Receiving a virus in email

Dennis Faas's picture

This past Sunday, I loaded up Outlook Express only to find that my Inbox was flooded with emails from people that I didn't know, inviting me to install a "cool" screen saver which was conveniently file-attached to the email. The email messages varied in topic. Most of the file attachments ended in .SCR, some of them ended in .EXE.

How nice.

Of course, I know better than to open an email attachment from someone I don't know, because 99.999% of the time it contains a virus. If you know a little bit about computers, you might know that a file that has the extension .SCR is generally a screen saver. If you know a little bit more about computers, you'd probably know that a file ending in .SCR can also be a script.


RE: The difference between Executable and script files

.EXE files are generally referred to as "executable files" and can do just as much damage as a script. The major difference between an executable file and a script is something called "platform dependency." A platform consists of the operating system; Windows, Linux, and the MacOS operating systems are examples of platforms.

Scripts, such as Java scripts are (for the most part) platform independent. That means they can run on just about any machine that has the Java runtime installed on it. Executable files, on the other hand, are platform dependent and can only run on certain machines.

Windows deals with files depending on their file extension. In the case of a file ending in .SCR, Windows would have looked at this as a script before it would have looked at it as a screen saver. This is mostly because screen savers have to be installed before they can execute (in the case of a .SCR file.)

Have you ever received an email in Outlook Express with a file attachment that seems to open itself as soon as you place your mouse over top of the subject line of the email? What about unsolicited emails which contain in-your-face popup windows?

If you use Outlook Express and you want to stop emails which contain attachments that open themselves, go into the Tools -> Options -> Security tab and select the Restricted Sites Zone (More secure) button. Click Apply, and then OK. Note that if you've installed Internet Explorer 6 (and therefore have Outlook Express 6), this option is already set.

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