Much hysteria has recently been caused by claims of "email viruses." Practically all such claims are hoaxes. Viruses can only work in executable code. They cannot function in text documents or data files. Viruses could execute through email only if email software had the ability to recognize and execute directives embedded within text messages. Our research has not produced a single instance of an email program having such capabilities.
It is possible that one could send an infected executable program as an attachment to an email message. Such programs could infect a system only after being executed. Simply downloading or reading email cannot invoke such attachments. We would advise that anyone receiving unrecognized executable attachments immediately delete them. Executable files are identified by ".com" or ".exe" extensions.
Another potential threat is introduced when web browsers or email readers automatically execute Microsoft Word. Because Word will recognize and execute macros embedded within certain kinds of files, it is possible to execute viruses within Word through email transmissions. We therefore advise those having web browsers or email readers with such capabilities to disable these features.
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