Today, the internet can be dangerous due to the innovative nature of hacking. Operating systems and applications continually get security updates because hackers are always searching for new ways to access your system and steal your data. However, one of the first steps in protecting your digital identity is being very safe with your email account. Specifically, you need to be careful of which email attachments you open. One of the best practices in this regard is to download the email attachments to your desktop before you open them. In fact, Microsoft Outlook 2016 requires you to do this now – they will not allow you to open an attachment directly from the application unless you change the internal settings. Here’s why.
Malware is Spread Through Email Attachments
Hackers have developed two ways of getting you to download and open infected attachments. First, they use sophisticated programs which are able to guess weak passwords, giving them access to potentially thousands of email accounts. This means you could potentially receive an email from a loved one or friend with dangerous email attachments, and you might not think twice about opening them since you trust them. The second way hackers get you to open infected email attachments is by sending emails posing as big-name corporations (also known as phishing emails) or banks claiming there is something wrong with your account. Opening the attachment will infect your computer with malware or a virus. Fake UPS and FedEx notifications are very common.
Downloading Attachments Before Opening Them
When you receive an email with an attachment that you’re not quite sure about, the best way to reduce your risk is to download it to your desktop first. This allows you to scan the file with your anti-virus software before opening it to check to see if the file is uninfected. Be especially careful of any attachments with files that seem to have two file extensions! A file extension is the three characters after the dot in the file name that indicate what kind of file it is. Some of the most common ones that people use are .GIF, .MP3, .DOC, .XLS, .EXE, and .MPG. It is impossible for a file to have two file extensions, so whichever one is listed last is the actual file format. Most of the time these files that appear to have more than one file format are corrupted and infected with a virus, so you should be very careful with these email attachments.
Although it’s highly NOT recommended, you can change your settings in Microsoft Outlook 2016 to open attachments directly from an email. Please keep in mind that this is not advised for the safety and security of your personal data. However, you can find out how to change the settings here.
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