Even though the protagonist of this new chapter in the Malware for Beginners series is no malware specimen, it does share a couple of features with viruses, Trojans and other threats: You can easily find them in your email inbox and they can be really annoying. Yes, we are referring to those scary, apocalyptic email messages…

Yes, you know, those messages that friends and colleagues forward to you -with the best of intentions- to let you know about the latest virus, or a threat so deadly that can blow up your computer, kill your dog with some mysterious radiation and turn your granny into a blood-craving zombie… And for which there is no cure, of course.

Well, seriously now, this type of email is quite frequent. Even though these emails are not dangerous in themselves and are not aimed at defrauding anybody, they alarm people by taking advantage of their lack of knowledge and fear, as they don’t really know the reality and limitations of malware.

Not so long ago I myself received one of these messages, which you can see below loosely translated:

Let’s take a look at sentences like “This is a virus that burns your entire hard disk”. They could have used the term “delete” or “format”, but obviously “burn” is far more spectacular. Of course, no virus can damage a hard disk like that. And do not forget that recommendation, This is the reason why you must send this email to all your contacts. Is there any email user who doesn’t hate this sentence? 🙂

Anyway, the scariest bit comes in the second paragraph, where you are prompted to “Shut down your computer immediately” without even opening the message, or you are said there is no fix for this threat. Finally, they even mention CNN’s coverage of the story, and Microsoft, which classifies this virus as the most dangerous ever.

To sum up: One thing is to inform users about the dangers of malware, and another one is to raise confusion and scare people for no reason with the sole purpose of achieving notoriety.

Finally, keep an antivirus installed and update it frequently. This is your barrier against spam and phishing.If you are not sure about something during the installation or update processes, don’t leave it for later. Look for the appropriate solution in the support forums available to you for any queries you might have.