Email Anti-Virus FAQ
Here at Hawaii OnLine we want to do everything we can to make your
Internet experience as safe and as enjoyable as possible. To that end,
one thing we do is scan all mail that passes through our servers for
hidden viruses. We've done our best to answer any questions you may
have below. If you don't find your answer here, though, please contact
our Technical Support
and we'll be happy to assist you.
- I got a message that sent me here. What does it mean?
- What is a computer virus?
- Do viruses only come from email attachments?
- What do you do when you find a virus?
- Why don't you clean the message and deliver it?
- Shouldn't you warn the sender about the virus?
- Why don't you let me do my own filtering?
- How often do you update your virus tests?
I got a message that sent me here. What does it mean?
Someone sent you an email that was "infected" with a computer virus.
Hawaii OnLine's virus scanner blocked it and sent you a notice about what
happened. If you recognize the sender, we recommend that you contact the
person to inform them of the virus. It's possible that he or she is
unaware of the problem. The notice you received includes a section with
some header information from the blocked message which may be useful in
tracking down the source of the virus:
Date: When the virus was detected.
Sender: The original sender of the infected email. Note that some
viruses forge the "From" header when they send mail, so this is our best
guess at who it really came from.
Subject: The subject of the infected email.
Virus name: The name of the virus signature that was caught by our
What is a computer virus?
Similar to getting sick in the real world, here in our virtual
world you can come down with a bug. A computer can become infected
with hidden code that attaches itself to other programs and then
duplicates itself whenever those programs are run. We call this a
computer virus, and they are spread in many ways. Over the last
decade, they have become most widespread by making use of email
programs to send themselves to everyone in a computer's address book.
Do viruses only come from email attachments?
Most viruses are transmitted via attachments to email messages. These
attachments are usually executable files which can wreak havoc of all
kinds if double clicked or otherwise run on your computer. However, this
is not always the case and nowadays some viruses can replicate themselves
by automatically creating and sending new email messages that contain
binary code directly in the body of the message, not as an attachment.
Your computer can become infected by such viruses just by reading the
email. Other viruses are distributed through macros used by such programs
as Microsoft Word or Outlook.
What do you do when you find a virus?
In short, we quarantine it and notify the recipient that he missed a
message because it was infected.
Why don't you clean the message and deliver it?
Sanitizing a virus-infected message and delivering what's left forces
us to act on too many unsafe assumptions. There's no guarantee that
the original message has any valuable content. Actually, it seems more
likely that the entire message would have been forged by the virus so
there wouldn't be anything worth sending once the virus is removed.
The process of removing the virus could also ruin the integrity of the
original message, and we don't want to risk damaging your email.
We've decided that the safest, most reliable, least intrusive course of
action is simply to stop the virus from spreading across the Internet as
soon as we see it and to alert you about it. We suggest that if you get a
notice about receiving an infected message, you should contact the sender
and tell them what happened. Help them track down the source of the virus
and ask them to resend the message once their system has been cleaned.
Shouldn't you warn the sender about the virus?
Because viruses can duplicate and spread so quickly, and often fake their
sending email addresses, we can't alert every infected email sender that
they've passed a virus our way. To do so could easily overwhelm the
sender with mail about virus alerts, which would only escalate the problem
for them, as well as fill our own outgoing queues with undeliverable mail
to all those forged sender addresses. So we just quarantine virus-infected
messages when we see them and notify the recipients that they missed a
message from someone because it was infected. That way the recipients are
protected from the virus but they know that someone may have been trying
to communicate with them.
Why don't you let me do my own filtering?
We'd be happy to let you do your own spam filtering, but antivirus
checks are just as important for our own computers as they are for
yours. When widespread viruses flood the Internet, we need to stop them
as soon as possible, before they can fill your mailboxes to overflowing
with infected messages. To make sure your legitimate email is always
delivered as quickly and as safely as possible, we must do our part to
make sure the bogus stuff doesn't get spread across the 'Net.
We do recommend that you purchase and install an antivirus program for
your own computer, though, then use it regularly to scan your entire
computer for infections. Our scanners only search email that goes
through aloha.net, but viruses can be spread through other mailboxes
that you may use or by means other than email. Even then,
there are always new forms of viruses and it's safer to have more than
one kind of program keeping guard for you.
How often do you update your virus tests?
Virus scanners use a "signature database" with a list of patterns that
uniquely identify viruses. Our scanners update their databases every
night to keep up with the latest knowledge on possible infections.