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SALT LAKE CITY -- There's a computer virus flooding e-mail inboxes this week, and you may not even know you've got it. Experts say that virus, or ones like it, are right now in one out of four computers.
As a photographer, Daniel Silva spends a good portion of his day on the computer and he considers himself pretty security savvy. So when he started getting odd e-mails from people on his contact list -- no subject and just a link in the message body -- he deleted them without clicking on anything.
All of the sudden, though, he started getting e-mails asking him about a link he'd sent.
"I got a response from one of them: I clicked on it, did I send it to everyone?' Yep, you probably did," he said.
XMission Vice President of Operations Grant Sperry says the virus is likely an attempt to take over your computer, making it into what's known as a botnet, a computer that can be controlled remotely by someone else.
"Potentially a quarter of people listening to this have their computer actually on a botnet and they don't realize it," Sperry said.
Many victims of this virus claim they only opened the e-mail, they never clicked on the link, and Sperry says that's possible. Once spammers have a list of contacts, they can send out messages that appear to be from anyone on that list. So, to the untrained eye, it looks like you've sent something malicious even though you don't have the virus.
"They're doing this to make money. They get these botnets and then they charge to send out spam," Sperry said.
In another trick, the spam programs don't actually use the e-mail software to send messages. They don't show up in your sent mail folder.
Sperry suggests keeping your computer and virus protection up-to-date, that can help you avoid a virus or get rid of one. You can also always do a fresh install of your operating system or run spyware.
Even though it's not a guarantee to avoid all problems like this, Perry says the best rule is never click on any links until you've verified they are legitimate. Spammers can make a link look safe, but really send you somewhere else.