Just Viewing 'Drive-by' Email Can Infect Your PC

On January 27, 2012 the Eleven Research Team warned about the discovery of a new evolution in email viruses. This newest generation of email viruses can infect a user's computer even if they do not open an attachment or click on a link within the email.

These emails have been nicknamed 'Drive-by Emails' because they behave in a similar manner to the 'Drive-by Downloads' that can infect a user's PC simply by viewing an infected website. A script within the email automatically downloads malware onto the unsuspecting user's computer as soon as the email is opened (or previewed) in the e-mail client.

Currently, only users who view their incoming email in HTML format are at risk. For this reason, Home PC Patrol recommends that you set plain text as the default method for receiving email rather than HTML as this will greatly reduce your chances of being infected by this new threat. Home PC Patrol also recommends you disable the preview pane in your email client as the mechanics of 'previewing' the email is similar to 'opening' and could allow the script to initiate its download and infect the computer.

Will your email look as nice as it did in HTML format?

Absolutely not; as all graphics are stripped from the mail prior to displaying and all active content is disabled. It is however, much, much safer.

Unfortunately, both Yahoo Mail and Gmail (Google Mail) display incoming mail in whatever format it was originally sent in by default. At this time, Home PC Patrol has been unable to find any documentation or settings that indicate the ability to restrict all mail viewing to plain text; nor could we find any indications that this feature would be implemented in the future.

If you would like to learn how to set the default viewing format and disable the reading pane in Outlook 2010 watch the video below. If you are using earlier versions of Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, or any other 3rd party email clients, just give us a call and we can optimize the security of your email and your PC!

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