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Guidance for new Internet users
A guide to protecting yourself against computer viruses, spam, hoaxes and frauds

On this page
Computer viruses | Adware and Spyware
Hoaxes and spoofs | Spam | Scams and frauds
Chain mail | Petitions
Avoiding viruses | Information and links

If you're new to the Internet the information on this page will save you (and others) hours (and maybe years) of grief.

Computer viruses

Viruses are a fact of life for computer users, and virus writers depend on good people's inexperience, helpfulness, curiosity and naivety. A virus is a computer program which arrives on your computer and which, when activated, destroys your system by deleting important files. If your computer becomes infected with a virus you are likely to lose all your files and will have to rebuild your computer as if you'd just taken it out of the box.

A worm is a type of virus which may not delete any files but instead raids your email address book and replicates itself to every address therein, including new email addresses composed using entries taken from your email address book.

Most viruses and worms arrive as attachments to an email which contains an appealing subject line or intriguing invitation or request in the body of the email. When you open the attachment, the virus is automatically installed and activated.

These days most viruses cloak themselves by using names raided from the infected computer's address book. Therefore if your email address book contains the addresses

fred@bloggs.com
jane@doe.org

the worm will send copies of itself to

fred@bloggs.com
fred@doe.org
jane@doe.org
jane@bloggs.com

and probably disguise the sender's email address so that it appears to come from a beguilingly legitimate email address with a common prefix such as "help", "info", "webmaster" "system_manager" and so on.

Details of viruses can be found at http://securityresponse.symantec.com/avcenter/vinfodb.html

Note: computers that come bundled with "free" anti-virus software often contain out-of-date versions of anti-virus software that don't have all the latest virus definitions. When you purchase anti-virus software you often obtain one year's free upgrades of new virus definitions, which the software obtains and installs automatically for you. Make sure you update with the latest virus definitions at least once a week - you may have to configure this time interval manually.

Adware and Spyware

These are programs which install themselves on your computer and then send your personal information to the originator. Adware tends to be more annoying than malicious, although it may set you up for lots of spam emails and unwanted junk advertising. Spyware is more sinister in that it will search your computer and transmit to the originator items of personal information, such as addresses of web sites you've visited or your credit card details. Most people are unaware that adware and spyware is installed and running on their PC.

Hoaxes and spoofs

Also called an urban legend, a hoax is an email which claims to contain important information such as details of the latest virus, a hunt for a lost child, or an appeal on behalf of someone claiming to be terminally ill. These types of hoaxes contain dire warnings- often in CAPITAL LETTERS and with lots of exclamation marks!!!!! and exhortations that "you must do this" and "don't break the chain or else bad luck will befall you" or "AOL / Microsoft / God is tracking this email and will pay 20c for every copy your forward". Don't be fooled. Before forwarding anything, check with http://securityresponse.symantec.com/avcenter/hoax.html and http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org/ and http://www.snopes.com/. Popular hoaxes doing the rounds include sulfnbk.exe and jdbmgr.html (teddy bear icon).

Spam

Spam is the name given to unsolicited junk emails advertising products and services you don't want from people you don't know. They range from loans, insurance, so-called health products to less tasteful offerings of penis enlargement, breast augmentation and pornography. Spam emails and viruses are often indistinguishable. Many spam emails have a "Remove" or "Unsubscribe here" option - these are also fraudulent because when you click on them all they do is confirm to the sender that your email address is active and can be sold to other spammers. Never respond in any way to any spam email - if you do you encourage more spam

Scams, frauds and phishing

Some spam emails contain scams and frauds, the most common being an urgent pleading, usually from Africa, for you to assist with the transfer of millions of dollars from some alleged dead person's account. These are all frauds and you must never reply to them. If you do, your email address will be harvested and sold to other scammers, thus guaranteeing lots more emails of this type in future. There is no money, except yours, which the fraudsters will cleverly and plausibly relieve you of in increasing amounts. This scam  is often referred to as the Nigerian fraud (named after a section of Nigerian law). [More | More]

Sometimes you will receive an email which purports to come from a bank or financial institution. The email asks you to login in to the web site and confirm your username, account number and password details. The web address or web site may look legitimate, indeed the fraudsters may have stolen the original web site HTML and created their own version. This type of scam is called phishing. Legitimate banks and financial institutions NEVER ask for your password by email. Under NO circumstances provide this information in the manner requested.

To see the ten most common types of Internet scam click here.

Chain mail

Chain mail is a form of spoof spam containing promises such as "if you forward this email to five people within five minutes your life will immediately be blessed with five rewards", or they may contain the converse with warnings such as "if you don't pass this email to ten people today you will suffer ten years of bad luck". The only bad luck you are likely to incur is the wrath of all the people whose email in-boxes you clutter by forwarding these junk emails. Delete them, don't propagate them.

Petitions

Some petitions are valid, some are less well intentioned. Bear in mind that most petitions circulated in emails will never be sent to their intended recipient, and if they are, will probably be accorded little or (more likely) no credibility, thus wasting everyone's time and effort.

Avoiding viruses

If you connect to the Internet you have a responsibility to always have antivirus software running on your computer and to ensure that it is updated with the latest virus definition at least once a week.

NEVER connect to the Internet without having up-to-date antivirus software running on your computer. The cost of up-to-date antivirus software is small compared to the grief you will cause to yourself and to others by choosing to allow your computer to become infected.

