Tuesday, June 5, 2012

How Viruses Get On Your Computer

A Letter from An Anti-Virus Program Expert

This week I want to speak to you about attachments. Why, you ask? We all know not to click attachments from unknown senders, don’t we? I recently got an email from my friend Mike who works in a parts warehouse for large commercial trucks. Naturally they get a lot of shipments and notices. Mike keeps a copy of VIPRE on his work computer and has had good success with it. Some of his coworkers, however, use another brand of antivirus software. Not long ago, a few computers using this other antivirus crashed in the warehouse receiving area. The culprit: a too-trusting staff member who clicked on a malicious zip file from an unknown source. Mike said to me, "Bottom line, this is not the first time this virus has made the rounds of companies out there. Please remind everyone to take a second to scan any and all files that come in as attachments. The seconds it takes to do this saves hours of downtime."

'So Mike, here it goes. Let’s start with the basics: What is an attachment? Simply put, an email attachment is a digital file sent along with or "in" an email message. The file or files are basically attached to the email and accompany it to the recipient. Folks often share photos, videos, music and other types of documents by attaching them to emails. Typically the attachment is represented in the email by a paperclip.

'Attachments are an important way to send and receive information – but they can also be very dangerous. You must take precautions before opening one, as malicious attachments can compromise your network and put your computer and its files in jeopardy. Much of the stuff that infects computers today, like viruses, worms and Trojans is easily spread via email attachments.

Let’s say you get an email with an enticement to open an attachment. Perhaps it’s free music or a photo of your fave movie star. If you don’t recognize the sender or the content of the email seems suspicious, don’t open files attached to it. If you do, you could accidentally open a malicious program and infect your system.

These programs can send themselves to your email contacts, modify files, delete files and even erase your hard drive.

Good rule of thumb: Don’t open an attachment from someone you don’t know. Just don’t do it! Be suspicious even if you get something from someone you DO know but were not expecting an attachment from. Ask if he/she sent it to you before opening. Email addresses can be spoofed, or altered, to appear as though they originated from someone else. For example, if you get a picture from your mom and she never sends you photos, her email address could be spoofed – don’t open it! In fact, to be really sure about what you’ve got, never, ever open an attachment without first scanning it with VIPRE.

Attachments come in many file formats. GIF, JPG and TIFF formats are typically used for photos; MPG for movies and MP3 and WAV files for music/sound. But beware of combination file extensions like amy.jpg.exe. File extensions most often have just three or four letters, so a file with more could be dangerous to open. Scan it with VIPRE first.

A few additional email tips:
  • Don’t reply to emails that are requesting personal info.
  • Don’t buy anything from a spam email. You WILL regret it tomorrow.
  • Don’t click on links from your bank or anyone else asking for your personal info. Call them up to verify all requests for information you receive via email.
Larry Jaffe
Editor, VIPRE Security News

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