Remember the old days when if you wanted to send someone a document or photos you had to put them into the mail or wrestle them through an office fax machine. Well all of that changed in 1992 with the invention of something wonderful called the email attachment first sent from the co-inventor Nathaniel Borenstein; a picture of a barbershop quartet along with an audio file with them singing about email and something called MIME. Local tech blogger Kevin Andrews is with us this morning to talk about the birth of email attachments and to give us some tips for staying safe when someone emails you an attachment.
MIME stands for Multi-purpose Internet Mail Extensions which is the technology that allows us to send attachments and ever since we’ve gone on to send a lot of them. A trillion everyday in fact in the form of documents, photos, videos, audio. That said, we now have many other means for send files to others with the popularity of social media and file sharing services. Attaching or posting photos, documents, or video to Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat, or sharing them via Dropbox or Google Drive other common replacements to email attachments.
Hackers have now had decades to perfect their craft of sending malicious attachments that trick people into opening their files. These days no type of document is safe. PDF files, word or excel documents, videos, images can all be carefully created and crafted to carry a virus to an unsuspecting person. Whether its tricking someone into thinking they have a receipt attached from a previous purchase to fooling people into thinking they have received a rebate. It is to a point where we almost need to avoid opening up attachments at all.
Tips to help improve their security when sending and receiving email attachments:
1. Make sure you have an updated Anti-virus
2. Filter junk mail:
Most email clients will have junk mail filtering turned on by default. But there are often different settings and levels of protection. Make sure junk mail filtering is turned on and check you’re happy with the level of settings. As we’ve already mentioned, you can then mark the emails you receive as “junk” or “not junk”. This helps to improve the filtering on your account by identifying senders you know to be either safe or suspicious.
3. Turn off previewing:
If your using an email program on your computer that allows you to preview emails before you fully open them. Generally this is bad idea as it removes some of your control. Spam messages often contain tracking images or “web beacons” which, when displayed – even in preview only – tell the sender that an email address is active, thus attracting more spam. Instead, turn off previewing and only open emails you know are safe.
4. Be wary of emails from people you don’t and Do know:
Be just as cautious from emails of people you do know. Many times if someone gets infected with a malicious file then that virus can send itself to everyone on that person’s email list.
5. Keep your email address under wraps:
Be careful when entering your email address into website forms, as some sites can be unscrupulous with your details, and it’s not always obvious which these are. Check privacy policies when signing up for newsletters, opening accounts or buying goods online, to find out if they reserve the right to sell or otherwise distribute your email address. Most reputable companies won’t do this, and they’ll make it clear that they don’t. If you’re unsure, play it safe and go elsewhere.
6. Use a secondary email:
Finally, it’s a good practice to have multiple emails where you can then use a secondary email address for signing up to stuff like newsletters or online forms. That way you don’t have your main email used for everything. I’d recommend using an email service from Google, Microsoft, or Apple as they tend to do a decent job filtering out junk and spam emails along with scanning all of your attachments for potential virus’.