Which email attachments are generally safe to open

America’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) states that most internet users get their devices infected with viruses due to opening and sometimes running unidentified email attachments. The CISA emphasizes that opening malicious email attachments lets hackers modify your computer files and steal your critical financial data, such as credit card information.

So, to protect your online financial credentials and keep you on the safe side, here is a list of safe-to-open email attachments.

document in email

Email Attachments From Trusted Sources

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), you should never open or run an email attachment from an anonymous individual. It would be best to scrutinize the email address before opening it carefully. Check and confirm the sender’s full email address and if it doesn’t match their name or looks suspicious, avoid opening the attachment. But if the email address matches the sender’s name and there is nothing suspicious, the email attachment might be generally safe to open.

Email Attachments With Safe File Extensions

After confirming the received email comes from a trusted sender, hover your mouse over the attachment to view the file extension and identify the application that can open the file. For example, if you receive an email attachment with a file name that ends with .pdf, it may be safe to open.

However, you should never open email attachments that feature double extensions that may contain a virus. Sometimes, hackers send email attachments that seem safe at an initial glance but looking closer helps you realize the attachment name incorporates two extensions. For instance, an attachment identification might appear as an image, but extra vigilance enables you to notice it has a word such as “file.jpg.exe.” This name means that the file is not a JPG attachment but an EXE file. Why? The last extension (3 or 4 letters) at the end of the file’s name matters greatly in file identification.

Video, Images, and Audio Files

Email attachments with videos, audio, and image files are generally the safest to open and run. You should ensure the email file has one of the following common extensions;

But remember, an image might also look safe but be a type of file in disguise. So, open a file you receive via email only when you are sure of its source and already expecting it.

Office Documents

Microsoft Office documents are generally safe to open. Still, they can contain “macro viruses” that are often tricky to detect since they are written in a similar language as Excel, Word, and PowerPoint programs. And such files have extensions like DOCX, DOC, PPT, and XLS. Usually, the macro doesn’t automatically activate unless it comes from a trusted location. So, if you want to edit the document, you must activate the macro manually. How? Click the “Enable Content” icon at your screen’s top part. Luckily, Microsoft warns you not to click the “Enable Content” button unless you know what the active content does.

Bottom Line

Hackers will send you malicious email attachments for various reasons, such as spreading malware, stealing your personal information, and spying on your computer. And since cybercrime is on the rise, with the number of phishing emails increasing every day in recent years, you should be extra vigilant with your daily email activities.