Didja ever get an email warning about a virus that destroyed your friend's hard drive? How about an email beta-test offer from Bill Gates or AOL? Thinking about chipping in a few cents of someone else's money to save a dying kid? Well, check out these ultimate hoax - chain letter - legend - offer emails before you go any farther. And then check out this reaction to it all from my brother :-)

Now, there's really no reason why all of these should continue to tear around the 'net -- except for everyone's jumping on the bandwagon. I admit that I've been gullible myself a time or two, so this is just a polite collection of 'net resources that can help you figure out if that email you just got deserves to be passed around or just passed.

What do you care, you ask? Well, *I* certainly care, and so I think everyone else should, too. But decide for yourself. Sure, all you have to do is hit the delete key if you're not interested, right? Perhaps, but what if you start getting more junk mail than desired mail? [I'm not even going to go into the issue of unsolicited commercial email, or spam. For more info on that, try cauce.org, a good place to start.] So maybe you *like* getting lots of mail and don't care about that problem -- but what about the unnecessary panic when a fake virus warning goes out? Or what about the impact on someone else, like the American Cancer Network, when erroneous information is carelessly spread? This is one more time everyone needs to "think globally and act locally"!

Here are a few lists of sites that can help you weed out the junk and figure out what's going on. They're all worth visiting, even if they're not listed for the category that interests you at the moment; I've tried (well, a little, anyway) to list them all under the appropriate categories, but I may have missed something here or there. Do you need antivirus software? CAI used to offer a free version but that's no longer supported. GRISoft, though, now does; they figure that home users are the biggest problem for corporate networks and so they offer a basic version free for home use. Just surf over to http://www.grisoft.com/us/us_dwnl_free.php and get your copy today. Pretty cool! Running Linux like I am? Then instead surf over to http://www.f-prot.com/download/home_user/ and get your free virus (and trojan and worm) scanner for Linux personal use! :-) I have also heard of a free home version of Avast! at http://avast.com/ but have not yet tried it.

Don't forget firewall software, too. While Win XP comes with built-in firewalling (which I have not tried and on which I don't comment either way), Zone Labs' ZoneAlarm works on all versions of Windows and does an excellent job of securing your system. Surf over to http://www.zonelabs.com/store/content/company/products/znalm/freeDownload.jsp to download their free version. [They also have various add-ons in their priced versions that might interest you.] ZoneAlarm and Kerio are reviewed at http://reviews-zdnet.com.com/AnchorDesk/4520-7296_16-5513182.html as well.

By popular request, I'll also report what I know of adware / spyware / trojans. It isn't much, since my answer is not only "don't run Windows" but also "don't surf with scripting turned on", but it's a little. I hear that SpyBot Search & Destroy and LavaSoft's AdAware are the two best programs for cleaning your system and keeping them clean. URLs forthcoming when I get a chance (feel free to send them to me!), but Google certainly should be able to help you. Even more help is surfing over to http://reviews-zdnet.com.com/AnchorDesk/4520-7296_16-5510684.html where they are reviewed.