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How can you tell???

These days, computer viruses almost always travel the same way. It is nearly exclusively through e-mail attachments that computers like yours and mine become infected with worms, trojans, and other viruses. Anti virus software can protect you, but what if the virus is new? Your anti-virus software might miss it. What follows are simple steps you can take to recognize an e-mail virus when you see one.

This is a screen shot of a computer virus that was sent to me using Outlook Express.

Notice the attachment has the name "snoopy.exe". Notice also that it is from someone I know very well. My best friend would never deliberately send me a virus. He does not know his computer is infected with a virus.

How To Recognize An Email Virus BEFORE Opening the Attachment.

The following things about an email message lead to increasing probability that an email message contains a virus.
  1. Is there an attachment? (There will be a paperclip icon to the left of the message.)
  2. Is the message impersonal? (No "Hi Dan!", just something like "I submit this for your perusal" or "This is cool!"
  3. Did the sender fail to sign the message at the bottom?
  4. Does the message contain bad grammar?
  5. Does the attachment have one of the following extenders: .EXE .COM .BAT .PIF .SCR .VBS .HTA .REG .ZIP
  6. Is the message unexpected, or in some way inconsistent with usual email patterns?

*It does not matter that you know the sender.*

If an email you receive fits this scenario, do not open the attachment. In the example above, if I click on "snoopy.exe", the attachment is opened and my computer is infected.

Instead, contact the sender and ask if they sent you a message. If they did not, we are at the 100% certainty mark that our email is a virus. Delete the e-mail message, and there will be no harm done to your PC, provided you did not open the attachment.


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