By using an up-to-date antivirus program and being careful about opening file attachments and clicking links in messages, you should be able to avoid infecting your computer with a virus from malicious e‑mail. Follow these guidelines to protect your computer:
The best defense against virus infection is to install an antivirus scanning program and keep it up to date. Antivirus programs scan incoming e‑mail for known viruses and help prevent them from infecting your computer. New viruses appear almost every day, so be sure to keep your antivirus program updated. Most antivirus programs can be set to automatically update themselves on a regular basis with the information they need to combat the latest viruses.
E‑mail attachments are a primary source of virus infection. For example, you can receive an e‑mail, even from someone you know, with an attached file that is disguised as a document, photo, or program, but is actually a virus. If you open that file, the virus will infect your computer. The good news is that Outlook and Windows Mail automatically blocks known dangerous file types. However, virus writers often find new techniques to spread their malicious software, so you should still use caution when opening attachments. If you receive e‑mail attachments that you aren’t expecting, consider replying to the senders and asking them to verify that they actually sent the attachments before you open them.
One method that virus writers use to sneak malicious files onto your computer is to send them as attachments using compressed file formats, such as .zip and .rar. Most antivirus programs will scan these attachments as they’re received, but to be on the safe side, you should save compressed attachments to a folder on your computer and use an antivirus program to scan them before you open any files contained within.
Deceptive links in e‑mail messages are often used as part of phishing and spyware scams, but they can also be used to transmit viruses. Clicking a deceptive link can take you to a webpage that attempts to download malicious software onto your computer. Use caution when deciding whether to click a link in a message, particularly if the message body seems very vague and nonspecific, such as a message reading “Check out our vacation pictures” with no information personally identifying you or the sender.