Risks of opening email attachments

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E-mails are a convenient way to connect with others, however they are susceptible to attacks known as malicious software, or malware. This malware is unleashed when you open an unsafe attachment and it does various things such as making your computer perform actions that you do not want it to do.

Discover the risks of opening e-mail attachments so you can protect yourself.

Web Bugs

Most people regularly receive web bugs in their inbox. While housed in a spam message, these invisible icons detect whether an e-mail address is active so that they can continue to clog peoples' mailboxes. These bugs are difficult to prevent, but you can try deleting obvious junk messages without opening them, or set your e-mail program to view messages as text only.

Mass Mailing Worms

Mass mailing worms (also known as "e-mail worms") can spread rapidly from user to user, often before people are aware of what is happening. These worms might unintentionally come from people you know, and, once unleashed through an attachment, begin sending themselves to people in your address book. If you are not expecting something from a friend or relative, check with him before opening the message.

Computer Virus

The term "computer virus" is regularly associated with harmful e-mail attachments. Viruses commonly work their way into your operating system and begin changing the manner in which your computer behaves. For example, a user might notice that her systems have slowed down significantly, and another person discoverd that his files are tampered with and no longer operable. Regularly run virus scans on your computer to help prevent this problem.

Trojan Horse

Some attachments might cause mildly annoying effects, but others are especially harmful, such as the Trojan horse. This malware disguises itself as a helpful program to gain trust and get inside your computer. Once inside, hackers get the remote access they need to attain information for their own personal gain, such as identity theft. Protect yourself with antivirus software such as Norton to prevent any damage.

Malicious Executable

Another attachment is the malicious executable, which is known for causing serious damage quickly. These attacks seek to acquire sensitive information and render your system inoperable. Like other malware, this executable can be sent from someone you know and contain seemingly innocent subject lines, such as "You have received an E-Card!" or something similar. Again, take care not to open attachments that are not expected, and regularly run virus protection applications.