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Potentially Harmful Files & Attachments

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Many users get into trouble by opening file attachments to their e-mail, downloading files from file sharing programs or downloading files from websites. Unless you know what files are potentially harmful and which ones are considered safe, you risk infecting your computer with viruses, adware and spyware.

You can determine if a file is potentially harmful by looking at it's file extension. Microsoft in all of it's wisdom hides the file extensions from view by default. The first step is to change some settings so you can see all files and their extensions.

In Windows 98, go to Start->Settings->and click Folder Options. Click on the View tab. Under the Hidden files section place a bullet on "Show all files". On the next line, remove the checkmark from "Hide file extensions for known file types". Click OK.

In Windows 2000 and Window XP go to Start->Settings->and click Control Panel. Double click the Folder Options icon. Click on the View tab. Under the Hidden files and folders section place a bullet on "Show hidden files and folders". On the next line, remove the checkmark from "Hide file extensions for known file types" and on the following line remove the checkmark from "Hide protected operating system files (Recommended)". Click OK.

Now you can see a file's extension. It's a dot and 3 letters. Some file extensions are a dot and 2 letters. Microsoft's Outlook program considers files with the following file extensions to be potentially harmful:

.ade, .adp, .app, .bas, .bat, .chm, .cmd, .cpl, .crt, .csh, .exe, .fxp, .hlp, .hta, .inf, .ins, .isp, .js, .jse, .ksh, .Lnk, .mda, .mdb, .mde, .mdt, .mdt, .mdw, .mdz, .msc, .msi, .msp, .mst, .ops, .pcd, .pif, .prf, .prg, .pst, .reg, .scf, .scr, .sct, .shb, .shs, .url, .vb, .vbe, .vbs, .wsc, .wsf, .wsh

So, unless you know that a file with one of the extensions above is safe, then you shouldn't open the file. Some files are named to trick you into opening them. An example would be:

Elton John-Tiny Dancer.mp3.exe

You may think that the file is a mp3 music file, but it really is a executable program just waiting for you to double click it so it can infect your computer with malware. If we hadn't changed our settings to show file extensions we would have just seen Elton John-Tiny Dancer.mp3 and been tricked into thinking the file was a music file.


 

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Last modified: June 19, 2014