Help your users keep viruses and malware out of your business (Tip from the Helpdesk)

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We are seeing a huge increase in the number of emails containing viruses and other malware attempting to enter our customers’ networks. Users are as important as IT systems in keeping malware out, so it’s vital that they know how to recognise a dodgy email if it lands in their inbox. We’ve put together a short guide to help users identify dodgy emails: read on or click the button below to download the guide as a pdf.


The golden rule for all users to avoid spreading viruses and malware throughout your organisation is:

If you have any doubt about an email at all, don’t click: notify your IT team.

Here are some ways to tell if an email is suspicious:

  • Do you know the sender? Are you expecting anything from them? If you don’t know them, don’t click on links or attachments: notify your IT team.
  • Do they normally communicate with you this way? For example, does your bank normally send you statements by email? If not, don’t click on links or attachments: notify your IT team.
  • If it’s from a bank, building society or financial organisation like the HMRC, don’t click on links and attachments, but go and log in where you normally do by typing the address into a browser window directly, or call them using the number on their website to check if they sent the email.
  • Reputable companies will NEVER ask you for passwords, credit card numbers or bank details via email so if you’re even slightly worried, call their advertised number to check – NOT any numbers given in the email.
  • If there’s a link, hover your cursor over the link to check it really goes to where it says it does. As you can see in the example below, the link goes to a domain, which matches the sender of the email.


  • If it’s an attachment, don’t open it unless you’re sure you’re expecting it and it looks right. For example, is it about the right file size, and is the icon the right one for the document?
  • These kinds of viruses always used to be really badly spelled and drafted, but they are getting more and more convincing, so don’t rely on that to give them away.
  • If you do click on something dodgy, don’t panic, but alert your IT team straight away. The quicker you do this, the more likely it is that the damage can be minimised, so don’t hold back for fear of looking stupid.

We’ve given you some examples of virus emails below and highlighted the suspicious elements (we have removed identifying elements to protect our customers, hence the white spaces). Remember that viruses come in all shapes and sizes however, so always


 Example 1 – The tiny file


  • In this example, the document seems to be a Word document, but pretends to come from Adobe Creative Cloud, who would surely be using a pdf.
  • Do you have a subscription to Creative Cloud at all? And if so, do you normally receive the invoices or are they settled by your accounts team?
  • The sender is a random name at a Russian email address, which does not seem likely for an Adobe invoice
  • The file size is tiny – 264 bytes. It is impossible to create a Word document that is under 12kb, or 12,000 bytes

Example 2 – Your account is disabled


  • Is it likely that your Outlook account has been disabled if you are reading this email?
  • Once again the email has come from a random name rather than from an official Microsoft account
  • There are spelling and formatting errors you wouldn’t expect on an email from Microsoft
  • Reactivating your Outlook account, if it really were disabled, is a job for your IT team.
  • Hovering your mouse over the link shows that the link is not pointing to a Microsoft site, so is highly unlikely to be genuine.


Example 3 – You’ve got a parcel!


  • This is an example of a very well-written and genuine-looking virus email. The user flagged it as suspicious because they were not expecting a parcel, but as you can see, in this case the anti-virus software had already caught and filtered out the dodgy attachment.
  • If you receive something like this and are not sure if it’s genuine (you might be expecting a parcel, for example) then log into the delivery company’s website on a completely separate browser window, without clicking any links in the email, and check the information.