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Date Posted: 21:06:17 05/31/02 Fri
Author: WE67
Subject: Snopes.com's say on this
In reply to: Tweety 's message, "How to protect your address book" on 20:44:15 05/31/02 Fri

This trick will work somewhat, but it's not the panacea it's presented to be. Although the recommended action will help derail the spread of viruses designed to do a "send all," it will not counter the many that randomly select individual addresses from a user's address book or supplement addresses harvested from that location with those found cached elsewhere on the system. (This method also assumes that if the first entry in a list of recipients is invalid, the message won't be sent to any of the recipients -- this is not necessarily true of all e-mail programs.) Faked entry or not, those who correspond with users infected with those sorts of viruses will be just as vulnerable as they ever were.

Moreover, even those viruses whose spread has been halted via the ruse of a fake address book entry can still be doing damage to the infected user's system. Once an executable file has been opened and run, any virus it contains begins doing its dirty work. Part of that dirty work may amount to mailing itself to others, but if the virus is programmed to do more than just replicate itself via e-mail, it will still be present to wreak havoc on the infected computer. Deleting the infection-carrying e-mail will not halt whatever else may be underway.

Only a fool takes advice that amounts to altering anything on his own system without first fully understanding its nature. Though the current "helpful trick" is innocuous, there is no guarantee later versions will not circulate that instruct the credulous to do harm to their systems under the guise of helping them. Witness the May 2001 sulfnbk.exe hysteria where thousands of users geared to take whatever advice turned up in their inboxes were duped into deleting a key Windows operating system file from their home systems.

The best advice for countering viruses has always amounted to investing in good anti-virus software and using the product regularly to scan for infected files. Second best is a caution against running executable files sent in e-mail. Prurient or lustful curiousity often fuels the spread of those infections, as users who should by now know better open applications that promise videos of the McVeigh execution or naughty encounters featuring the latest media hotties.

Peek not lest you lose, not your soul, but your hard drive.

Barbara "monkey C:\, monkey lose" Mikkelson

Last updated: 18 May 2002

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