There are many of these "little treasures" about, and we've all fallen
prey to them when we were new and all. No embarrassment in naively sending
one on. I'd guess that maybe half a dozen of the gems take up most of the
bandwidth. That's what forwarding these messages on does, take up space in
the data lines and the archives slowing everything down.
Many of the pleas look urgent and very real, the dying boy who wanted to get
into Guniess with the most e-mail messages ever, countless virus "warnings"
(goodtimes/aol comes to mind) and it's easy to feel the urge to join the
community and help someone. Unfortunately, there are hoaxes about. And
so, it is usually a good idea, when ever the urge arises to send out the
alarm or plea to check it out BEFORE hitting the send button.
Go to your favorite search engine (altavista, webcrawler, yahoo, etc.) and
try to look up some of the key words... maybe "cookie" and "neiman-marcus"
or "goodtimes", or "american cancer society" and "chain letter". Maybe
you will find out it is a hoax or maybe you will validate the request. In
any case get a couple of verifications before proceding. Just don't rush
blindly to the rescue.
On the upside, it's not as dangerous as you may have heard. Viruses can
be very nasty but your chances of actually encountering one is slim.
Still, it makes good sense to back up your hard drive often, use a virus
scanner, and get an update of it every couple of months. When you do go
down it probably will not be a virus that's responsible though. Hard
drives die more often than viruses are encountered.
If you are new to Cyberspace, Welcome! And also, "Watch out! There are
tricksey things in the forest!" Not everything is what it looks like.
P.S. another word on "cookies".
There are other cookies out there on the WWW to watch out for. If you are
concerned about maintaining your privacy on the WWW, be advised that there
are sites out there collecting data about their visitors and selling the
info to advertisers. Some of these sites will install a file called a
"cookie" on -YOUR- hard drive to manage the data being collected. Some
sites will let you know others may not I'm told. You can download a
program such as "cookie buster" to give you more control over the access
some web site can have to personal information.
This is just a brief synopsis of course. You might want to find out more
about it. (and probably more accurate information too) try searching
"cookie" and "privacy".
Steps are being taken to provide citizens with necessary protection but
all is not yet in place. So, it pays to become informed.
good luck and good computing.