033: I received a virus or malware warning. Is it real or a hoax?

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033: I received a virus or malware warning. Is it real or a hoax?

There is a lot of confusion about computer viruses and malware; expert computer users are often unsure whether a warning is real or not. Here are some clues to the truth.

Did the warning come from Computing, Communications, and Information Technologies (CCIT)? Are you sure? Official announcements from CCIT can be verified by visiting the CCIT Verify webpage at http://inside.mines.edu/verify. If you see it there, it's a real warning and you should take appropriate action.

Did the warning come from a friend or someone outside Mines via email? It is relatively difficult to write a true computer virus, but anyone with an Internet connection can write and send a hoax email to propagate itself by being forwarded to successive recipients. In general, if an email warning asks you to forward it immediately "to all your friends, relatives, and co-workers," or variations on that theme, it is very likely a hoax. Also, emails with bad grammar and spelling are nearly always hoaxes or spam. Do not forward such messages, delete them.

Did the warning come via a pop-up window while web-surfing? A new and increasingly common class of virus hoax uses specially crafted web pages to deliver malicious payloads that may take over your web browser, pop-up windows with animated simulations of a real antivirus program, and generally alarm the user. In general, if at any time you are asked to click a link to "install a virus scanner now" or are asked to pay for a virus scanner, you are the victim of a hoax. Close your web browser. If the pop-up warning reoccurs, contact Mines Help Center "Helpdesk" (http://helpdesk.mines.edu) for help in removing it permanently.

An antivirus program is required on all computers that access the Mines network. All Mines faculty, staff, and students using Windows or Mac OS X may download free (to you) Symantec Endpoint antivirus software for use on school-owned or personally-owned computers (http://ccit.mines.edu/CCIT-Antivirus). All fees for this software are paid by campus Computing, Communications, and Information Services. Linux users may install the free ClamAV antivirus package, which is a part of virtually every Linux distribution.


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