How Can You Protect Yourself Against Malicious Software in Attachments?

This article will discuss how attachments serve as an email threat, how to approach and assess a download with email protection software, and the best practices for email security that can prevent your business from facing data loss, significant downtime, and reputational harm.

What is a Virus? Can I Get a Virus from Opening an Email?

Cybercriminals can program spoofed emails with malicious codes that infect computer systems and servers. Email spoofing can result from compromised email addresses, altered subject headers, or misleading links in a phishing email attack that can steal login credentials and install malware once a victim opens attachments.

While you no longer risk facing an email virus after simply opening a phishing or spam email, installing antivirus software on your server as an extra buffer can be valuable. However, various types of ransomware, malware, and phishing email attacks can evade such software, so you must approach each message carefully and determine if it is a threat. Secure email accounts with Guardian Digital EnGarde Cloud Email Security, an email protection software that keeps your company's online navigation safe with constant monitoring and management for businesses of all sizes.

Can I Get a Virus from Opening an Email? Is Opening an Email Dangerous?

Maintaining web and email security requires that you analyze each email attachment and ensure it is safe to open before doing so. Cybercriminals can utilize attachments as an email gateway for attacks like malware infections, data breach, and ransomware encryptions. Understanding the potential email security risks of accessing maliciously coded downloads can help individuals better protect their data and combat such email threats in the future.

Avoid opening attachments from unknown or suspicious senders, who could deploy phishing email attacks to deceive users and access personal information and sensitive data. Verify a sender's identity to prevent these phishing campaigns from infiltrating your server. Make informed decisions regarding suspicious messages and quarantine emails that might cause harmful consequences if a recipient were to open them.

What Common Risks Are Associated with Email Attachments?

There are various types of email attacks to be conscious of when considering email attachments and whether or not they are safe to open. Here are the most common threat types that you might encounter when online:

  • Malware Infections: Cybercriminals embed malware or malicious software into email attachments so the malware can infect a recipient’s devices when users download the document, permitting unauthorized access to files and data or even account takeovers in more severe situations.
  • Phishing Attacks: Threat actors execute phishing email attacks through fake or spoofed email addresses that look authentic, tricking users into clicking on links and opening attachments embedded with malicious codes that give criminals access to identities and financial information.
  • Malware Ransomware: These attacks install various types of ransomware that can encrypt user files and hold them hostage until victims pay a ransom, typically in untraceable Bitcoin. Ransomware can result in data loss, financial issues, and general harm to a digital environment.
  • Zero-Day Attacks: If your server has unknown cybersecurity vulnerabilities, cybercriminals can utilize zero-day attacks to exploit email security weaknesses on a device’s software or Operating System (OS). Threat actors can initiate these data breaches with email attachments.

What Does BEC Stand For?

BEC stands for Business Email Compromise (BEC), a threat type that involves impersonating a higher-up in a company to steal login credentials and confidential data. Typically, these email attacks combine a spoofed email with embedded malware or phishing links that could exploit a server if opened.

Web and email security can only thrive in digital environments where employees understand the risks of dealing with suspicious email attachments. Therefore, organizations must learn about email attachments and viruses to keep their clients safe.

When is it Safe to Open an Unexpected Email Attachment? Some Email Security Best Practices

You must consider these best practices for email security when looking at email attachments to confirm whether or not they are a risk to your users. Here are a few of our suggestions:

  • Sender Verification: Check for spoofed email addresses to verify the sender's identity before accessing any attachments. Exercise caution if you notice misspelled names, unusual email address formatting, unfamiliar senders, or unexpected, unsolicited emails. Consider contacting the sender separately to confirm the attachment's legitimacy and quarantine emails to prevent other users from opening them.
  • Trust Known Senders: If a client adheres to expected content, it is generally safe to open the attachment. If you get an email from a colleague regarding a current project, chances are the contents are secure. Analyze the subject header and email address to ensure they do not result from email spoofing. Avoid opening attachments that are not relevant to the email's content.
  • Content Relevance: Analyze how the sender's communication and content align with the email's content and expected interaction with that sender. Beware of out-of-character or unrelated attachments that could indicate an email threat.
  • File Type: Executable files (e.g., .exe) or macros (e.g., .docm) can have malware ransomware or email viruses embedded into the attachment, so consider each download and whether or not you can trust it in an email's context.
  • Antivirus Scanning: Run a reputable program that can scan emails for viruses and remove them from a server before it is too late, adding an extra layer of email protection.
  • Update Email Security Software: Ensure that your employees understand the latest phishing emails and that your OS, email client, and antivirus software have updated to install the most recent security patching solutions to protect against cybersecurity vulnerabilities that cybercriminals exploit in email attachments.
  • User Suspicion: Trust your instincts about email attachments. If something feels off or suspicious about an attachment, refrain from opening the message.
  • Download in Secure Locations: Open attachments in a designated folder rather than directly from the email client. Before accessing the download's contents, thoroughly scan with antivirus software to guarantee the attachment is not an email threat. This practice minimizes the risk of executing malicious code.
  • Enhance Email Security: Add email protection software that can keep your OS, email client, and communications patched efficiently to combat any bugs or vulnerabilities that could give cybercriminals an alley for attack.
  • Delete Suspicious Content: Quarantine emails if you think they are suspicious, and move them to your trash if you are sure that you do not trust the source. This practice enhances computer security and prevents phishing campaigns from flooding your server.
  • Integrate Email Authentication: Confirm each sender is who they claim to be with SPF, DKIM, or DMARC email authentication protocols that can check the safety of a message.
  • Implement Third-Party Security: Employ a cloud email solution, such as Guardian Digital Cloud Email Security, to provide additional protection against malicious codes. EnGarde's advanced algorithms and email threat intelligence help organizations identify and quarantine emails with harmful attachments before recipients see them in their inboxes. This solution can prevent malware downloads simply by being in place for your organization.

Following these email security best practices can help users safeguard themselves against potential email threats and protect their sensitive information. Prioritizing security is vital in today's digital landscape.

Keep Learning About How to Navigate Email Attachments Safely

Email attachments can carry malware, ransomware, email viruses, and phishing campaigns that could exploit cybersecurity vulnerabilities, causing data loss, reputational harm, significant downtime, and financial issues. Updating your server frequently and implementing comprehensive, defense-in-depth email security software is crucial to maintaining safety online. Stay informed about the latest email security threats through reliable sources. Educate yourself on identifying suspicious attachments and prioritize online safety by adopting a proactive and informed approach to protect against email spoofing and other potential email security risks from attachments.

Other FAQs