Once you’ve gotten the hang of emailing, you’ll find that it’s a great way to send attachments of photos, documents, etc. to friends, family, and others. But attachments can also be an easy way for someone to send you a virus. Any time you open an e-mail attachment, there is a risk. Knowing how to recognize safe attachments and which precautions to take can help you protect your computer and most personal information.
Here are a few tips that will help keep you and your computer safe.
1. Check the sender.
Whether there’s an attachment in the email or not, messages from unknown senders can be risky. Often scammers will use safe-looking links or attachments in emails (See: How to Recognize Phishing) to steal your information. Your safest bet is to not open emails from those you don’t know. Now, if you know your daughter Linda is firstname.lastname@example.org and you’ve been expecting pictures from her, the attachment is probably safe. However, a word of caution: Even emails from people you recognize can contain viruses. If it looks suspicious at all (Is the subject line empty? Does the person’s name and email address appear as it normally does?), contact the person and ask them about the message before you open it. (See: Ways to Spot a Virus)
2. Check the file type.
Knowing which files are safe and which may be questionable can also help you when opening an attachment. The file type is at the end of the attachment name. For example, “thebeach.jpeg” is a .jpeg file, or a photo. In most cases, attached photos will have one of the following: .jpeg, .jpg, .bmp, .gif while documents generally have: .txt, .doc or .pdf. The files to watch out for include: .Exe, .Com, .Vbs. These are executable files, which means they run a program. As attachments, they are generally a risk and can cause problems. You can always search for a file type to learn more about it if you’re not sure what it is.
3. Keep updated antivirus protection on your computer.
While your family and friends won’t send you a virus on purpose, it does happen. In those cases, antivirus software can help you before there’s a major problem. Most email providers (Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, etc.) have safety features that scan your e-mail attachments for viruses before you open them. But having antivirus software on your computer can also help you scan for problems and risks. Click here to learn how to set up antivirus protection.