Basic Email Security For Internet Noobs

The largest internet-related medium for scams, fraud, malicious programs and time-wasting junk is, without doubt, email.


The following tips will help you avoid such pitfalls –


Though not the only source, email attachments can often be a hive for viruses.

Therefore you should never, ever, open any attachments that your computer can execute.

These include files that end with the following –

  • .exe
  • .com
  • .inf
  • .scr
  • .pif
  • .vbs

It will serve you well if you believe all email attachments to be guilty until proven otherwise.

Another type of extension to look out for is the ‘double extension’ which viruses use to disguise their nature.

For example, a file ending in something legitimate with another extension after it, i.e. file.jpg.exe.

Before opening any attachments, even those from people you think you know, scan the entire email message with your antivirus program.


The following technique will vary according to which email program you use.

Here are some tips for the one I know – Outlook Express.

Outlook Express has something known as the ‘preview pane’.

Leaving this on, which it is by default, will actually open incoming emails even though the word ‘preview’ may lead you to believe otherwise.

Automatically opening emails is bad.

Trust me.

Viewing emails in the preview pane can actually open the doors to any attached viruses.

To disable the preview pane go to ‘View’ then choose ‘Layout’.

Next, uncheck ‘Show preview pane’.

You know it makes sense.


Social Engineering.

If you don’t know what that means and what it is all about then suffice to say, you shouldn’t open emails from anyone you don’t know.


If a random stranger sends you an email saying they love you then don’t feel flattered.

Delete it.

If they really did like that profile you put on the Russian dating site then they’ll try again, or better yet phone you.

Mind you, you may want to be wary of such contact altogether.

Spammers and virus writers can get your email address from just about anywhere these days, especially so from all those hoax emails and jokes you forwarded.

So don’t do that either!

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.


  1. You’re welcome Tom.

  2. Nice beginners guide. Thanks for sharing.


  1. […] the many, many different ways that people can be scammed through them. You should also teach them basic email security.Malicious ProgramsAnother thing that they must be instructed on, is not to open any programs that […]

  2. […] don’t automatically believe every email warning that arrives in your inbox, but don’t assume an attachment sent to you by a friend, or a file you downloaded yesterday, is virus free […]

  3. […] Never open email attachments unless you are 100% certain you can trust the sender 25. Never unsubscribe from spam emails […]

  4. […] will show you how email can be used against you and what you can do to keep from getting […]

Speak Your Mind