Attachment Safety

Attachments can be a great resource to share important information through email, file delivery services, and more. You may be aware that attachments received from people you don’t know can be potentially hazardous to your computers, email, and your stored data. With new technology comes new risk. Thanks to craftier criminals and sophisticated hackers, it’s harder to spot the real ones from the fake ones. So here are a few tips that will help you to keep your privacy safe.

Criminals are using more specific detail when creating fake messages. A LOT of information about you is available online, through social media, documents, and more. It’s much easier to create a fake email when you know the recipient. When deciding if the communication is real, the first step is to make sure the email you received is from someone you know. For example, if your friend is Kelly Smith and you see her name in the sender information, make sure it is her actual email address where the email originated from. Even if it is her address, would she normally be sending you this attachment? Her email could have been compromised. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or text your friend to confirm the message is actually from him or her.

There are fewer programs that utilize attachments, thanks to file delivery services and cloud storage. Sometimes when a malicious file is shared, the delivery is very similar to a receiving a hyperlink. For example, you will see more FedEx fake emails around Christmas because more people are shipping packages that time of year.  Or, you might receive an email with a popular viral video link. (This can happen on social media too.) The time of year or current events can be a source of inspiration for spammers and hackers.

Sometimes software like Microsoft Outlook will block delivery of an attachment that has an unusual file extension. But if it does get delivered, you can preview the attachment. In Outlook, click the arrow to the right-hand side of the attachment to activate the file preview. (Don’t double-click the attachment or it will open automatically.) Not all files can be previewed, such as some PDF’s or files stored in clouds. If you don’t recognize the attachment, or the sender, it is best to delete the email completely.

A common misconception is that hackers aren’t smart. Unfortunately, they’re getting better, and we must keep improving the steps we take to be sure we’re safe. Isn’t it worth a couple of small extra steps to keep your most personal information stays personal?