Imagine getting an email notification on your phone one day. And it’s from an unknown company for you. You become concerned and worry that opening this would infect your device with a virus. It appears critical; you have to open it, but you don’t want to risk having all your personal information leaked. Is it true you can get a virus from opening an email?
1. What is Email Virus?
An email virus is made up of malicious code spread through email messages. This code starts working when a user opens an email attachment, clicks on a link in an email message, or tries to interact with the infected email message in another way.
The most common method of spreading email viruses is to trick the user into sending a harmful message or suspicious attachment to everyone in their contact book. These viruses can be delivered and packaged in a variety of ways. Some of them can be quickly identified as malicious based on their incomprehensible subject lines, suspicious sender, or additional header data and body content.
2. Can You get a Virus from Opening an Email?
Yes, you can get a virus from opening an email. But getting a virus from simply opening an email is uncommon. Usually, you get viruses after opening attachments containing potentially dangerous files or clicking links given in the email, which can be for a phishing website.
You may access your email in a few different ways. One is a computer mail client like Outlook. The other uses a web browser to access emails, such as Gmail or Yahoo mail. Both work slightly differently, which is important for determining if you can catch a virus just by opening an email.
When you open a desktop email client, you may find that photographs sent by untrusted senders do not appear instantly. This is due to a viral class within the image itself. Those images will appear in various web browser sessions.
Your computer is in charge of downloading and opening such images, which exposes you to the risk of getting infected with a computer virus. In a browser, your mail provider’s servers are responsible for obtaining and opening those images—and doing so in a way that does not infect their servers.
Emails contain attachments in addition to images. These attachments could contain a computer virus or other harmful malware. Emails may also include links that take you to a webpage. This malicious web page may be compromised and include malicious programs or be entirely malignant.
3. Different Kinds of Email Viruses
Ransomware encrypts the data from infected computers and then demands a charge to restore it. Payment of a virtual currency, such as bitcoin, is typically sought in ransomware attacks to conceal the cybercriminal’s identity. It is typically distributed by email.
Worms: Without humans’ involvement, this type of virus can be spread. Worms frequently spread from one computer to another by consuming valuable memory and network bandwidth. This stops a computer from responding. Worms can also permit attackers to gain access to your computer.
Trojan horse: A Trojan horse is a computer program that disguises itself as a virus or other potentially harmful program. While pretending to do one thing, a trojan horse program does something malicious on your computer. Some free software downloads or an attachment in email messages are the carriers of trojan horse malware.
Phishing: Using psychological manipulation to deceive victims into disclosing login information or other sensitive information that criminals exploit or sell for nefarious reasons is a way of phishing. It usually consists of a well-known, authentic-looking sender and a socially constructed message. Many email recipients fall into this trap and believe that the mail is from an authentic source and open malicious attachments or click on harmful links.
Spoofing: Because email protocols lack efficient ways for verifying email addresses, hackers can utilize addresses and domains that look very similar to legitimate ones, fooling victims into believing that fraudulent emails they receive are from trustworthy people.
Whaling/Business Email Compromise: Business Email Compromise (BEC), also known as “whaling,” targets the higher authority in a company. In this, an attacker sends an email to someone in the company who has the power to perform a financial transaction in this type of scam. The email will be sent from the CEO or another authorized person from a well-known company and requests an immediate financial transaction, such as an advanced or pending vendor payment, wire transfer, or direct deposit.
Spam: Despite numerous attempts to filter out unwanted emails, spam remains a significant challenge for organizations. While most spam is just considered a nuisance, spam is also commonly used to spread viruses. For example, ransomware is typically supplied via spam, so all organizations should carefully examine spam for malicious intent.
Key Loggers: Criminals responsible for the most serious data breaches always employ stolen user credentials. A keylogger is one effective tool that criminals employ to get passwords and IDs. This is typically distributed by email when victims mistakenly click on a malicious link or file.
