Email Security: 10 Steps for Dealing With Dangerous Messages

 
 
By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2012-05-24
 
 
 

Attachments From Unknown Sources

Don't open them. The messages often are loaded with language designed to encourage the recipient to open the attachments, which could be loaded with malware that automatically downloads onto the computer. The basic rule of thumb: If you don't know the sender, don't open the attachment.

Attachments From Unknown Sources

Unknown Links

The same rule applies to links in emails from sources unknown. As with attachments, scammers are looking for ways to convince users to download the malware onto the systems. Clicking on the link could send the user to a compromised or malicious Website, which could then download the malware. If you don't know the sender or don't trust the link, don't click on it.

Unknown Links

Beware of Official-Looking Emails

Often hackers will try to convince users to open the attachments, click on the link or give up personal information through emails that look as though they are coming from trusted organizations, like banks, government agencies or online retailers, like Amazon.com. Users should not click on any link or send any information unless they are absolutely sure the emails are legitimate. Users should run their cursor over a link to see where it actually leads.

Beware of Official-Looking Emails

Scan for Viruses

Users should get into the habit of scanning all attachments before opening them. Doing so could avoid a lot of headaches, not only for the user but also for their contacts. Often the malware in attachments will get into the system and spread via email attachments that are sent to contacts in the address book.

Scan for Viruses

Virus Protection

Users and businesses should ensure systems have comprehensive virus protection. According to eleven, an email security software vendor from Germany, there are two considerations to take into account when getting virus protection. First, users should get an email security solution that detects both viruses and spam, and that includes new, previously unknown viruses. Secondly, the solution should be up-to-date, despite the annoyance called by virus scan updates. In addition, the company says, users should frequently scan the entire system.

Virus Protection

Don't Forward Spam

Forwarding spam only helps spread the viruses that could be residing in them, putting their contacts and others at risk. It also wastes time and takes up much-needed bandwidth.

Don't Forward Spam

Beware the Web 2.0 Risks

Most social networks, including Facebook and Google+, offer users their own email and instant messaging services, and users essentially have no way to add in their own security measures, the folks at eleven said. If a user accepts files via these social networks, they should make sure to scan them for viruses before opening them.

Beware the Web 2.0 Risks

JavaScript and HTML

Scammers increasingly are using an HTML page integrated in the email and containing JavaScript, according to eleven. The JavaScript will automatically download malware when the email is opened. This method eliminates the need to convince users to click on a link or open an attachment, but can only work when the email program allows HTML and JavaScript. Users should check whether their email client allows them, and JavaScript, in particular, should always be deactivated.

JavaScript and HTML

No Sharing

Users should never share their personal information, which could be picked up via phishing schemes. This includes everything from responding to emails looking for that information to confirm accounts, logging into accounts using untrusted or unsecure computers, or giving out passwords.

No Sharing

Strong Passwords

Users wanting to make it a little more difficult for cyber-criminals to get into their email accounts need to use strong passwords. If hackers can't get into a user's account, they can't take addresses, private information or other personal data.

Strong Passwords

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