Watch Out for Malicious E-mail Attachments!

safetyWith e-mail you can’t be too careful!

Despite the increasing role of texting and social media messaging in our lives, most of us still rely on e-mail for a range of important tasks, and often our children do too. To remain safe and secure we must learn how to be on the lookout for malicious attachments.

Perhaps half-a-dozen times or more a month I receive hoax letters from people on my school e-mail lists. These range from messages that call for help from strange places around to world to e-mails with links to web locations that claim to solve problems or help me out in some way. Many of these come from people who I consider to be web and Internet savvy, and most of the hoaxes are incredibly realistic, seeming like they just might need me to click on them. Recently a great article about e-mail security, with information that can help all of us learn more, appeared on the MakeUseOf website.                                       

MakeUseOf has good posts on a variety of topics, all helping people learn more about the web. Each piece is filled with interesting information and often unexpected tips that can help people live their digital lives more productively and securely. The site aims to help users discover and navigate to web resources and teaches how to use them more effectively.

The MakeUseOf  e-mail article, How to Spot a Dangerous E-mail Attachment, will help e-mail users learn to manage troublesome attachments, with a goal of teaching them to avoid most of the malicious materials that threaten personal electronic communication and sometimes personal computers. You can also discover more about the problems that attachments  transmit by reading a piece on viruses, worms, and Trojans at the Lifehacker website.

MakeUseOf author, Chris Hoffman, describes how computer users need to continually watch for e-mail attachment extensions. He lists the most common problem-causing file extensions, and not surprisingly there are quite a few of them. I have a similar list above my desk at work, near the base of our home desktop computer, and near the keyboard on my laptop — making it easy to refer to whenever I get an e-mail with a questionable attachment.  Keep in mind that the moment your children begin using e-mail is the time to begin teaching them and reteaching them about e-mail hoaxes, even if they use electronic mail sparingly in this social media era

I have a related quick e-mail security strategy that I use every day, usually first thing in the morning, when the list of new e-mail messages is longest. I always look at the list of my e-mails first, going down and checking out the subjects before I open anything. This gives me a moment to consider and identify problems before I get distracted by content or answers.

The MakeUseOf article also offers tips to help users think about phishing e-mails (that often masquerade as missives from a company or bank that we use), and it  also addresses the importance of keeping our PDF readers updated (to avoid security flaws). Often a message about an update opens in a window when I am concentrating hard on another important activity, and I click the “update later” box. This is not a great strategy for me or for anyone else. We cannot be attentive enough to e-mail issues and  should always install every new security update on a computer or digital device as soon as we receive notification that it is available to download..

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