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Information Technology Services

Preventing Email Viruses

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About email viruses

Computer viruses are most often spread through email and email attachments.

Boston College runs McAfee virus scanning software on the email server. The server checks for and applies McAfee updates daily.

When a virus is detected in an incoming email:

  1. The intended recipient receives a message that includes the header (only) of the original email, along with information about the virus that infected it. (See an example)
  2. The BC email server destroys the original message.

Important: Even with a very vigilant screening process in place, there is always the slight possibility of a virus slipping through a protected server onto your computer. (For example, a new virus could arrive on the email server before McAfee has released updates to address it.) Please be sure to implement the additional security measures on your own computer described below.

Prevent getting an email virus

While Information Technology Services (ITS) works to protect you from email viruses at the server level, when a new virus is developed there can be a lag time between the onset of the virus and the development of new industry patches for the email server.

There are some important steps you can take to protect yourself during this short window of vulnerability:

  1. Do not download or open any unknown files that are attached to an email; they could be viruses. If you are unsure, err on the side of caution, and do not open the attached files. Important: If you must download an attached file to an email, make sure to save it and scan it for viruses before you open it.
  2. Remember to keep your Virus Protection updated! ITS recommends you set your Virus software to auto-update. Also, be careful not to "cancel" out of auto-update if it tries to run when you are using your computer. For detailed information about virus protection, updates, downloads, and advice, go to: Anti-virus software updates are made available at least once per month. Note: All BCCR computers for faculty and staff were delivered with Virus protection set to auto-update.
  3. Turn off macros in Microsoft Word, Excel, or Powerpoint. There is a widespread set of viruses known as macro viruses. These are viruses designed to run when you open a Microsoft Office product such as Word. If macros are turned off, it is unlikely that a virus will be able to launch itself and do harm to your computer.
  4. When using Outlook as your email program, turn the Preview feature off as an extra precaution. Learn how to turn off the Preview features in Outlook.

Reporting an email virus

If you get a virus from an infected file, you should do the following:

  • Inform the person you originally got the infected file from.
  • Inform people who have access to the file on the network.
  • Inform anyone that you emailed the infected file to.

Please do not send a warning to everyone you know. ITS can propagate such messages in an efficient manner, and these sorts of warnings can cause other problems.