Tips for Avoiding Computer Viruses

Use care when reading emails that contain attachments

A common method of infecting computers with a virus is through email attachments. Be wary if you receive an email with an unexpected attachment.

If you receive an unexpected email attachment, even if you know the sender, do not open the attachment.

  • Verify a sender’s intention via a separate email or a telephone call.
  • Open an email attachment only after you have scanned the attachment with your anti-virus software.
  • Email programs should not automatically open or download email attachments.
  • Compare the email subject line with the email text (contents) and with the email attachment name. Do the three make sense when compared to each.

You should never open an attachment unless you can answer “YES” to all three of the following conditions:

  • I know exactly what this file is.
  • I have scanned this file with my virus scan AND I have ensured that my virus scan was recently updated.
  • I have verified the identity of the sender and their intentions via email or phone call.

Display email messages in plain text

If you use Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Outlook Express, or Netscape Mail, consider configuring the program to display messages in plain text versus HTML.

  • When an incoming email message is HTML-enabled, the chances of getting a computer virus are higher than if the incoming message is in plain text.

Beware of virus hoaxes

Do not take action regarding virus warnings that are received via email until you verify if the warning is genuine; instructions in the email hoax may ask you to perform tasks on your computer that may harm it and your data.

  • Check with an authoritative source to determine if the email is a hoax.

Beware of links to malicious websites

Do not click on a hyperlink contained in an email or instant message if you do not know where the hyperlink will take you – even if you know the email sender. The link could be to a program, a worm (type of program), or a malicious website.

  • Determine what the link is before clicking on it.