on viruses

Viruses. Of the computer kind, I mean. Yuck. We arm ourselves with antivirus software and personal firewalls, and we hope for the best. If you’ve ever lost data, irretrievably, to a virus then you know the consuming fury or anguish that inevitably follows. It happened in my household years ago after we first began exploring the online world. After that, of course, we learned all about our friendly antivirus software, linked inexplicably in my mind with a certain sidekick on a particular black-and-white television program. When that software slows down operations, my husband and I are known to snarl its name in a Kramden-like voice. Hey, if you can’t make fun of your software, then you have no business mucking about with it in the first place. But I digress. So we know how to manage our susceptibility to that type of virus. But there’s another type of computer virus: the honest-truth email that isn’t. At all. It never was. The worst kinds are armed with “statistics,” sound the note of our fears, or play on our sense of outrage. In a way, they remind me of the high school sophomore essays I once graded, full of emotion and blind acceptance of what “they” say. I’ve sung this song before, but I think another verse is in order from time to time, reminding us that part of a student’s education should include application of critical evaluation. Fortunately, electronic communications, while it does provide us more than our share of garbage, also provides us tools for sorting through the garbage. If you, your students, your friends, or that really annoying person who will not stop sending those emails needs some help sorting out the good, the bad and the ugly, here are a few resources online:

  • Snopes.com – usually a trip here will not only inform but amuse
  • f-secure – helps with information about many virus-related and other hoaxes
  • Vmyths – dedicated to the “eradication of computer virus hysteria”
  • The Urban Legend Combat Kit – just what it sounds like

And a warning: Even if an email or site says its been checked through Snopes.com or another resource, go ahead and check it yourself. Sometimes *gasp* it’s a lie. C’mon. Didn’t your mother tell you not to listen to strangers with candy?

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