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Why "Don't Open Attachments" Doesn't Work

Larry James

I'm sure you have been warned, "Don't open attachments sent by e-mail from people you do not know!" Right?
Larry James

The problem with that advice is that people are occasionally going to open attachments, especially something that promises to be fun and break up a busy day, like viewing a Parrot screensaver. (Watch out for this one!)

In addition, many viruses come from friends and colleagues - that's why they were in someone's address book to begin with. Many of the viruses and worm attachments - once clicked on - are designed to steal the e-mail addresses from an address book and then send the e-mail with the virus attachment to everyone on the list.

It's better to give people some strategies for identifying the "look and feel" of a virus.

Remind your friends: Viruses don't begin until an attachment is clicked. So users get to open the e-mail without risking spreading the virus.

You should be suspicious if:

  • there is no personal message from your friend. . . it's obviously directly forwarded with no customization, and

  • the language in the body doesn't sound like your friend or collegue. For example, Parrot has, "Hehe hey, look at this screensaver :)." Does your friend write like this, using emoticons?

One strategy that works for me is to have a "very private" e-mail address for accepting attachments from friends. They are instructed to not add this e-mail to their address book and to send me an e-mail to my regular e-mail address giving me a "heads up" that an attachment is on its way.

Paranoia? Lots of extra effort for the sender? Perhaps! However, when I was hacked twice with a 72 hour period, I decided to turn off attachments.

Works for me!

I would be interested in hearing from you about your strategies to guard against viruses, etc.

Also. . . read No Attachment Required. About a nasty e-mail bug.

There's No Excuse for E-mail Rudeness! - Let's face it. On occasion we all get e-mail that get's under our skin. Charlene Rashkow has written several rules of thumb that you should employ before responding with an outraged, nasty e-mail.

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