Viruses are a persistent problem. Every week, we see people whose computers have been rendered inoperable by viruses. You’d think we’d all know better by now, but many people still fall for the same old tricks and click on things they shouldn’t. Email is one of the most common ways for viruses to spread. Here’s how to stay safe.
Install an anti-virus program
Anti-virus software isn’t expensive and it can save you a lot of grief. There’s no real excuse for not having an up to date anti-virus program on your computer: if you’re running an unprotected system, you’re simply providing a vulnerable target for bots and spammers to exploit. If you’re unsure what to do, talk to us. We offer great deals on anti-virus tools and will help you set them up.
Always be skeptical about the source of your email. It’s not just the obvious porn or credit spam you need to watch out for. Those emails from your bank asking you to confirm your password? From Fedex telling you that you have a package to sign for? From PayPal telling you to log in and resolve a dispute? From a refinancing company telling you that you’ve qualified for a lower mortgage? From a company offering you a work-from-home job? From a weight-loss company offering you a free trial of a new drug? From a lottery company telling you you’ve won a million dollars? All fake.
Check the To: field. If you’re just one of a dozen random people on the list, then it’s probably a fake. Be especially wary if the email is going to lots of people with the same first name.
Check the From field. If the email address looks suspicious or makes no sense, mark it as junk. A home security system may be just what you need, but do you really want one from email@example.com? Why’s your bank posting from an address in Russia? And why would you reply to a job ad that appears to come from your own email address?
Check the spelling and grammar. Most spam originates from non-English speaking countries. There’s even some evidence to suggest that spammers deliberately misspell words in order to ensure that they’re targeting less educated victims who don’t know how to protect themselves.
Any email that comes from an unexpected source should be treated with extreme care, even if they look official.
Don’t open untrusted attachments
Email viruses are usually spread through attachments. They may look like a photo, a zip file, or a document, but when you open them, they install malware on your system. Don’t ever open an attachment from an unexpected source, and if you’re suspicious about a file from someone you know, ask them to verify it before opening it.
If you’re sending a file, then write your email in such a way that it’s obvious it’s legitimate. Include details that spammers wouldn’t know, and give your file a useful name that makes sense.
This, for example, is highly suspicious.
Here is the file you requested. <photo.jpg>
Try this instead.
Hi Jim, here’s the pic of Mary at last night’s awards ceremony I promised to send over for the website. Let me know if you need any others. <Mary-awards-2014-08-11.jpg>
Don’t blindly click links
The other favorite technique for spammers is to get you to click on a link to an infected site.
If you’re on a computer, then you can usually hover over a link to see the URL. If it doesn’t look legit, then don’t click it. Don’t trust the URL in the text: it may say it’s going to your PayPal profile, but the actual link may take you to another site that looks just like PayPal and will collect your login details.
The bad news is that this rarely works on a phone, so our best advice is simply not to click the link unless you’re sure the email has come from a legitimate source and is going to somewhere you want to go.
Always be suspicious, and if in doubt, mark the email as junk without reading it.