How Do Email Providers like Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail Scan for Viruses in Attachments?

One of the easiest ways to obtain a virus is to open the wrong email attachment. Those tempting packages of data known as attachments may be just the Trojan Horse that hackers are waiting to use to steal everything from your personal identification to your passwords.

This extremely easy highway for infection is one of the reason major email providers like Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail have all implemented different types of viruses scanners. These scanners aim to provide protection by scanning incoming emails as well as outgoing emails for infections.

Understanding how these email viruses scanners work will provide you with a higher degree of security.

Let’s examine how they work and what you need to do when you find out that an attachment does have a virus detected inside of it.

How Do Webmail Antivirus Scanners work?

Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail have antivirus scanners designed to work in just about the same way across each service. They scan attachments every time they are uploaded to the service.

That means they scan zip files, executable files and documents as soon as they are received in new emails or attached to drafts of emails designed to be sent. This type of scanning helps to ensure that few people open infected files by accident and that infected files cannot be spread as easily using the webmail’s services.

The thing to understand about these scanners is that they only check for viruses. They may make you go through one or two extra steps to download attachments with potentially malicious software embedded within them, but they do not clean the files like other antivirus scanners might.

The other thing to understand is that these scanners can produce false positives. They may state that an attachment is risky simply because the scanner could not open the file to scan it or because the heuristics engine, which is the part of virus scanners that looks for malicious patterns in machine code, may have identified something potentially dangerous

Do You Need to Take Special Precautions when Opening an Attachment?

The majority of files you receive or send will be clean, but you will inevitably run across an email containing infected files.

You should be careful when you open these files. You can download them, but ensure that you have antivirus software with real-time protection installed, updated and enabled before you do so.

The reason for this is that many people assume viruses cannot function unless you run them. Some are designed to execute when information about that file, which is access automatically, is read by the target computer.

If no alarms pop up when you download the file, then take the time to scan it with your antivirus. You may wish to also employ the help of online scanners that can use multiple antivirus engines to detect viruses within your file.

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