Privacy and SecurityThe internet's most used feature allows us to send and receive mail instantly, but as with most advantageous things in life, there comes disadvantages.
E-mail can also be used to spread computer viruses, send large quantities of Junk mail and promote scams.
Internet service providers (ISP) are, better late than never, improving the security of an e-mail.
They are introducing measures to combat viruses being sent by this method and ways of reducing spam (the computers equivalent of junk mail) you should take into consideration the level of security offered when deciding which ISP you will use.
The biggest threat from e-mail is in attachments that come with them, and to a lesser degree, those written like a web page as opposed to simple text. You cannot get a virus from a simple text e-mail, although it may contain links to a web site that will infect you.
Most e-mail services will show you what type of e-mail it is before you open it, you should take time to read their guidelines and get to know what the symbols mean, although you should note some trojans can change these icons in an attempt to fool you.
You can also check the File extension of an attachment, This is the 3 letter abbreviation after the dot on a file name, example picture. jpg has a file extension of jpg, which show it is a picture in the jpeg format.
Any attachment with an executional file extension is a programme that can perform actions and should be viewed with extreme caution. .bat .cmd .com .cpl .exe .inf .pif .scr .shs .vb .vbs .wcs .wsf .wsh are all extensions capable of carrying a virus.
Also watch out for double extensions, some virus writers will add a harmless file extension into the title, example This is not a virus.txt.pif A computer not displaying file extensions would see This is not a virus.txt, appearing to be a harmless text file.
Windows do not show file extensions by default, you have to configure it -
Windows 98 .
Click My computer on your desktop.
Click View on the toolbar and Folder options on the drop down list that appears to open the Folder options box.
Click on the View tab and uncheck the box for Hide file extensions for known file types, then click Apply and OK.
Windows 2000 and XP.
Click Start > My computer.
Click Tools at the top of the box that appears and select folder options from the drop down list to open the Folder options box.
Uncheck Hide extensions for known file types then click Apply and ok.
If you save an e-mail attachment to your computer, you can use your anti virus scanner to check it for hidden nasties before opening it..
Be extra cautious of attachments that are in a zip file. By compressing the file, it can avoid being detected on transit by firewalls and security scanners.
Worm Guard will alert you of any suspicious activity, including hidden double file extensions.
Many viruses e-mail themselves to addresses it finds in infected computers. See the Viruses section for more details, E-mails from friends that have an attachment should not automatically be presumed safe. You should also be aware that viruses are often attached to very credible looking emails, some even use the identity of actual well know and trusted companies, or are hidden behind an apparently useful or desirable application in their attempts to get you to open the attachment, and more recently, can execute themselves without you actually opening the attachment.
You should also note that e-mail can be intercepted by anyone with the inclination and equipment, so NEVER send anything in an e-mail you would not want seen, especially credit card, bank or other private details. If you need them, Hushmail will encrypt or secure your e mail so it cannot be read if intercepted during 'transit'.
There are some companies who go to great lengths to get your e-mail address. This is a saleable commodity, advertisers buy or rent lists to send unsolicited e-mails. As most I.S.P's provide facilities to have multiple e-mail addresses, utilise them to your advantage. Use one to surf the internet and register for sites or downloads, chat rooms and message boards. These are a favourite place for spam merchants to increase their 'active' lists. It is likely this one will quickly fill up with spam. Most e-mail carry a 'click here to unsubscribe' link, DO NOT USE IT if you suspect it is spam. All it does is confirm it is an active address and increases its saleable value.
Download an anti spam filter to save you the job of wading through it.
Keep one e-mail address solely for friends, relatives etc.
If receiving lots of e-mail is your thing, there are companies out there who will pay you to receive them, see our Earn Money section. It could pay for your extra security!
For a bit of fun, check out this funny e mail virus warning, Here
Use the next button to discover how big a threat viruses are to you, and what you can do about it.
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