Update: This tip has been on my site for more than 5 years, but I’m editing it a little and including an email I received today that demonstrates the real world implications of my tip. Keep in mind that friends and family don’t purposely send you problems, but read on to understand exactly what I mean.
Probably the biggest single misconception I hear from computer users almost daily goes like this: “I never open anything from someone I don’t know, so I’m safe.”
I promptly offer a retort to this highly uninformed comment by saying that many security breeches occur because of an email or message (think Facebook, Twitter, etc) that appears to be from a friend or family member. The bad guys in the tech world know precisely how to manipulate the minds of unsuspecting computer users…it’s called social engineering.
And because they know that many computer users put a lot of credence into this false thought process, they work harder to make their messages appear to be from trusted people or companies.
Messages that appear to be from your friend can be used if their address was culled from the gazillion forwarded messages sent every day with exposed email addresses, or if your friend’s computer has been compromised with malware. I can cite dozens of examples I see all the time where the user didn’t think twice about opening an attachment or clicking a link from an email that appeared to be from a friend or trusted source then BAM, their computer gets infiltrated with malware.
The offending emails that appears to be from your friends or family can easily be distinguished from their real email by carefully looking at before opening it, clicking on attachments in it or especially opening any attached files:
- The subject of the mail…is it a single word? is it blank? does it sound like your friend or family member wrote it?
- The body of the mail…is there just a web site address (URL) and nothing else? any misspellings? crazy grammar? does it sound like your friend or family member wrote it?
- Does it have a cryptic attachment? Were you expecting it? Would the sender be sending you such an attachment?
Actual email I received TODAY!!
Also, keep in mind that the bad guys have also figured out how to get around pretty decent computer defenses. If you authorize a program to run…even inadvertently, newer forms of malware can tell your security software that you have okayed them for use and to ignore the bad things they are doing. The malware then runs rough-shot throughout your computer causing a lot of havoc resulting in loss of sleep, time, and money.
Be careful out there…keep your security up to snuff, but most of all keep your discerning eyes wide open and trust no one…not even those you know.
And read, re-read, and put into practice the dozens of security tips I have posted here at HelpMeRick.com. And help educate your friends and family by sending them here to read the same things you are reading! We will all be safer for the increased knowledge we share!