Question: I keep getting these emails warning about this “Olympic Torch” virus that is supposed to come in email claiming to be a E-card from a friend or family member. I hear that the virus is supposed to cause irreparable damage to my computer to the point of burning the hard drive out. Is this true?
Answer: While there are a lot of particularly malign and troublesome viruses out there on the internet this particular warning about a virus that causes the hard drive to spin out of control and burn up causing permanent damage to the unsuspecting victim’s computer is fortunately not one of them. Despite the fact that oftentimes these emails will use a link to snopes.com as a validating reference or as proof, it is in fact, a hoax email, sort of the modern day equivalent of those stories that used to be told around the campfire involving teenage couples, hockey masks, and serial killers with hooks where hands used to be. As will all urban legends this one has a small kernel of truth in it, in that there are several variants of viruses and internet worms that come in the form of emails and instant messaging services that will infect using links or attachments. Unlike this mythical computer obliterating virus however, these viruses are tailor designed for another purpose entirely, monetary gain: these viruses are made to harvest credit card numbers, bank accounts, and other personal information for the purposes of identity theft and then to take control of an infected computer, using up the bandwidth for broadcasting hundreds if not thousands of junk emails advertising for anything from vacation deals, discount medications, and ancient Chinese or African herbal remedies or more virus laden mails to infect other computers and start the cycle anew. These viruses and worms are the real threats to your computer and personal information. As a simple rule, the best practice is to simply delete any and all emails with attachments that are not expected or come from someone you are not absolutely sure you know which will prevent any of these viruses from infesting your system. As for what to do with the Olympic torch emails when they come to your email? The best thing to do when this particular email comes across your inbox is to simply send it along to your trash folder or deleted items or read it and enjoy it for what it is, an imaginative piece of scary fiction.
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