Merry_Christmas.exe – Is it Safe to Open that Attachment?

As Christmas nears, your IT support staff might well be getting a little on the twitchy side. Christmas may be the season of good will to all men and women but it can also be the time when we are more prone to cyber-attacks. Email messages suddenly increase, many arriving with enticing attachments that cry to be opened – digital cards, funny videos, quirky images, and links to interesting pages.
If your staff haven’t been told what not to open and what could be unsafe, then your entire system may be at risk. Clicking on the wrong link or opening the wrong message can breach your IT security even if you have the latest anti-virus software installed. Nowadays it pays to have a regularly updated strategy in place when it comes to information security and keeping your business safe, especially as the Yuletide season approaches.
Here are our three top tips for making sure you don’t open something you shouldn’t this Christmas.
Provenance is Important
Check who that email is coming from. If you’ve never heard from them, chances are you don’t want to click on that link. However, before you go and open that mail from your business associate, even if a message is from someone you know, you still need to proceed with a little caution. A number of viruses, when activated, get hold of your mailing list, sending the offending message out to all your contacts, pretending to be you or your friends.
What Kind of File is it?
Check the file extension. This is the three letter extension that comes at the end of a file name such as .doc or .docx for a word document. Fortunately, there are only a limited number of these that are considered to be completely safe such as .jpeg, .jpg, .gif and .png for images and .mpeg, .mpg, and .wav for video and audio files. These are the extensions that most people tend to send when they attach a file to something like an email and you should be wary of any attachment type that doesn’t fall into these categories.
Your IT support department will, of course, remind you that other extensions may well have infections embedded within them. This can happen with easily recognisable ones such as .doc, .xls and .txt – documents, text and excel files which are regularly used by colleagues and business to share work related information.
Be particularly wary of files that have a double extension such as image.gif.exe. The important part of this is the .exe at the end which is an executable program designed to install a virus on your computer.
Save and Virus Check
If you are not sure that a file you have been sent is safe to open, then don’t click on it, even if it comes from a reliable contact. Save it to your desktop and then check it over with your virus software, deleting if it is designated as malware.
It is important for SMEs nowadays to have a clear and robust internet security policy in place that every member of staff is aware of. This needs to be supported by up-to-date anti-virus software that is fit for purpose and can handle the latest viral threats. Taking control of your internet security means that you greatly reduce the risk of becoming a victim to hackers, keeping your business safe by protecting your staff, customers and that all important reputation.

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