Why do people want to open viruses

I work in systems and our rule is whenever you get an email and the virus shield goes off you delete the email.

Today we got a copy of the “I Love You” and the new girl in our office says “Mark what should I do.” I said “delete it,” then added "Now watch in 5 seconds I am gonna get 20 calls from others saying “Should I delete the email?”

Now it’s understanable the new girl wouldn’t know what to do but everyone else does.

Why do people want to open emails with viruses in them?

Nice way to bury a BBQ Pit thread with a question. :slight_smile:

I have two hypotheses:

  1. ignorance. especially with the “i love you” virus, who wouldn’t want to see who loves them? If people aren’t familiar with the virus, they have no reason to suspect anything, especially since the email comes from someone they know.

  2. wanting to be part of the crowd. I think that computers are a mystical marvelous machine to many people, and they hear all kinds of stuff happening to all kinds of people, and they want to see what it really feels like.

I’d have to go along sethdallob’s ignorance hypothesis. Whenever I get calls to clean up viruses, they’re usually one of two types of calls:

  1. “Ummm, I did something and now my computer is acting all strangely.” Did you open any unusual files? “Maybe. Yeah, I might have.”

  2. “I think I opened a virus.”

The former type of call usually comes from people who aren’t particularly tech-savvy and don’t really understand what a computer virus is, how it works, or how it spreads. Hence, they don’t understand why an annoying warning message dialog box has opened informing them that they should not open a message containing a funny joke or an interesting love letter.

The latter type of call usually comes from people who do understand what a virus is, but, for some reason don’t connect the warning message with “don’t open this virus file.” Sometimes they’re in a hurry to scan through their email and aren’t really paying attention. Other times, they’re curious about what the file is (“oh, it’s not really a virus, I don’t think. My best friend wouldn’t send me a virus”). And so on.

Add to this the fact that antivirus programs don’t always catch all viruses immediately and you end up with a decent chance for a computer virus to spread.

More generally, people probably want to open viruses because of curiosity. Three of us once spent a very pleasant afternoon with a Michelangelo infected floppy and a couple of old PCs and some virus software - it’s fascinating to toy with, and has a tantalizing hint of danger to it.
And, I have gotten virus-laden email, and went to the sysadmin about it, for three reasons, none of which I now feel stupid about:

  1. Maybe deleting it will cause trouble. I had other email from within my company’s Lotus Notes system that somehow became corrupted (it had hundreds of “body” fields instead of the usual one, for starters). When I opened it, it caused the WAN server to crash and stopped email and other services to several thousand people in more than a dozen plants in two states for about an hour. So they got the system up again, and then rather than opening the email I tried to delete it. This crashed the thing again and helped the corporate IT group figure out that the email sent to me was causing it. So, deleting email can definitely cause trouble in at least some cases.
  2. Maybe the system people would like to be aware we are getting virus laden email.
  3. Maybe for some reason I don’t know about, I should do something else, like “don’t touch anything”. If I don’t ask, how do I know?

A factor is the social engineering aspect of viruses. They’re designed to make people curious, and to look like they have been sent by a trusted source. People get used to friends sending them cute little animations via e-mail, so think nothing of opening a file sent by their friend.