Emails have grown in terms of how we depend on them as a communication tool in both business and personal life. Companies around the world have struggled to ensure emails are free of viruses; however, they are still vulnerable to attacks, and one of the ways hackers get into computer systems.
Email attacks can siphon data from a cooperation or companies’ server, and demand ransom, or can also steal banking information, or deny other users access to the network or computer systems. According to Verizon, their data breach in 2017 was owing to email viruses and malware.
Email viruses are also risky, based on the fact that they can be available for both experienced and inexperienced hackers. Regardless of the Hollywood stereotype that shows hackers as some MIT geeks, with special skills on the computer, what motivates a hacker is a payout at the end of a hack. Anyway, why would they need to go to MIT when they can accomplish the same results with little skills and an email hack?
It is, therefore, necessary for anyone with a computer or an internet device to ensure that they protect themselves against any kind of email virus. Fortunately, it is not as hard to protect your devices against email viruses, and all you need is to understand how hackers use emails to catch users off guard and spread viruses, once understood, the rest is easy.
How Do Hackers Compose Their Emails?
Hackers’ emails will either attract or seek attention from users in the area the hacker is interested in accessing. This is called social engineering. It can be explained as a tactic where people are manipulated so that they surrender information they normally wouldn’t.
The info these hackers try to acquire is usually varied; however, when the information is targeted, hackers are usually trying to acquire your banking information, passwords, or access to your computer network.
How hackers can access your computer is through various ways, dependent on the hacker’s targets. If they are looking for your banking information, they will compose an email as a bank asking you to log in to something.
With the latest case of the worldwide coronavirus, hackers might come through as a news document, which after downloading will infect the computer.
To try to assemble all the ways that a hacker may hack, you would prove futile, as they will always come up with new ways each time. The only chance you have at getting ahead of the hackers is through adjusting these certain traits in emails such as the sender, the language used, and taking care of opening emails from contacts you are not used to.
You can also check out the URL links by hovering the mouse over the link and look at the bottom left corner of the web browser; you should see the URL that you’re going to be redirected to. If it has .exe, .js.or .zip, do not click on it.
Ways Hackers Access Computers through Malicious Emails
This can be described as a method where hackers attempt at convincing you to divulge information through doing something you shouldn’t. Often through research on a company’s organizational structure, hackers may send emails in masses in a trawl for victims, or they may use targeted email for a certain member of a company.
Initially, phishing focused mainly on consumers; however, it has evolved to become one of the top threats to business security.
There are instances where phishing is instigated through a state attack on another country or cooperation. Here the threat is maximum, as the hackers have the resources and backing necessary to carry out the attack.
According to Verizon, 23% of recipients are still opening phishing messages. Most phishing emails are opened within the first hour.
Lately, email phishing scams have changed to include the planting of malware in the computer, as a secondary stage of the phishing attacks. The most dangerous thing about email attacks through malware installation is that it only takes one person to open these emails for the attack to happen. Plus, they are relentless such that averting one risk gives rise to the potential for other risks to occur sooner or later.
Another phishing method that has been re-introduced is through macro viruses, where the virus comes written in the language used in software programs. This means that the virus does not require installation, rather on opening an infected software, the virus starts its infection processes. This style of infection was widespread in the ’90s and it has only come back. An excellent example of this type of attack is the five million dollar bitstamp bitcoin interchange crack.
Emails will come with attachments posing as courier notifications, resumes, or any other valid data. Once you open, the document will ask the user to enable macros for it to run. If done, then the virus can launch the attack.
The difference here is that in the ’90s, macros infected the computers. However, currently, they act as downloaders opening floodgates for oceans of malware to attack.
Mostly delivered through emails, they encrypt your data and demand a fee to restore the data to you. Unlike most attacks, ransomware attacks are mainly monetary, and if paid, your info will be returned to the company or user.
Payment is mainly demanded in the form of cryptocurrency to avoid any traces to the hackers.
Hackers here use a vulnerable feature of emails, where they lack efficient mechanisms for authenticating email addresses. Therefore, hackers can use addresses and domains similar to the legit ones and trick victims into clicking into them.
Whaling/Business Email Compromise
This is where hackers target a company’s top official or ‘big fish’ who has certain powers within the organization that are of interest to hackers.
Business email compromise, also referred to as whaling, is trying to fish the big bosses from the company who have the capability of making a transaction. How the hackers operate in this scenario is such that they will send the email as if they are a Ceo from another organization, or another high-ranking individual and demand for a financial transaction or a vendor payment wire transfer or direct deposit.
