Monday, November 21, 2005

Beware of file attachments

If computer viruses are a weapon of digital terrorism, email is the delivery system and file attachments are the bombs. Regardless of whether the sender intentionally or accidentally infected the attachment, the result is the same once you open it. For this reason, you should never open files attached to your email messages unless you know the sender and are expecting the file. We can practically guarantee that your PC will contract a virus eventually if you fail to follow this advice.
In cases where you receive an expected file attachment from a trusted source, you should still exercise caution. Save the file to a storage drive and scan it for viruses before opening it. If you don’t have an anti-virus utility (of course, we don’t recommend taking this risk), try to determine the file extension before opening it. You should avoid file extensions that are particularly prone to viruses. As we previously mentioned, you can’t merely look at the file name because hackers may manipulate it so the file appears to be something other than what it actually is. To get to the bottom of things and discover the real file extension, you must set your PC so it displays file extensions for hidden file types.
In the event that you have to send a file attachment to someone, consider sending it in a format that is less prone to viruses. Send your text documents in a format using the .RTF file extension rather than the .DOC extension, for instance, or use the .CSV rather than the .XLS file extension and format for spreadsheets. It also isn’t a bad idea to call your intended recipients in advance to tell them you’re sending an attachment. That way, they’ll have less to worry about when they receive it.

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