The ends of linear genomes, whether viral or cellular, can elicit potent DNA damage and innate immune signals. DNA viruses entering the nucleus share many features with telomeres in their ability to either suppress or co-opt these pathways. Here, we review some of the common mechanisms that viruses and telomeres use to manage the DNA damage and innate immune response pathways. We highlight recent studies on the role of the telomere repeat-containing RNA (TERRA) in response to viral infection. We discuss how TERRA can be activated through a p53-response element embedded in a retrotransposon-like repeat found in human subtelomeres. We consider how TERRA can function as a danger signal when secreted in extracellular vesicles to induce inflammatory cytokines in neighboring cells. These findings suggest that TERRA may be part of the innate immune response to viral infection, and support the hypothesis that telomeres and viruses utilize common mechanisms to maintain genome integrity and regulate innate immunity.