I get asked questions about opening e-mail attachments just about every day. Someone asks if they should open the e-mail that they got from a friend that claims it is the funniest, cutest, most important e-mail ever. It is a high risk low reward choice to open that e-mail. If you open the e-mail chances are that it is probably not as funny, cute or important as it claims in the subject line. The bigger problem is that it may also contain a virus or be a piece of malware. At that point you have to ask yourself. “Is it worth the risk”! If you don’t open it you may miss out on that funny, cute, important picture story or video but you will decrease your risk of getting a virus on your computer from that e-mail.
What it really comes down to is being aware of the difference in what you are getting in an email and what you are expecting. If you get an unexpected e-mail from someone with an attachment you have to ask yourself is it normal for this person to send you an e-mail with an attachment and is it worth the risk of opening it. If the e-mail is from someone you do not know then the answer is always NO! Do not open it. There is nothing in there that can be of any benefit to you. At that point it is a risk only with no reward. The unfortunate truth is that there are a lot of people out there that will play on human emotions in order to take advantage of as many people that they can. Those people are betting that enough people will open the e-mail to make it worth their while to send it out. Since sending out Spam and Malware e-mail is a relatively low cost business they do not need a high response rate to make it worth their while. We are still getting tons of spam mail so clearly they are right.
The key is to not be part of the problem. This type of e-mail is not going to go away so it is up to each individual to protect themselves as much as possible. Don’t be upset with yourself if you have opened an e-mail and had something undesirable happen to your computer or your data. It happens to the best of us. The question is did you learn from your experience so that you can minimize your risk down the road.
Sending and receiving e-mail is a part of the way we all do business or keep in touch with family and friends. So not using e-mail is not an option for many people. So the best thing to do is to be aware of the danger to opening unexpected or unknown e-mails.
There are several things that you should think of before opening the e-mail attachment even if from a friend.
- Were you expecting an e-mail with an attachment ?
- What kind of attachment is it?
- How important is the e-mail?
- Is it worth the risk of opening this e-mail?
If any one of these questions is answered with a no or an unknown then delete it and save yourself the headache of dealing with something bad happening to your computer and your data.