This morning, as I sat at my desk, reading my e-mail, a new message arrived in my Inbox. The name of the sender seemed familiar, but I couldn’t be sure. The subject was pretty vague, and most worrisome of all, it had an attachment.
Those three facts send up red flags in my mind (and should in yours) that the message might contain a virus. Normally, I would just delete it and move on, but something about it made me think it might be legitimate.
Outlook’s three-line AutoPreview didn’t give me any more information, because the message was forwarded, so all I saw was the header information from the original message. I keep the Outlook Reading Pane turned off (because I don’t like it taking up screen space, and because, way back when, it used to be a security risk, and I’m still a little paranoid).
I was left with a dilemma: Open the message and risk allowing malware on my system, or delete it and risk missing out on something important. Then I had a thought: Why not open it on my Windows Mobile smartphone?
My smartphone is linked to my mail server, so all my mail goes there as well as to my desktop. The smartphone only displays the text of e-mail messages, so there’s no danger of some back-door script running and infecting my smartphone with nasty programs. So, just like that, I pulled the phone out of my pocket and read the e-mail message.
Wouldn’t you know it? It was just one of the millions of “forwards” that make their way around the Internet. It was sent by a guy I don’t get a lot of e-mail from, and who only has his first name displayed on his e-mail. The message was totally harmless, but it served to illustrate a good point. If you’re ever in doubt as to the nature of a message, but you’re not sure whether you should delete it without checking, use your smartphone (BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, iPhone, etc.). It might just save you the cost and aggravation of a virus removal.