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E-mail and the Virus Threat

The following are guidelines for dealing more safely with email:

  • Install anti-virus software, keep it running (active scanning) and keep it up-to-date.  University Information Services provides free anti-virus software for all users.  Currently McAfee Virus Scan, this product also has a plug-in for Microsoft Outlook as well as being an active scanner.  This means you can scan emails and attachments in Outlook and should you open an infected file Virus Scan in most cases will detect and stop the malware.  Links for downloading software are at http://www.ucs.cam.ac.uk/support/anti-virus/pcdownload
  • If you do not have active antivirus software or the software does not work within your email client, do not open email attachments directly from the message itself.  Save any attachments to a temporary folder and scan them with anti-virus software BEFORE opening them.
  • NEVER give out your password in response to an email. No bank will ask for your account details to confirm your account or allow access, Information Services will never send an email requesting that you send your password. You should, NEVER give out your passwords to anyone.
  • Do not click on links requesting a password re-set without checking they are genuine, especially if you have not requested a password change.
  • Don't open attachments from unknown senders. 
  • Whatever product you use as an email client please ensure that you have installed all the relevant patches and you regularly check for updates.  Most Operating systems and many applications can do this for you automatically, you should set them to do so. 
  • Turn off the option to hide known extensions so that when you do recieve a file (and have saved it) you can see what type of file the attachment really is.
  • Whenever you send e-mail attachments yourself try to organise it such that you can send them compressed, for Windows systems typically as .ZIP files. This does assume the recipient has some means of un-zipping them, which is likely, but is a much safer process as the files can be scanned during the un-zip process itself.
  • NEVER send on any e-mail messages with a subject such as "Pass this on to everyone you know..." No genuine warning from a credible source will tell you to send the message to everyone you know. These are usually hoaxes and even before you act upon any such message yourself you should check out the hoax lists available on the web.
  • Please note that Microsoft NEVER distributes software updates via e-mail!