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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.

QUESTIONS:
  1. I got a message that sent me here. What does it mean?
  2. What is a computer virus?
  3. Do viruses only come from email attachments?
  4. What do you do when you find a virus?
  5. Why don't you clean the message and deliver it?
  6. Shouldn't you warn the sender about the virus?
  7. Why don't you let me do my own filtering?
  8. How often do you update your virus tests?

ANSWERS:
  1. 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 scanner.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

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