Email is an invaluable tool, which also makes it a great way to for those with malicious intentions to achieve what they want. Follow these guidelines when handling email in order to help protect yourself from hackers.
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- Be skeptical of attachments. Even when you know the person sending you the message, if you are not expecting an attachment, don't open it without confirming with the sender that it is legitimate.
- Watch out for links to websites included in an email. Sometimes the link that shows in the message is different from the underlying URL coded into the email message. If you click on the link, you will go to a phony site, rather than to a legitimate one.
Instead of clicking on a link within your email message, copy the URL and paste it into your web browser. That way, you will know that you are going to the real thing.
- Never transmit financial, account, or any other information you consider private via email. Sending an email message is like sending a postcard: it is easily read by people other than those for whom it was intended. For example, someone forwarding your message to others could inadvertently expose information you intended for the original recipient alone.
- Be suspicious when you receive an email asking you to enter personal information. This is called "phishing." Con artists try to trick you into providing personal information through email or onto a web page by pretending to be a legitimate business or organization. Don't click on a URL in an email (see the second item above), and don't reply to the email. If you are unsure, contact the business or organization by phone.
- Never reply to spam. Unscrupulous spammers will test their lists of email by sending out millions of messagesit doesn't cost any more to send a million than it does to send one. If you reply, for example, by following the instructions for the "unsubscribe" option, you are just verifying that they have found a good address. Once they know they have a real address, you will be inundated with more spam.
- Don't panic if you receive an email from someone you either don't know, or didn't send a message to, stating that you sent them a virus. There are a number of computer viruses that grab the email addresses from the address book of a computer they infect. Such a virus then begins sending out email messages that appear to come from the email addresses stolen from the infected computer. If this occurs with a computer outside UCSB, as it often does, there's nothing that can be done about this, because we can't control those computers. Simply delete the message.
- Handle attachments with care. Email attachments should be detached, then scanned with anti-virus software before they are opened.