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Are you afraid to open email attachments? Wondering how to protect yourself from viruses and harmful malware? From ransomware, key-loggers, and other harmful malware, scammers will do anything they can to lure you into clicking on these attachments so they can infect your system.

In this article you’ll discover seven ways to protect your business and employees from viruses and malware.

What makes email attachments so dangerous?

Email attachments continue to be one of the most effective ways for scammers to get malware on your computer. According to a recent Mimecast study, there was a 535% increase in malicious email attachment scams over the last quarter. Do not despair. The good news is there are still steps you and your employees can take to ensure you are as safe as you can be from these types of attacks.

 How to Protect Yourself From Email Attachments

When you see email attachments in your emails, before you consider opening them, run through this checklist to reduce your risk of getting infected:

  1. Review the sender – Always look and see who the sender of the email is.This can help you determine whether or not the email attachment is malicious or not. If you hover your courser over the email sender, you can see if the sender is really who they say they are. Spoofing is a common way to get you to think an email is from someone it isn’t. For example, criminals may spoof an individual mailbox with an email that looks something like this. (“johndoe@123abccompany.com” vs. “johnnydoe@123abccompany.com) It is important to note that an attachment can be malicious even if you know the sender! If your sender has been infected in any way, a malware program may send you emails from their email address which is actually an email that has been disguised as an email they sent.
  2. Beware of Phishing scams – Phishing lures victims into divulging login data or other sensitive information that criminals sell or use for malicious purposes. These types of scams are not just from phone callers. May times, a scam will come through your email asking you to share sensitive information to legitimate resources. For example, criminals will pose as or mention legitimate colleagues, departments, business partners, or even superiors in emails to get you to click on internal links that are included in emails.
  3. Recognize extensions – It is important to check out the file type of any attachment you receive before opening it. Malware and viruses can be hidden files in a variety of extensions. In the file, these are the letters that come after the period in the file name. For example, a file with the .exe file extension is a Windows program and should not be opened. There are also other potentially dangerous file extensions that can run code which include: msi, .bat, .com, .cmd, .hta, .scr, .pif, .reg, .js, .vbs, .wsf, .cpl, .jar and more.
  4. Use an anti-virus scanner – Install software on your computer yourself or with your MSP provider that will safeguard you against the latest malware or virus attack. Make sure the software is up to date and functioning properly. This will lower your vulnerabilities considerably.
  5. Stop automatic downloads – Don’t allow your email or computer to automatically download attachments. You can control this setting yourself and reserve the right to choose whether or not you want to download information that is being sent to you.
  6. Type in correct URL directly – Don’t click financial links in emails.  Instead, type the correct URL into your computer browser yourself and go directly to the genuine website. This should be the case for important transactions such as banking or any reputable company that is asking you to open or download an attachment. You best bet is to go to their secure site directly and access your personal account information there.
  7. Delete when you are in doubt – It is better to delete an email and attachment that you are unsure of then to inadvertently open it.

When it comes to email attachments, you should exercise extreme caution and assume the worst. You should never download an attachment unless you have a good reason to do so. If you’re not expecting an attachment from someone, treat it with caution. If you’re not sure what something is, it is best to avoid opening it. What are you doing to protect yourself from viruses and other harmful malware?