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WSJ, November 15, 1995
America Online to Warn Users About Bad E-Mail
Vienna, Va. -- It's a case of myth becoming reality in
the digital age.
America Online Inc. plans to warn subscribers of a
damaging piece of electronic mail that could corrupt
their computers' hard drives.
The existence of the destructive file follows a long-term
hoax that has been dogging AOL for months. Last year, a
user began circulating a warning about a "Good Times"
virus that would crash users' PCs if they so much as read
the piece of electronic mail. AOL, the Federal
Communications Commission and the Pentagon repeatedly had
to label the alleged virus a hoax.
But the new file is all too real. The destructive file,
attached to electronic mail, has been circulated through
the on-line service and the Internet. Receiving the
e-mail wouldn't harm a user's computer, but trying to run
the attached file, known as AOL Gold or "install.exe,"
could render a hard drive inoperable, an AOL spokeswoman
The company said it has notified various
computer-security agencies about the program. AOL also
plans to post a letter for its four million users
strongly urging them to forgo "downloading attached files
from people you don't know."
Security experts fear that such Trojan Horses will
proliferate as programs become easier to attach to
electronic mail and the use of networks grows.