Spam continues to be one of the main ways hackers will get into your system. It continues to be a significant challenge for businesses and companies to control, with several attempts made at controlling how to handle unwanted emails.
While spam can be characterized as a mere nuisance, it is a gateway for hackers to send malware to your computer networks. Viruses such as ransomware are mainly transmitted to companies through spam, so it will be prudent to take care while handling spam emails.
This is a method where hackers use stolen data to gain access to computers. Criminals involved in significant data breaches will use stolen data credentials to gain access to computer systems, as this promises more access and better results.
Key loggers will mainly use malicious emails, which can allow them to steal ids and other important info when a user clicks on the emails.
This refers to vulnerability, which is unknown to the software developer. Hackers exploit this security vulnerability before the developer has a chance to fix it. Zero-day attacks are also mainly delivered through emails, and on accessing them, hackers will gain entry to exploit sensitive information.
This is cybercriminals’ tactics to build trust before they steal confidential info.
The way hackers go about social engineering is where they pose as trusted individuals, and start a sort of virtual relationship with the mark, by engaging in conversations and other ways they can gain trust.
The attacker will then convince the mark to disclose passwords, IDs, and other sensitive information, or persuade them to perform fraudulent dealings knowingly or unknowingly.
Symptoms of Virus Infections
Well, now that we understand how hackers mainly get access to our computer networks and systems, we must then understand how to tell if a computer is potentially infected with a virus.
There are various ways in which the computer will start to misbehave and can be significant indicators that your computer is infected with diagnoses early; you have the potential to stop the potential hack from happening and keeping your computer safe. Some ways you will notice the computer misbehaving are:
Pop up Ads
Are you receiving relentless ads on your computer, whether or not you have blocked pop up ads through your security? You might be infected.
The pop-up ads come at a high frequency to a point you cannot do anything on the computer, due to the pop-ups, each telling you to click on it.
The pop ads, if clicked on lead to other sites, which lead to more ads on your computer. If these happen to you, then be sure you have malware on your computer.
Is your computer slower and lagging at an abnormal rate? Is it happening without your running several applications that would otherwise lead to computer lagging?
You might be infected!
You might also be running several heavy software that may be eating on your RAM, however, although it causes the compute to run slower, viruses cause extreme lagging, even moving the mouse is a problem.
If your computer is crashing excessively, then you might be infected.
What happens with virus infections is that the number of crashes will increase, such that it will be crashing at an abnormal rate.
If this happens, it is best you take precautions in removing the viruses.
Slow Internet Connection
The internet may start becoming slower and slower. This will happen when if you have a virus.
You may test the internet speeds, which will be at par; however, when you connect the computer, the internet connection is still slow.
Missing Files or Applications
Are you missing certain files and applications? Do you have no recollection of deleting any of these files? Well, certain viruses like ransomware will encrypt your files or apps and require a ransom to decrypt.
If you cannot trace any physical evidence of deletion, then you best take precautions in preventing any more loss of information.
Disabled Antivirus or Firewalls
If you find your antivirus o firewalls disabled, and you did not do it, neither did anyone in your group, then it is a major red flag. You must be infected.
Disabled firewalls or antiviruses are the most significant source of malware and virus access and should necessitate you to take great precautions and prevent loss of your data.
Which Are the Best Software to Ensure You Are Free of Any Email Viruses?
Before we look at some of the best tools to use while scanning for email viruses, we will look at how you scan for viruses in different devices from MAC, windows, and android.
These steps will come in handy in protecting your devices against any kind of malware or viruses that may come in through an email. It will also help curb the effect of a user clicking on an email and losing important data to hackers.
Best Way to Scan an Email Attachment for Virus-IOS Devices
When it comes to your IOS devices such as the Mac, popular belief dictates that you rarely have to worry about computer viruses. There might be some truth to that; however, your Mac can get viruses and malware; the only difference is that malware detection and file quarantine capabilities are meant to make it less likely for you to download malicious software.
Apple added malware detection to the mac OS with snow leopard, (Mac OS 10.6) the system came with a quarantine protocol for any app downloaded from the internet. The system uses code-signing certificates to verify that an app is coming from a legit source, plus it also adds regular security updates that include databases of known malware targeting the Mac OS.
The system carries out certain function where:
- Apps in quarantine show a dialogue window that reminds you where the app came from and whether or not you want to access it. If they came without a code signing certificate, dependent on your gatekeeper settings, a message might be displayed telling you the app can’t be opened due to settings
- If an app comes with malware known to the system, then a message will pop up advising the deletion of the app.
