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Staff Training and Efficient Company Operations - Part II

E-mail Use and Abuse. Viruses are infecting my computers!

Nov 25, 2003

Part 2 – E-Mail Use and Abuse!

By Greg Richburg, MCSE
Netricks, Inc

Viruses are infecting my computers!
Today I walked into my office at 7:30 AM and logged into my PC just like I do everyday. I opened my mail and sifted through about twenty-five messages; not too busy, it was midweek. I rarely get spam in my work mail, and d only three messages that I recognized immediately as 'no good.'

I recognize spam!

I have friends who love to send me junk mail, jokes, links to this or that, fun stuff, and sometime the forbidden… CHAINLETTERS! So I d immediately five more messages.

I don’t recommend this kind of e-mail activity in office environments. It wastes time and can potentially cause security problems.

The rest was work related. I had twelve miscellaneous correspondence messages from clients, a couple progress reports regarding current projects, and three automated responses from servers informing me of viruses in networks that I manage.

Luckily, all of the networks that I manage are running state of the art virus protection software, and these messages were just informing me that the anti-virus server detected and quarantined a few infected files.

- For the sake of this article we will use the term “virus” loosely to describe any unwanted program that spreads from computer-to-computer, including Trojans and worms. For more information, see article “Blaster, Welchia…” in the September 2003 issue of Business Street. -

How did the files get infected?

Regardless of any anti-virus software out there, your network is still prone to virus attacks due to use and abuse.

E-Mail abuse is the number one cause of virus infected networks. I urge all business owners, managers and network administrators to educate their users in order to help prevent the spreading of these potentially dangerous nuisances.

• You want your employees to work, not play.
• You want network security, not breakdown.
• You want operating efficiency, not wastefulness.

You can have it.

Train your employees how to use e-mail and this will lead to an increase in all three of these areas.


1. Never use your business e-mail address in sign-up forms.

This will cause your address to be placed in lists that marketing companies purchase and spam will soon follow.

2. Teach your employees to recognize spam and potential virus carrying e-mail letters.

Deleting letters before opening them will greatly reduce the risk of spreading the virus, if it contains one. It is also a wise choice to turn off e-mail program features like Outlook’s Preview Pane and other application features that automatically open new mail. With a little help, anyone can recognize spam and virus carrying e-mail letters just by their subject line. Stop the problems before they start!

3. Do not execute attachments contained in e-mail letters that you are not absolutely sure about. And learn how to read extensions.

I know people in all levels of employment that just click, click, click right through every e-mail letter they receive. Opening up every attachment you get is almost a surefire way of infecting your computer with something.

Do you ever wonder what those three letters are after the document name? “.exe, .pif, .jpg, .doc…” Those are file extensions and they tell you what kind of file you are about to open. As a rule of thumb, never open a file with a name like “something.doc.pif” that you receive in an e-mail. That format is showing a double extension and trying to cover up what kind of file it really is.

There are loads of tricks to the trade, and methods in the madness. So train your users, and as time goes on, you will be one step ahead of the game.

Learn what you can.

Greg Richburg a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and the owner of Netricks, Inc. a network consulting, web design and hosting company located in Fresno, CA. Visit Netricks at http://www.netricks.com.

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