Wednesday, May 3, 2017

How to protect yourself when using email

I posted this on my Facebook page already, and *then* had the thought that it would make a good blog post.

So, here it is, and apologies if you are reading this for the sOn protecting yourself from stupid scammers, phishers, and hijackers, I offer these words inspired by the current crop of people getting emails about sharing a google doc.

If I may offer some unsolicited - but darn-near-expert advice - not only do I never open any files or click on any links in emails from people I don't know, I will never (and this is a warning to my friends) click a link or open a file that is sent to me by someone that I *do* know if there is no coherent or sensible note in the email about why I am receiving such a link or a file. I'm sure I've deleted things I shouldn't have, but if you want me to read/look at something, tell me why, and sign your name at the end, and hopefully use my name at the beginning. And if you call me Dave I'll know you don't know me and will be even more likely to ignore it.

I do, sadly, have some emailing friends who will just forward a link with text like "Wow, this is cool!" or include a video (or even more terrifying, a powerpoint!) saying something nebulous like "Look at what this church did!" I delete those. Boom, straight to trash, and likely I won't even open the email - straight to trash, unread. Like I said, if you want me to click it, tell me - David, specifically - why you want me to see it and what it's about.

Sorry, not gonna look, no matter how much I love ya.

To also protect yourself, always hover your mouse over a link and see what the browser or email program shows you about where the link is actually aimed at - lots of spoofers will make the text look like a legitimate website "Ooh, it's going to! It's safe!" but in reality it will take you to Be safe - never click a link until you are sure it's actually taking you where it says it's taking you.

And for the love of God, never open a file that ends in .exe or .js or .script or any other executable file that comes to you unsolicited. You will never, ever win that.

Also, neither UPS nor FedEx nor USPS nor the IRS will ever send you an email about a package and include a zip file. Delete. No, the cops won't show up.

Also Also, turn off the HTML on whatever program you use to view your email. 1) It will keep you from having to read emails sent in comic sans or some godforsaken color scheme or large-ass font or nausea-inducing haphazard melange of fonts. 2) It will protect you from the nasties that are very easily hidden in HTML email. 3) It'll save you some bandwidth from those emails that feel like they need a thousand photos to get their point across.

And lastly, make restore points regularly (if you're a Windows user) so that just in case you do something you shouldn't have done, you can restore your computer to a time before you did the thing, whatever the thing is.

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