1. Never open attachments…unless – Never open attachments in email unless you know who sent them – for sure. Don’t assume because the from address says auntie-millie that it came from auntie Millie. Botnet Trojans are notorious for picking up a random email address and putting it in the “From” line. If auntie Millie doesn’t send attachments and suddenly she’s gone hog wild – call her up and ask. Do not ever open an attachment from an email unless you’re positive you know what it is and who sent it. Seems simple enough but, believe it or not, we get thousands of mails every week from botnets – networks of infected home PCs, just like yours, firing off hundreds of emails every day, and those PC owners aren’t even aware of it. We used to tell you to save the attachment and scan it first, but things have gotten so bad that you need to suspicious of any attachment that comes via email – unless you were expecting it and you are positive of its source.
2. Turn off your preview pane – If you’re using Outlook Express or Windows Mail, please turn off your preview pane. Spammers often send images in email trying to sell a product or service – the images serve two purposes – sell the product and track the email to see if you opened it. If you view it in the preview pane you’ve opened it – even if you think you haven’t. You are going to miss uncle John’s pictures from Honduras. If you see an email from uncle John you can double click it to view it. Don’t tell spammers you’ve open their spam by leaving your preview pane on. Turn it off and double-click any emails you want to view. It’s easy to turn off the preview pane. In both Outlook Express and Windows Mail just click “View” on the toolbar, click “Layout” and uncheck “Show preview pane”. It’s that simple.
3. Don’t click links in money-related emails – EVER – Most identity theft occurs because people too often assume that because the “From” address says Bank of America that it’s from Bank of America. It may well be from your bank or financial institution or credit card company – but if it is, you can be positive they’re not going to ask you to “click here to verify (or change) your password”. Never. Never. Never. If you click links in these kinds of emails, odds are you’re going to end up on a site that is an exact clone of the real site. And, you could, if you’re not thinking give up your password and username to crooks.
Other spam or mass mailings may ask you to click a link to download a greeting card or software – if you click these links and download from these kinds of emails you could end up being part of a botnet and, therefore, part of the problem.
Think before you click. Seems rather elementary, but like we said before, we get thousands of emails every week from home PCs just like yours, that are part of a botnet because someone clicked a link or opened an attachment — without thinking. Or even worse, clicked a link and gave some criminal their financial account password(s) and user name(s) and had their accounts drained or their identities stolen or both. Don’t rely on software to protect you! Think before you click!
4. Always use the BCC line when sending an email to multiple recipients – If you put 4, 5, 6 or more addresses in the CC line, each one of those people will see the email addresses of all the others. Not only will they know how many others you sent that email to, they’ll know their email addresses as well. This is not good! Be courteous, use the BCC line and don’t expose everyone’s email address to everyone else you send mail to. You wouldn’t like someone doing that to you so don’t do that to anyone else. OK?
5. Always put something in the subject line – Put something in the subject line even if it’s “Just wanted to say hi!” or “Recipe for Mongolian Hog Brains”. Putting something in the subject line is just common courtesy. Show others you know proper email etiquette – don’t send emails with blank subject lines.