email viruses explained

Cybercriminals take advantage of an organization’s reliability on email services to distribute viruses and computer codes that can lead to compromised accounts and data loss. Due to email's popularity in modern-day companies, threat actors implement various types of phishing attacks into their techniques to infect devices and spread malware across others. Other email threats come in the form of social engineering attacks, which employ advanced impersonation and coding techniques that make messages appear trustworthy to victims.

Email viruses can steal sensitive information, destroy hardware, and take up time, resources, and energy your workers might need to complete daily operations. Unfortunately, security professionals identify thousands of malware variants every day. This article will discuss the basics of email viruses, how to identify and prevent attacks, and a solution Guardian Digital has to guarantee online email protection.

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

An email virus sends maliciously coded links, attachments, or downloemail virusads in messages that cybercriminals can spread to devices on the same server once a victim opens the email. Hackers could infect computers on a network if users are not careful when reading a message. Threat actors can program viruses to go out to everyone in a victim's address book following a successful compromise.

Most frequently, email threats take the form of phishing email attacks, malware ransomware attachments, or embedded links with any of the following extensions: .exe, .dll, .com, .bat, .cmd, .pif, .scr, .dot, .xls, .xlt, .docm, .pdf. Since these labels appear regularly, victims hardly think twice about the file, only to have their computer attacked.

Email viruses use spoofed email addresses and compromised accounts in social engineering attacks that manipulate a victim into trusting a cybercriminal due to the supposed legitimacy of a message. Sometimes, user naivety is all a threat actor needs, as victims could spread chain letters and virus warnings to people they know while panicking about the threat. A phishing attack tricks users into facing spam, malware ransomware, and Business Email Compromise email security issues that can have lasting, damaging impacts.

Can Opening an Email Be Dangerous?

Fortunately, email companies' cybersecurity platforms have prioritized strengthening web and email security to prevent attacks from initiating when a victim opens an email. Therefore, it is usually safe to open the message. Still, you proceed cautiously and only open attachments, links, and downloads if you are confident that the source is trustworthy.

What Types of Email Viruses Should I Know?

New email viruses and other threats emerge daily, and monitoring for these issues is critical to maintaining a secure email account. Here are the most common and threatening viruses to remember when opening messages in your inbox.

  • In boot sector viruses, malicious code attaches itself to the master boot record, and removing email viruses can be challenging, causing most organizations to reformat their systems completely.
  • During direct action viruses, users open an infected file that spreads encryption throughout a server, making files inaccessible.
  • A resident virus installs itself on PCs and can persist even following primary removal by security professionals.
  • Multipartite viruses infect the boot sector and computer files while spreading rapidly. Email viruses removal is difficult, but this type of threat is especially complicated to eliminate from a server.
  • In a keylogger virus, malicious actors install spyware on a computer to track the keys a user strikes on a keyboard to put together sensitive information like login credentials, pin codes, and account numbers. This theft can help hackers commit fraud.
  • A polymorphic virus changes its signature as it reproduces to appear harmless to users as it spreads. Antivirus software struggles to detect these email threats, meaning these attacks stay hidden for a long time while encrypting files and embedding malicious code into spam, malware, and other infections.

In What Forms Can an Email Virus Persist?

Email viruses can hide themselves effectively through other types of email attacks. Here are some of the more common email threats that viruses embody:

What is a Phishing Email Attack?

During a phishing email attack, cybercriminals utilize malicious coding to infect links, downloads, and attachments with content that can install malware that can cause data loss, compromised accounts, and system crashes. These spoofed emails can help threat actors penetrate a company further and hack other victim servers.

What Does BEC Stand For?

BEC, or Business Email Compromise, or CEO Fraud, focuses on impersonating a company higher-up while urging an employee to send login credentials and sensitive data quickly and without thinking. This social engineering attack can make victims act before considering the threat they face, permitting threat actors into systems to compromise business operations.

What is Ransomware?

In a ransomware attack, cybercriminals will encrypt data and make it inaccessible. They will insist that victims provide a ransom payment, sometimes through untraceable Bitcoin. However, victims are not always guaranteed their data back once victims pay. Threat actors will hand over the decryption code in less detrimental cases so victims can reaccess their information.

