Author Avatar Examination – Question 4

by Webnme2 on Mar 14th 2010

Internet User License
Beginner’s Permit

Are You Qualified to Use the Internet?

Examination Question:

E-mail Attachments

If you get an e-mail attachment, is it okay to open it?


This is the answer section of the exam. You can use the following information for study.

1.  Yes – They are usually harmless and funny

Try Again – A lot of attachments are harmless and funny, but how do you know in advance? E-mail should be for short messages. If it is important the author can put the text or picture in the message. During a one week period on measured computer an average of 250 messages were received a day. Of these an average of 220 were spam messages. On an average day 38 carried an attachment with a malicious payload. An average of 10 a day were attempts at fraud or identity theft. That boils down to one in five e-mails being outwardly malicious.

2.  No – All attachments are bad news

Try Again – Nope – just not true. A lot of attachments are innocent and sent by well meaning people. If you get into the habit of opening every attachment thinking that the odds are in your favor, you will be a loser. You are going to initiate worms and viri on your computer.

3.  Yes – If the sender has told me a file coming

Try Again – This is a good practice and will improve your odds.

4.  No – Any attachment could contain a virus, trojan, or worm

Best Answer – Sometimes friends will send you an attachment and tell you about it in advance as a courtesy. They may not realize that the file they are sharing (one they got from 80 year old Aunt Betty who hasn’t heard about anti-virus software) also has a hacker program embedded in it. It could be a keyboard logger or a trojan. Sharing files by e-mails is dangerous and any attachment could contain malicious program code.

5.  Yes – If it looks like it is from somebody I know

Try Again – E-mail addresses showing up in the “from” line of your e-mail can be easily spoofed. Many modern viri and worm programs spoof addresses to entice others to open the message. Unless the message is digitally signed and encrypted, the “from” line may not really tell you who sent the message. You can look under View|Options in Outlook to examine the headers to see who really sent the message. Even if the message is authentic, do you trust the sender to be exercising safe computing practices? What if your friend unknowingly sends you a malicious program?

Quick Guide:

Read our Quick Guide to Smart Computing.

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About Webnme2

The author's first experience with computers was with Fortran IV. Wow that's ancient. After graduate school, he taught history for a number of years at a community college before becoming an attorney. In 1997 he changed careers to become a web developer/designer with an interest in all things web related. He currently maintains several dozen websites. This is his personal blog. The opinions expressed are his own.

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