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A Quick Guide to Email Security

25 November 2016

Why is understanding emails an important part of Cyber Security?

To put it simply, emails can be dangerous. They are one of the more basic and most effective ways of entering the enclosed networks of most companies. While effective anti-malware practice can prevent attachments from causing devastating effects, a lot of Spam and malicious emails rely on unwitting employees to gain access to important and sometimes vital aspects of a business’ core systems.

Whilst reading the contents of emails is usually safe, the attachments within can pose a real threat. One of the most effective methods of preventing malicious activity is education. This guide covers what to look out for from email attachments, the sender and the content of the email as well as tips on good email practice.

So what should you look out for with Email Attachments?

The Attachment Extension

One of the easiest ways to identify whether an attached file is dangerous is by the file extension (the last few characters after the “.”, which will tell you what type of file the attachment is. It is essential that no files with an “.exe” file extension are opened, as it indicates the attachment is a Windows executable program which could provide unrestricted system access if installed. .exe files aren’t the only dangerous file extension, other potentially dangerous file extensions include:

.pif
.application
.gadgete
.msi
.msp
.com
.scr
.hta
.cpl
.msc
.jar

There are many more and the list goes on forever. If you don’t recognise the file format – Do Not Open. Your IT team should never send you executable files, let alone any external parties. It is also important to understand that it is possible for the sender to change the extension of a file in order to disguise its true identity.

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