It’s hard to find something coherent to say about computers after the events of this week. I was driving into town at 7 am on Tuesday when I heard the news on the radio. As one who lived and worked in both New York City and Washington, D.C., the news was difficult to fathom. Like everyone else in America this week, no words can adequately express my deep sorrow for the victims and their loved ones.
Many of us are riding an emotional roller coaster and may be feeling helpless because we feel we can’t do anything about these horrible events. In the aftermath of the disasters, profiteering, rumors, hoaxes, and spam, are already circulating on the Internet. So, perhaps I can offer a little useful advice on that topic.
First and foremost, do not donate to any organization that you don’t know anything about. Support reputable organizations. We’ve all heard of the Red Cross, and they were among the first to use their Web site for updates on the disaster (www.redcross.org). They will continue to need donations of blood in the weeks to come and have information on how you can help. Government sites are also a good source of reputable links. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (www.fema.gov) has posted many notices and updates and has information on ways people can help the victims. Portal sites with news feeds such as Yahoo (www.yahoo.com) contain a wealth of information as well.
If you receive an alarmist e-mail that says something like, “please forward this to everyone you know,” it may well be a hoax. Often called “Urban Legends,” various permutations of hoaxes have circulated around the ‘net for years. Right now, one is going around that concerns (completely bogus) “predictions” from Nostradamus, for example. Before you let your emotions get the better of you, check one of the following sites to see if the e-mail has been identified as a hoax: About Urban Legends and Folklore: http://urbanlegends.miningco.com/library/blhoax.htm, Hoaxbusters: http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org, Symantec (owner's of Norton AntiVirus) hoaxes: http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/hoax.html, CIAC (Computer Incident Advisory Capability/Dept of Energy) Virus Hoaxes: http://ciac.llnl.gov/ciac/bulletins/h-05.shtml, vMyth (truth about viruses and hoaxes): http://www.vmyths.com.