent by email and destroying hard-drives, computers, etc etc
While the threat of viruses nowadays is still a reality, a lot of recent
warnings are not real and merely practical "jokes" (or more commonly known
You will find some useful hints about
viruses on these and other pages of the Computing Centre, to make sure
that you do not send the warnings you receive to everyone you know, without
knowing for sure that the warning you have received is legitimate and could
pose a real threat to you and your colleagues(' computers).
Some general guidelines are:
In order to activate a virus on your computer, you need to run the program
or document that contains this virus. An email message is simply text, nothing
more. The text itself cannot harm your computer in any way.
The situation changes when your (mail)program will interpret the text/document
you have received, either by executing it, or by starting a program that
will interpret the document (cfr macro viruses in MS-Word). Then you are
at risk. So it is always advisable to know exactly how your programs work,
and to turn off those automated procedures that may put your computer at
There is absolutely no relation between a subject of a mailmessage and its
contents. A message titled "Good times" or "PENPAL GREETINGS" - which are
well-known hoaxes - can impose no threat at all.
Also be careful with documents that you receive from other persons or which
you download from the Internet (even WWW pages). While you may know the person
who sent you the document, it may still contain a virus.
There exist a lot of anti-virus detection programs which can avoid that your
computer becomes infected.
You can find the virus page of the Computing Centre at
So if you have received a warning about a virus from someone, please do not
send it to other persons just like that. Make sure that it is a legitimate
warning, or otherwise contact someone who may be able to give you further
advice on the message and the (possible) virus.
This way, hopefully one day, we will succeed in eradicating those "hoaxes"
from the Internet.
Thank you for your cooperation.
VUB/ULB Computing Centre - 12 January 1999