One of the first computer viruses was detected in 1982 but was more of a distraction than a danger. Nowadays, viruses can spy on you and your data, demand or steal your money and wipe your computer. Anti-virus programs are de facto and, as we've discussed before, you can keep yourself safe as long as you're up to date. However, there is a side-effect that, although not as destructive, can be just as massive a waste of time.
Rather than spend the considerable amount of time needed to write a half-decent (I use that term loosely) virus, some people just say it exists. They spread the word around the internet and, as other people come across the information, they spread it to all of their friends. The really successful ones spread like wildfire. Everyone thinks they are doing the good and right thing by warning others, but the virus doesn't exist. What is actually happening is email servers around the world are getting clogged up with emails about fictitious viruses and the originators work is done.
So what do you do if you receive one of these emails warning you about the latest deadly computer virus? Delete it. Do not pass go, do NOT pass it on to all your friends. Just hit Delete and move on with your life. Even if it was genuine, your friends either have an up to date anti-virus program or don't. If they do, they're safe. If they don't and they subsequently get the virus then they brought it on themselves. Hopefully they'll learn to protect themselves in the future. But realistically, the chances are the 'virus' is a hoax and a massive waste of time for all concerned.
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