How To Scan Email Attachments For Viruses and Protect Your Devices

How To Scan Email Attachments For Viruses and Protect Your Devices
Mercy Pilkington
Posted: December 19, 2018

Virus-laden email attachments have been around for decades, but they’re certainly not old news. In fact, millions of computer users around the world use desktop email software instead of browser-based tools such as Gmail. As a result, you’re exposing your operating system to downloads every time you open an email rather than merely viewing it online.

What’s the problem? The risk of opening cybersecurity threats is substantially higher when using them.

Antivirus software that scans attachments for viruses is essential for computer users. Not only can it help you avoid viruses, but by scanning your outbound messages en-route to the mail server, it can prevent spam email or corrupted attachments from going out to your professional or personal networks. This could potentially save your reputation.

Attachment Virus Scanning, Step-by-Step

If you use a desktop email client and want to know how to scan an attachment, here’s what you need to know:

  1. Firstly, navigate to the email containing the attachment that you want to open. To save time, look for a paperclip icon next to the subject line of the message.
  1. Click on the attachment icon in your desktop email software. If you’re using a Microsoft email client such as Windows Live Mail, you can find a context menu at the top of the email. In Mozilla Thunderbird, the email attachment is at the bottom of the reading pane, and the “Save” dialog is on the bottom right-hand side of the screen.
  1. At this point, you should find an entry from the antivirus software in the context menu. If you have not installed a third-party tool and are using Windows, you can select “Scan with Microsoft Security Essentials.” Windows’ built-in virus scanner will check individual files that were attached to the email. Mozilla Thunderbird users can download the file and scan it manually or use an add-on, such as SecondOpinion, which directly integrates virus scanning and runs the file against a number of different antivirus databases.

Once your antivirus scan has finished, you should receive a message either informing you that the attachment is safe or that it was infected and has been securely deleted from your system or moved to a quarantine area.

What Software Should I Use?

If you use a desktop email client and want to scan attachments for viruses, I strongly recommend installing a third-party antivirus software. Although Windows’ built-in antivirus measures can detect plenty of threats, commercial providers typically have the most frequently updated definition databases as well as real-time protection.

Norton: Norton’s products feature two-way scanning of both outbound and inbound email. Norton can also create a Norton AntiSpam folder in supported email clients to direct junk messages away from your inbox.

Comodo: Comodo offers a number of products specifically geared towards improving email security. This includes a free antispam gateway, which uses cloud-based filtering to block spam, phishing emails, and malicious attachments on IMAP and SMTP servers.

Additionally, Comodo Antivirus for Linux includes a built-in mail gateway—one of the only email security systems that supports Linux.

AVG: AVG Email Protection features a built-in gateway for securing messages from any third-party email server. The tool also supports scanning encrypted messages—an important bonus for those that use tools like Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) to encrypt and secure their email communications.

Email Scanning Is A Must for Desktop Users

While I love the convenience of browser-based webmail platforms as much as anybody, sometimes it’s simply impossible to beat the power that comes with using a dedicated piece of email software.

Email continues to remain an attractive vector for cybercrooks seeking to introduce viruses and malware programs onto users’ systems through corrupted attachments. Every desktop email user should have an antivirus program with email scanning installed.