Can Malware Be Sent By Email?

Email has become an essential tool for communication and information sharing in today’s digital age. However, along with the convenience of email come various security risks, including the potential for malicious code to be sent through email messages. Can malware be sent by email? How do you know if an email is safe to open?

Aegis IT provides top-tier email setup, support, and security services for many types of modern businesses across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. Let’s talk about malware, email security, and how to avoid email viruses and other malicious code.

What Is Malware?

Malware, short for malicious software, refers to any intrusive software developed by cybercriminals (often called hackers) to steal data and damage or destroy computers and computer systems. Examples of common malware include viruses, worms, Trojan viruses, spyware, adware, and ransomware. Recent malware attacks have exfiltrated data in mass amounts.”

The question “Can malware be sent by email?” is a crucial one in the realm of cybersecurity. Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Cybercriminals often use email as a primary method for distributing malware due to its widespread use and the ease of spreading malicious content through email attachments and links. When an unsuspecting user opens an infected email attachment or clicks on a malicious link, their system can become compromised, leading to data loss, unauthorized access, or other harmful consequences.

How Can I Recognize a Malicious Email?

There are numerous ways that malware can be sent through email.

Phishing Email or Spam

One common method is phishing emails, which are designed to trick recipients into clicking on malicious links or opening infected attachments. Suspicious file attachments often have extensions like:

  • .dot
  • .docm
  • .scr
  • .cmd
  • .bat
  • .dll
  • .exe

These emails often appear to be from legitimate sources, such as financial institutions or reputable companies, and may use social engineering tactics to manipulate the recipient into taking harmful action. One popular tactic is to make the email recipient think they have won a financial prize or lottery. Other malicious emails can appear as if they are sent from a known person in your company or another well-known entity.

Don’t Open the Attachment

Another tactic used by cybercriminals is to embed malware within email attachments. These attachments may be disguised as harmless files, such as PDF documents or images, but actually contain malicious code that can compromise the recipient’s system when opened. Some email clients and systems have security measures in place to detect and block potentially harmful attachments, but cybercriminals are constantly evolving their tactics to bypass these defenses.

Email Viruses Embedded In the Email Body

Beware of malicious individuals who attempt to disseminate malware by including links in email messages. Clicking on these links can lead the recipient to a fraudulent website designed to steal personal information or to other websites harboring harmful software, which can compromise the security of the victim’s device.

Well-Known Email Viruses

Fortunately, cybersecurity professionals have been able to detect and defeat many virulent email viruses and malware files. Here are some of the most common:

  1. ILOVEYOU – The ILOVEYOU virus caused widespread email outages in 2000, impacting major businesses including Microsoft and Ford Motor Company. Over a 10-day period, ILOVEYOU affected approximately 45 million users and resulted in an estimated $10 billion in damages.
  2. Mydoom – This virus spread spam through infected computers in 2004 and carried out a distributed denial-of-service attack on several tech companies, including giants Microsoft and Google. Mydoom actually infected between 16% and 25% of email messages that year.
  3. Storm Worm Trojan Horse – This malicious malware was disseminated through infected email attachments, taking advantage of users’ worries about European storms.
  4. CryptoLocker – This ransomware spread through phishing emails and malicious code attachments and performed an encryption “lock-down” of the email user’s computer files. The hackers demanded a ransom to provide an “unlock” code to access the files.
  5. TrickBot – This malicious trojan discovered in 2016 used macro-based malware in common office document files in Windows-based computers to target banks and steal financial information. It began in the United States before spreading across Canada, Europe, and as far as Australia and New Zealand.
  6. Emotet – This is another top ransomware that targets sensitive information like banking details. It frequently appears to be an invoice or payment notification that contains a malware link.
  7. Loki-Bot – This is a virile malware discovered in 2015 that steals login credentials and sends sensitive data from the targeted computer. It commonly appears in .zip or .exe files embedded in attached invoices.

How Can I Ensure My Email Is Safe to Open?

To protect against the threat of malware sent through email, it’s crucial for individuals and organizations to implement robust email security measures. This includes using reputable email security solutions that can detect and block suspicious attachments and links, as well as providing ongoing education and training for users to recognize the signs of potential phishing attempts and malicious emails.

Additionally, users should exercise caution when opening email attachments or clicking on links, especially if the sender is unfamiliar or if the email content seems suspicious. Verifying the authenticity of the sender and being wary of unexpected or unsolicited emails can help reduce the risk of falling victim to email-based malware attacks.

Aegis IT frequently helps businesses with Phishing attacks and protection training for your employees and organization. We provide:

  • Testing to simulate phishing attempts and tracking open rates, click rates, and how many people submit their personal information.
  • Employee Training to show them how to recognize suspicious emails, how to report phishing activity in their inbox, and what to do if they fall for a phishing email.
  • Routine Monitoring to ensure progress in maintaining the principles we taught and find new ways to keep your organization safe.

We can also implement secure DMARC and DKIM measures to help stop scammers before they can impersonate you.

Email Setup, Security, and Support from Aegis IT

The potential for malware to be sent through email is a significant cybersecurity concern. Cybercriminals continue to exploit email as a means to distribute malware, making it essential for individuals and organizations to remain vigilant and proactive in their efforts to mitigate the risks associated with email security threats.

Contact Aegis IT today to learn more about securing your email communications and IT infrastructure with the most robust solutions available.