ALWAYS USE a firewall. This piece of software protects you against viruses, prevents unauthorised access to your computer from hackers and those people and programs trawling the Internet for suitable information and victims, protects your private information (eg credit card numbers), prevents adware and spyware being installed on your computer, and protects your from the daily flood of spam emails. If everybody used a firewall it's likely that 95% of viruses spread could be eliminated.

NEVER open an email attachment without having scanned it first with antivirus software. Even your friends will (usually unknowingly) send you viruses in email attachments.

NEVER reply to any email that contains a virus. The email address of the sender is either fake, fabricated or stolen and the person from whom it appears to originate probably has nothing to do with sending it. Virus and worm writers know that inexperienced Internet users will instinctively hit the "Reply" button and fire off an indignant reply to the address constructed by the virus accusing that person of having sent the virus, thereby generating much pointless conflict. Bullies obtain gratification from encouraging others to engage in adversarial interaction. If you do reply, all that happens is that you are likely to make a fool of yourself. Nothing pleases bullies more than to see the conflict they have started escalate into mutually-assured destruction. 

NEVER respond or reply to any urgent appeal to delete files that the sender claims to be a virus. The originator is encouraging you to delete valid files and thus get you to damage your own computer.

Further information

Don't believe everything you read online: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3151595.stm

Confused by geek speak? Common net terms explained: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4413155.stm


Finally, and for your amusement, here's an email that a dear friend forwarded to me...

NOW EVERYONE SAY IT WITH ME...

I will NOT get bad luck, lose my friends, or lose my mailing lists if I DON'T forward an e-mail.

I will NOT hear any music, see a taco dog, or see a cool pop up screen if I DO forward an e-mail.

Bill Gates is NOT going to send me money.

Victoria's Secret doesn't know anything about a gift certificate they're supposed to send me.

Ford will not give me a 50% discount even if I have forwarded my email to more than 50 people.

I will NEVER receive gift certificates, coupons, or freebies from Coca-Cola, Cracker Barrel, Old Navy, or anyone else if I send an email to 10 people who don't know who I am anyway.

I will NEVER see a pop up window if I forward an email ... NEVER!!!!

My phone will not MYSTERIOUSLY ring after I forward an email. 

There is NO SUCH THING as an email tracking program, and I am not STUPID enough to think that someone will send me $100 for forwarding an email to 10 or more people.

There is no kid with cancer through the Make A Wish program in England collecting anything. He did when he was 7 yrs old. He is now cancer-free and 35 years old and DOESN'T WANT ANYMORE POSTCARDS, CALLING CARDS or GET WELL CARDS!

The government does not have a bill in congress called 901B (or whatever they named it this week) that if passed will enable them to charge us 5 cents for every sent email.

There will be NO cool dancing, singing, waving, colourful flower, character, or program I will receive immediately after I forward an e-mail. People are just trying to talk me into doing it to make me look like a fool.

The American Red Cross will NOT donate 50 cents to a certain individual dying of some never heard of before disease for every e-mail address I send this to. The American Red Cross RECEIVES donations, they don't donate!

And finally, I WILL NOT let others guilt-trip me into sending things on to my friends for fear they will think I am not their friend ... or by telling me I have no conscience or that I don't believe in Jesus Christ!! If God wants to send me a message, I believe the bushes in my yard will burn before He picks up a PC to pass it along ... but even if it does come by email, HE will send me one at which point I'm SURE I will know it will be from HIM. AND if He does, I'm sure He will care enough to delete all those annoying forwards inside it!

Now, repeat this 4 times to yourself until you've memorized it and then send it along to at least 5 of your friends before the next full moon or you will surely be constipated for the next 3 months and all of your hair will fall out!!!

Forward this to everyone in your address book. I'm sure most people, like myself, would rather receive this 25 times than not at all!!!!!!!


Where now?
Lots of information and ideas for tackling bullying including the legal aspects
Action Home Page | Action to tackle bullying
Guidance for employers on policy development
Bullying and the trade unions | Bullying and the law
Case law on bullying, harassment, stress and personal injury
Court judgements in cases relevant to bullying
Long v. Mercury Mobile Communications Services
Hatton Barber et al: 16 practical propositions for a personal injury case
Right to be accompanied | The need for risk assessment
High Court injunction to prevent unfair dismissal | Obstruction to justice
Bullyonline action forum for validation and re-empowerment
UK Dignity at Work Bill | Swedish law on Victimization at Work
Bullying and human rights | Waters v. London Metropolitan Police
Barber v. Somerset County Council
Zimmerman: retaliation in the US courts
Bullying history: books, articles and publications since 1992
How to lobby your MP: example letter and summary of inadequacy of UK law
Amicus Campaign Against Bullying At Work (CABAW)
Tim Field's written submission to the Dignity at Work Bill debate
Getting another job after bullying | How to recover from bullying
Setting up a bullying survivor support group | Sample support group constitution
Using the search engines to find other sites on bullying etc
Dealing with viruses, worms, spam etc
Designing and building your own web site
Advice and guidance for new Internet users
Tim Field's book Bully in sight validates the experience of bullying and
defines the injury to health caused by bullying and harassment

Home Pages
The Field Foundation | Bully OnLine
Workplace bullying | School bullying | Family bullying
Bullying news | Press and media centre
Bullying case histories | Bullying resources
Stress and PTSD
Action to tackle bullying | Related issues

Success Unlimited
Books on bullying and psychiatric injury