How Do We Detect Email Viruses? Can I Scan Email for Viruses?cybersec tips

Companies must develop advanced threat detection methods to combat these issues. Here are a variety of antivirus software and email security programs you can employ to prevent malware and viruses from damaging your system:

  • Signature-based detection: Traditional email protection software uses this service to identify new malware variants. It can extract file signatures and log threats in a database for future detection. However, threat actors have found ways to disguise their attacks to avoid matching virus signatures that a company has logged already.
  • Heuristics: This method focuses on examining code to detect new and unknown virus variants so it can combat issues in the future. Heuristics is one of the few programs capable of identifying polymorphic viruses.
  • Automatic email protection: Most email companies have built-in security features that monitor systems for suspicious activity. However, these offers often need to be more robust to prevent phishing email attacks entirely on their own.
  • Sandboxing malware: You can run programs in a virtual environment to see what behaviors you should identify as a threat in malicious emails in a legitimate situation. Companies use this effective solution sparingly due to its slow pace. Still, sandboxing can be very effective for organizations that utilize it frequently.
  • Data mining: Machine Learning algorithms classify file behaviors to determine what activity is malicious based on the file’s features.

Email virus software has limitations even when detecting viruses and other email security risks. It cannot always identify zero-day viruses and needs frequent updating since it only detects threats it recognizes from its databases.

How Can I Recognize and Prevent Email Virus Infections?

Knowing how to eliminate an email virus is crucial to maintaining company safety. Utilize best practices for email security to ensure online protection for you and your company. Here are a variety of tactics to implement:

  • Avoid clicking on suspicious links, dangerous executable files as email attachments, or any other download from unknown senders.
  • Integrate a malware URL scanner into your server that can check your messages.
  • Know what to do if you open a phishing link.
  • Patch mail clients, operating systems, and web browsers regularly.
  • Program your mail servers not to open attachments or HTML content immediately and set up content previews so you can see the email without entering the message. Hence, you avoid opening an email virus.
  • Verify suspicious emails by contacting the supposed sender separately.
  • Only forward legitimate emails and avoid responding to or sharing information in messages from unsafe sources.
  • Close pop-up ads using a right-click in your taskbar instead of the visible “X” in the corner.
  • Employ virus scanning software to detect threats before it is too late.
  • Act smart, not fast. Understanding how to remove email viruses does not keep you immune from making mistakes and misconfigurations if you are under the stress of an attack, so you must take your time and assess the situation.

What Solution Does Guardian Digital Offer to Users?

You cannot mitigate malware ransomware, spear phishing attacks, and zero-day exploits through only built-in security features and antivirus services. Modern email threats require organizations to install cloud email security software that is multi-layered and comprehensive for users. Guardian Digital EnGarde Cloud Email Security combats issues and maintains web and email security. Our defense-in-depth approach to security helps us effectively implement email protection solutions that help you in each of these ways:

  • Work in environments while reassuring that our security professionals provide complete, resilient, fully managed, end-to-end control of your email.
  • Prevent phishing and malicious messages from entering your inbox with adaptive, advanced antivirus engines and heuristics that can detect many malware variants and threats.
  • Utilize cryptography to secure endpoint threat protection and encryption.
  • Tight email security, flexible implementation, and elimination of vendor lock-in risks can be achieved using a transparent, collaborative development approach.
  • Continue daily operations, knowing exceptional 24/7/365 customer support focuses on online safety for you.

Keep Learning About Email Virus Protection 

In the modern digital landscape, threats are everywhere, and cyber criminals continuously seek new methods to deploy their malicious tactics. Taking as many preventive measures as possible is crucial to email phishing prevention.

  • Learn more about protecting your business from malware ransomware.
  • Improve your company’s posture to protect against attacks by following best practices for email security.
  • Keeping the integrity of your email safe requires securing the cloud with spam filtering and enterprise-grade anti-spam services.
  • Get updates on how to stay safe online against the latest email virus threats.

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