It is often difficult to identify an infected e-mail message. The way modern viruses and mass mailing internet worms function, messages can seem to arrive from friends or colleagues. In reality most infected messages are being automatically sent by another infected machine who has no idea their machine even has a problem. Since the virus or worm pretend to be the owner of the infected computer it can be hard for you when you get unexpected email messages from them.
Here are a few important things to watch for:
1) E-mail messages from people you don’t know (including and especially SPAM). These are usually the culprits that put a virus on your computer.
2) E-mail messages from friends or family that you were not expecting (especially if they contain attachments). It is possible that these may not be from people you know, but may actually be spam messages.
3) Attachments in an email with subject lines that seem inappropriate or strange, even if it’s from someone you know. For example, an email from your retired father who is on a beach in Mexio titled “Update on system report” is suspicious.
4) You should NEVER EVER launch an attachment that ends with an .exe, .pif, .com, .bat, or .scr extension until you have scanned it with up-to-date virus scanner. Even files ending with .doc, and .xls (word and excel documents) can carry macro viruses and should be scanned. It does not matter if you completely 100% trust the person it came from. SCAN IT.
5) Never open SPAM email. Spam email is too easy to copy and use to send a nasty virus. I’m not saying spammers send viruses, but virus senders/creators do use spam-like messages to send their viruses, Trojans, and internet worms around.
6) If you’re not 100% sure the email is legitimate, call the sender and ask before opening the attachment. If you’re sure you’ve received an e-mail message with a virus, you should delete the email WITHOUT opening the email or the attachment. If it is important, it can always be resent.
7) Email is becoming the #1 method for viruses, worms and Trojan horses to spread. Take extra special care with your email, and you will not only protect yourself, but prevent yourself from accidentally becoming a spreader of virus loaded email messages.
The smartest thing to do is simply install a very affordable antivirus program (like Norton, McAfee, or PC-cillin) and set it to automatically scan all incoming and outgoing email messages and attachments. This way you protect your own computer, and make sure you don’t forward any infected messages to your friends and family.
The most important thing you have to realize is that viruses cannot get on your computer by themselves. You do have to put them there by opening files that can contain the harmful viruses. They could wipe out your hard drive, which could be detrimental for you if you have important files stored there and for which you don’t have a back up disk.
If you do get a virus on your computer, you don’t have to panic. If a virus is active in the memory, the anti-virus software may not be able to detect it. If you really want to make sure your computer doesn’t have a virus, turn it off and reboot it using a disk that you know doesn’t contain any virus such as your antivirus software’s recovery disk.