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For years, the main concern of malicious code in emails has been opening infected attachments. If you were careful about opening attachments and made sure to scan them with virus protection software, you could limit your risk of being compromised by malicious code. However, a new breed of malicious code has been making the rounds and requires little if any interaction from the victim. This malicious code runs if the email message containing it is opened. When you use features such as the preview pane, your machine could possibly be infected just by having your email application open, receiving the email, and having the preview pane display the message.

Case Study 4-2

Jake was a careful email user. He didn't open attachments from people he didn't know, ran virus protection, and didn't respond to spam, so the email he had received was even more puzzling. The message from his company's email administrator informed Jake that an email worm had been sent from his address.

Jake called his friend Sam, a system administrator, to ask what he had done wrong. Sam told him it was possible Jake had followed the proper steps as far as opening attachments but had still been hit by the worm. Sam said the worm that had been hitting the company didn't require the user to do anything other than read the email. The email message interacted with the user's email program and did its damage from there.

Jake supposed he should be relieved that this attack wasn't his fault, but somehow that didn't make him feel better. He had always felt some security in his knowledge of how email worked, and this worm attack had left him feeling a touch vulnerable.



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