Protect Your Computer Through Email
To protect your computer online you need to learn some email habits that will greatly reduce your risk of getting a virus or other malware on your computer. Malware is any kind of malicious software such as viruses, worms or spyware that has the intent to transmit data that you did not intend, or which tries to control your computer in some way. Most viruses and malware today do not damage or destroy data like in the past. Malware writers and data thieves can make much more money by using the data they can find on your computer. You can see why it is necessary to protect your computer.
Never Respond to Spam
Never respond to spam messages. If you did not sign up for the newsletter, or mailing list that you are getting messages from, then any response to them tells them that your address is owned by a real person. Spammers randomly target addresses and often don't know if it is a valid address until someone responds to them. They collect known good addresses and sell them to the highest bidder to get you on more spam mailing lists.
Emails that are offering you donations or asking for help by using a heart tugging story is a direct attempt to find a sympathetic and helpful person. These scams are run by social engineering masters who will often con you into giving them a small sum of money, or some personal information, for the promise of an exchange of a large sum of money. Not only do you need to protect your computer, but you need to protect your financial information and personal well being from such malicious attacks.
Never Click on Links in Email
Do not click on links in emails that require you to log in to get information. An example of a malicious email that trying to get you to click on a malcious link is one that pretends to be from your bank or a service like PayPal. The email will tell you something is wrong with your account and ask you to log in using the link in the email to take care of the problem. The link will take you to a malicious website that appears to be the website of your bank. By typing in your username and password to their site you are giving them the information they need to access your account at your real bank. This is called a phishing scam. It is trivial to make a copycat website that appears to be your banking institution. To protect your computer and bank account, you should type the bank's web address into your Internet browser to eliminate any possible phishing attack.
Never Open Attachments
Never open email attachments from people you don't know. The best practice is to never open email attachments from people you do know unless you know the attachment was intentionally sent. If your friend sends you a message with an attachment you were not expecting, you should write them back or call them and find out if it was intentional. Some viruses spread by attaching themselves to emails and sending themselves to others in the user's address book.
If you do receive an attachment that you feel is necessary to open, you should save the file to your hard drive and then scan it for viruses before opening. After the file is saved to your drive you can right click on it and choose "Scan file for viruses." The wording may vary a little bit depending on your antivirus software.
Protect your computer from email based attacks by following these simple practices. Make them habits and you will have to worry much less about online attacks on your machine.