Which Email Attachments Are Generally Safe to Open?

Which Email Attachments Are Generally Safe to Open? image

The internet may be one of humankind’s most amazing inventions, but it has a dark side, too. And email attachments are probably one of the biggest threats out there because a lot of people automatically see them as safe to open. In more than 90% of the cases, however, emails are the most convenient way for malware to reach its target. This makes opening just about any type of attachment is a risk. So, how do you know which email attachments are generally safe to open and which ones you should avoid at all costs? Read on to find out.

What File Type Is the Only One That Is Safe to Open?

There is only one type of file that is universally considered safe to open, and that is a .txt file. This is because .txt files can only contain text and cannot execute any code. So, there is no way for a .txt file to contain a virus or malware.

However, a file like “myfile.txt.exe,” which has a double extension, might seem like a harmless file, but the .exe means that it is an executable file. This type of file contains a code that, when opened, will be executed. In reality, the best answer to the question of what file type is safe to open would be none. Always check and double-check before you open.

What Other Types of Email Attachments Are Considered Safe to Open?

First of all, it's important to understand that ANY attachment has the potential to be dangerous. The reason for this is that when you open an attachment, you're essentially giving whatever is inside permission to run on your computer. And it's important to remember that you should never open an email attachment unless you are absolutely sure of its source. If that isn’t so, don't open the attachment — just delete it.

Having cleared all that, here are a few other attachment types that are safe to open:

  • Microsoft Office files such as Word (.doc), Excel (.xls), and PowerPoint (.ppt)
  • PDF files
  • Images (jpeg, gif, png)
  • Audio files (mp3, wav, wma)
  • Video files (avi, mp4, mpeg)

Again, it is important to note that even though these attachments are generally safe to open, there is still a chance that they may contain malware. For example, a malicious actor could embed malware in an image file and then send it as an email attachment. So even if a file looks like it’s safe to open, it's always best to scan it with an antivirus program first.

What Are Some of the Most Common Types of Email Attachments to Avoid?

You should avoid any type of email attachment that is executable. This refers to any file with an .exe, .bat, or .vbs extension. These types of files can easily contain viruses or malware, and they will be executed as soon as you open them.

Additionally, you should be careful of any email attachment containing a .zip file. While these files are not necessarily dangerous, they can often contain harmful files. So if you're not expecting a .zip file, it's best to delete it.

Then, opening a phishing email attachment will give cybercriminals access to your personal information like banking details, passwords, and addresses. So, if you receive a suspicious email, even if it's from someone you know, do not open the attachment.

Finally, you should avoid any types of email attachments that require you to enable macros. These types of files are often used by attackers to spread malware, and they can be very difficult to detect.

Learn more: Cybersecurity statistics

How to Scan an Email Attachment for Viruses?

Files attached to an email can contain viruses or malware, so scanning the email before opening it is the best practice. The two most common ways of doing this are to either use a reputable antivirus program or an online virus scanner. These programs will scan the attachment for any malicious code and remove it if necessary.

Another way to check for email viruses is to open the attachments using Google Drive or Microsoft Office 365. These services will automatically scan attachments for viruses before opening them and can be a great way to double-check that the file is safe.

Can You Get a Virus From Opening an Email?

Yes, you can get a virus from opening an email. Literally, all types of file attachments have the potential to contain a virus or malware. Malware can be disguised as an image, a document, or an audio, or video file which, once opened, creates a gateway for the malware to get to your computer. For instance, an htm file in an email may contain scripting languages that link to other files or websites created to deliver a virus. Getting infected with an htm file virus could also happen when you open a phishing email.

Trojan horses or worms, on the other hand, are harmless until you click the link or attachment in the email. So, in this instance, simply opening the email will not get you infected, but clicking on the link or attachment delivered with it will.

Can You Get Malware From Opening an Email Marked as Spam?

Yes, you can get malware from opening an email marked as spam. Although most spam emails do not contain malware, some do. So, if you receive an email from an unknown sender with an attachment, follow the golden rule and just delete it. If, however, you are running a business and spam issues are on your daily menu of problems to solve, the best option is to turn to one of the top-rated spam filtering companies to keep you safe.

Final Words

So there you have it — a quick guide to which email attachments are generally safe to open. Remember, even though some attachments are safer than others, you should always exercise caution before opening any file. If you're not sure whether an email is safe, it's better to err on the side of caution and delete it. Stay safe out there!

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