Computer viruses

Computer viruses are becoming more common and are often contained in attachments to emails. They are particularly damaging to PCs and can automatically be sent from your computer, once infected, to email addresses in your address book. If you open an attachment or .exe file that contains a virus it will immediately infect your computer. Your computer cannot, however, be infected by a virus by just opening an email message.

Computers on campus are regularly updated with anti-virus software. You should ensure that your home computer has appropriate anti-virus software that is regularly updated and you should only trust email attachments from users who also use appropriate and regularly updated anti-virus software. Norton antivirus software is available for download from the USydNet site and you should download the monthly virus definitions file to maintain your protection.

To avoid infection with new viruses you should be very careful when accessing email attachments. Do not open Word or Excel attachments from senders you do not recognize or trust; and do not open files with the suffix .exe. Most recent email-related viruses attack PCs. Mac users are still vulnerable to Macro viruses in Word or Excel documents and can unknowingly transmit viruses to PC users.

The following sites give detailed information about computer viruses: is the information site for a manufacturer of anti-virus software. is IBM's virus research site, with links to research papers on computer viruses.


Netiquette refers to a basic code of behaviour governing the use of the internet. Communicating via the computer screen is very different to face-to-face communication and what you type and send is a permanent record that can be saved, retrieved and forwarded to others. The normal rules of courtesy should apply even more stringently to the way you communicate in cyberspace, as you cannot gauge the response of the recipient as you can in normal conversation. Remember that you must agree to abide by the University of Sydney Code of Conduct, which includes the statement that 'you must not offend, harass or threaten another person, nor store or transmit material designed or likely to do so'.

Because of the convenience of email, lots of people forget that email correspondence should be bound by much of the same etiquette as normal letter writing. Remember when you send an email that it is polite to address your recipient appropriately (e.g. Dear Sarah/Mr Elliott/Prof. Hinde) and end the message with a salutation (e.g. Cheers/Regards/Love, as appropriate) that includes your name, and surname if you are corresponding with a member of academic staff. (There may be several Stevens in your class!) It is also polite to use correct English in your emails. If you expect the recipient of your email to take the time to read your message, then you can take the time to proofread the message and make sure it is understandable. A badly written email can leave a lasting (and usually poor) impression on your reader. Many email programs now have automatic spell-checking so it should not be too difficult to correct your spelling.

You should respect the time of your colleagues (and strangers!) and refrain from sending large amounts of unsolicited mail. You should be fairly certain that a person wishes to or needs to receive your messages. Don't extract email addresses from messages you have been sent to add to your mailing lists. You can keep your own mailing lists private by using nicknames for address lists or using the Bcc: (blind carbon copy) function. Check the Help pages of your email program.

The following sites offer recommendations on appropriate use of the internet: (Advice on using email, mailing lists and newsgroups, with an extensive bibliography) (This is an abbreviated version of the previous site)

Chain letters

DO NOT forward chain letters or any emails that exhort you to 'send this message to as many people as you can', even if they sound like humanitarian gestures. These messages are hoaxes that are started by malicious users with the intent to clog up email servers. Refer to the link on the Generic Skills Website for more information.

Virus Hoaxes

The majority of warnings you will receive about computer viruses will be hoaxes. If you receive a virus warning you should send it to your Internet provider for verification. DO NOT forward unchecked virus warnings.

Refer to the following Websites for more information:

Urban legends and other hoaxes

There are thousands of urban legends circulating on email networks, with dire warnings about foods, medicine, and just plain wild stories. DO NOT forward these stories, as they are equivalent to computer viruses and also circulate incorrect and sometimes damaging information. The site has an archive list from their 'folklore' newsgroup, which debunks some of these.

Also: - Snopes is one of the more authoritative sites on this kind of hoax. For the truth about asbestos in tampons, 'toxic' aspartame, or the subject of the latest scare campaign, use the Search function. - is a site that is run by the US Department of Energy. (CIAC is their Computer Incident Advisory Capability section.)


Spam is unsolicited advertising that is sent to email addresses. DO NOT send these emails on to others. There are many sites that give information and offer services to help filter spam from your mailbox. If you are getting unsolicited emails from known sources you can set up filters within your email program to automatically trash messages from specified email addresses.

DO NOT open spam emails; this action can be detected by the spammer, confirming that your email address is valid, and your address will be sold on to other spammers. If you inadvertently open a spam email, DO NOT reply to a message that gives instructions on unsubscribing, as this also confirms that your email address is valid. We recommend you do not use the Preview pane in your email browser as spam messages written in html or with embedded images can alert the sender. Either set your Preview preferences to receive messages only in plain text, read your messages while off-line or turn off Preview. You should also disable any setting that automatically opens the next message.