Zero-Day Exploits: A zero-day vulnerability is a security flaw that the software developer is unaware of. Hackers typically send zero-day attacks by infected emails to obtain unauthorized access and steal important information from the victim’s computer. Clever imposter exploits the security holes before the provider develops a patch.
Social Engineering: Cybercriminals employ it to gain confidence before stealing confidential data or user login credentials. To obtain access to a company’s network, a computer criminal poses as a trusted individual and engages in a dialogue. The attacker dupes the victim into providing passwords, IDs, and personal information or pushes them to complete a fraudulent transaction without their knowledge.
4. What Causes a Computer to Become Infected with an Email Virus?
Most viruses, Trojan horses, and worms are activated viruses packaged and presented in various ways. Hen, you open an attachment or click a link in an email message. If your email client supports scripting, you can get a virus by opening a message. It’s best to limit the amount of HTML in your email messages. Plain text is the most secure way to view email messages.
While some of these emails are easily identified as malicious due to shady subject lines, the sender’s name, or a variety of other alarming and suspicious content, or text or HTML documents in other languages you can’t decode, others appear spotless and harmless. In such emails, the hacker will carefully craft the messages to make the email appear to have been sent from a trusted sender. Here are a few things to check:
- Phishing – The term “phishing” comes from the word “fishing.” Many phishing scams create a sense of urgency by displaying messages such as “You have to fill this form immediately” or “Suspicious Activity in your account,” You must click on a link given in the mail to change it immediately. These emails may also appear to be from companies and services (subscriptions) that you are familiar with. Essentially, many phishing emails attempt psychological mind games, and you must be extremely cautious not to fall into such traps.
- Email attachments – When you open suspicious or automatically download attachments, you unintentionally introduce a virus into your system without disclosing personal information. However, remember that even if the attachment appears harmless and familiar, such as a text file or a pdf file, most viruses can be hidden within it in the form of malicious attachments or code. Malware and viruses can be hidden in files with the following extensions: .ade, .adp, .asf, .bas, .bat, .chm, .cmd, .com, .cpl, .crt, .hlp, .hta, inf, .ins, .isp, .js, .jse, .lnk, .mdb, .mde, .mov, .exe file.
- Hyperlink – You had no idea where it would take you when you clicked on the hyperlink. Of course, not everyone has the same intentions as we do. Hyperlinks will prove to be just as deadly as attachments, if not more so, whether it’s a covert phishing attempt or an obnoxiously obvious malicious email. It’s possible that clicking the link will take you to a malicious website or, worse yet, will immediately start the download of a virus.
5. How to Keep Your Computer Safe from Email Viruses?
- Use common sense- Using your senses to stay safe is more important than choosing the right antivirus software. Avoid opening suspicious or unfamiliar emails, let alone email attachments, and steer clear of any suspicious or promising links on the internet.
- The best way to avoid getting a virus is never to open an executable file attached to an email, even if it comes from a known sender.
- Check the domain name to make sure that the email is genuine.
- Install reliable antivirus software. Keeping up-to-date software is also important.
- Update your email clients, outdated browser, and operating systems. Software updates are critical because the bad guys are constantly finding flaws and attempting to exploit them.
- Examine the email’s source – There is a way with the help of which one can check the source of the email. For this, open your email inbox. Then, click the three-dot menu available in the top right corner. Select the show original option from the menu. Now you can see the entire HTML code for the email available on the Original Message page; copy it. Then go to Google’s Message Header app. Paste the HTML code you copied into the text box. Check if the information in your email and on the app match. Any error in the sender data or the difference in the mail will be displayed here.
- Viewing your email messages in plain text rather than HTML will help avoid viruses.
Nowadays, our computers are more valuable than anything, and the threat actors are all too aware of this. Take precautions and make sure your system remains safe! Even though you take all the precautions, it is important to remember that cybercrime will always be part of our society, and the best thing to do is to remain attentive. Don’t forget to complete all security updates and back up your data.