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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 Information & Technology Solutions (ITS)? Are you sure? Official announcements from ITS can be verified by visiting the ITS Verify webpage at 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 ( for help in removing it permanently.


An antivirus program is required on all computers that access the Mines network.