This is the reason macs are regarded as virus-free.
Tools You Can Use to Scan Email Viruses
This is like an AdWare medic, found at the Mac App Store, or can be downloaded directly from the ClamXav Website where you can donate.
Once you have downloaded and opened the app, you then set the app preference. How it works is such that it will scan for viruses but will only quarantine them. The app offers certain configuration options such as
- General- this can be used for setting up alerts and whether to scan for malware and phishing in your email messages
- Quarantine- for defining where you want to quarantine malicious files
- Exclude Files- to specify file types you don’t want to be scanned
- Log files- for setting whether you want log files stored and for viewing them
- Schedule- or defining when you want the latest virus definitions downloaded and whether to arrange for scheduled scans
2. Email Virus Scanner- CleanMyMac X
Download and install, then launch CleanMyMac X. choose the malware removal module from the sidebar located on the left-hand side. You can then press the scan button.
The software will now scan your Mac and compare what it finds with its database of known malware, including DMG files. If the software finds anything, it will inform you.
If it gives you a clean bill of health, then you can quit it and carry on with your work, if not, you can press remove and get rid of the malware.
3. Cleaning Mail Attachments with CleanMyMac X
Launch CleanMyMac X and choose the mail attachment module in the sidebar and press scan. After it has scanned, press clean to remove all attachments. If you’d rather review them first, click on an email application in the middle window and then on the drop-down arrow in the right window, next to the attachment location e.g., I-cloud.
Review the list of attachments, and if there is something you don’t want deleting, uncheck the boxes next to them. Press clean when you are done.
Scanning for Viruses in Windows Devices
You can get your emails scanned online for viruses through [email protected].
The virus total scans the attachment with different anti-malware software, and sends back as a response to your email.
The information relayed back to you will come with results the attachment received from various antivirus programs.
Step by Step Process of Sending the Attachments to Virus Total Works
You will have to create a message to be sent to [email protected] as the destination
Save the suspicious email as an attachment. Next on outlook, right-click on the item and select save as attachment and select where you want to save the email.
Next, create a new email, and in the recipient field, address it to [email protected]
Dependent on what you want, you will either write a SCAN or SCAN+XML in the subject line. This will give the results as either plain text or an XML version respectively.
After you will then attach the email saved as an attachment and send it.
Another option would be to forward the suspicious email to [email protected] and add SCAN in the subject line.
Dependent on the number of requests on their server, the reply may take a while; however, you will not need to resend the email, as they will get back to you.
Scanning Viruses in Android Devices
There seems to be no specific way to scan emails for viruses on an android device.
As android devices are compatible with other Windows programs when it comes to internet access, then you can use a similar way as used in windows to scan for viruses. Copy-paste the email to a valid email scanner and follow the same procedure on [email protected]
However, it is possible to get infected through an email on your android device; however, you can scan the phone or android device and remove all the malicious malware that may have installed on the phone.
For you to prevent any malicious emails from infecting your phone, you will have to have good antivirus software.
If you have already been infected, however, there are certain ways you can take steps to clean out the device.
Step 1- go to the google play store and download an antivirus of your choice. Always take a look at the views and see what other people are saying about it.
Step 2-open the antivirus app and create an account, after which you can start a scan. The app may ask for permissions on your camera contacts and other stuff, which you have the choice to allow or refuse.
Step 3-allow the app some time to scan the phone for any malicious software
Step 4-in case there are threats found in the phone, the app will find a solution through clicking resolve, and the viruses will either be quarantined or deleted.
Step 5-if there is a malicious app on scanning, then it will be best to remove it.
If you are looking to uninstall malicious apps manually, then there are a few steps to follow:
Step 1-put your android in safe mode through settings, which will turn off all third party access. In case all the problems go away, then it will be due to malware infections on the phone.
Step 2- figure out which app is the problem through settings and choose the manage apps button. Check for any apps you are unaware of in the download tab, and any in the background you don’t remember.
Step 3-remove the app by uninstalling the app
Step 4- go back to settings and look for the security tab, tap on the device administrator, and check if the malicious app has any access. If it does deactivate it.
Step 5-if, you cannot remove the virus after completing the scan, and through manual attempt, you may have to reset the phone.
Apart from the above ways for scanning emails, there are definitely more ways and tools you can use to scan email devices across different devices. Feel free to share more in the comment box below.