How can Malware spread through Email?

Emails have been one of the significant sources of communication for so long. It is one of the rarest communication modes which is equally suitable for both personal and business interactions. However, in recent years emails have become a primary medium for spreading malicious files and codes.

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Cybercriminals always target popular mediums with a large user base to spread their malware quickly with minimum efforts. There is probably no better mode than email for such purposes. The malware or viruses spread through emails are often termed Email Viruses.

In this post, we will know everything about Email Viruses, how malware is spread through email, and how to stop them.

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What is an Email Virus?

Emails are one of the primary mediums used by cybercriminals to conduct malicious activities. The malicious codes, apps, files, etc. that are spread through emails are known as Email Viruses. Most email viruses get activated when victims click the links, download & open the attachments, or interact with the email in other ways. After infiltrating the system and getting activated, an email virus can quickly replicate itself and spread. 

Generally, email viruses are sent for extracting the user’s private information, such as bank credentials, social media logins, social security numbers, and other security info. Users are prompted to spread such emails, so if you receive any mail asking you to send this to more people, it might be a chain of email virus scams. A craftily framed email virus is quite hard to detect as it is created explicitly by professional attackers.

What can an Email Virus do?

An email virus is like any other malware. It can create havoc after infiltrating your device. Cybercriminals generally spread email viruses for conducting the following activities:

  • Join the victim’s system in the series of Botnet.
  • Get remote access to the victim’s device through a backdoor.
  • Steal the data from the receiver’s machine.
  • Distribute the ransomware malware to hijack the system.
  • Destroy the files on the victim’s device.
  • Conducting the malvertisement.
  • Spy on victims and gather their information without letting them know.

How is Malware spread through Email?

Generally, an email virus gets an entry into your system through following three ways:

  • When you unknowingly follow the instructions of a Phishing email.
  • Downloading the malicious attachments will provide entry to the email viruses on your computer.
  • Email viruses can also be hidden in the body of an email. 

There is a scarce chance of success if an email virus is sent directly through email. So, cybercriminals use different tricks to lure users into interacting with the email containing the virus.

Here are the top ways malware is spread through email:

Hoax Emails

A hoax email is one of the popular methods to spread malware through emails. In this, the cybercriminals craft emails with a false warning and ask users to follow the instructions of email to secure their devices. In an attempt to protect their gadgets, the victims will willfully follow all the instructions and get trapped in the attacker’s plot. The false warning could be anything like a virus alert, fake hacking alert, fake update alert, etc.

Spam Emails

Spam Emails are the bulk email chains sent to thousands of people collectively. Such emails contain offers and catchy subject lines so that recipients couldn’t resist opening them. There are unsolicited links present in it that are responsible for the infection spread. Ransomware malware is most commonly spread through such spam emails.

Macro Viruses

Macro Virus is a collection of malicious codes written in the macro language, which are generally used in applications like Word, PowerPoint, etc. Emails are the major source for spreading the Macros Viruses by attaching the malicious files and labeling them essential.

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Whaling, which is also known as Business Email Compromise, is organizational email scamming. A genuine-looking email is sent to a person who handles finances and can carry out the transactions. The sender pretends to be the higher authority who wants immediate trade of the said amount in the email. The transaction is asked to be carried out through links. The receiver, without realizing any suspicion, willingly initiates and completes the transaction.


Spambots are malicious programs that are specifically designed to collect emails from different sources and create a mailing list. The mailing list is then used for sending unsolicited emails containing malicious attachments or links to lure receivers into installing email viruses.

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How to prevent Email Viruses?

In order to keep your system secure and protect your privacy, it is essential to recognize and prevent email viruses from spreading into your device.

  • Keep installed a robust security solution on your system. It would not only protect your device from malicious attachments but also safeguard your device from every other threat. Keep the security program updated.
  • Never open an email attachment sent from unknown and suspicious senders. Usually the files with these extensions are malicious: .dll, .exe, .com, .pif, .js, .scr, .dot, .xls, .xlt.
  • If you receive an email with links, refrain from clicking on them and navigating to unsolicited websites.
  • Get spam filters for your email accounts. Although many email service providers give the in-built feature for filtering out spam emails, you can still get third-party spam filters for extra security.
  • Don’t provide your email address to unknown or insecure websites, especially those without an SSL certificate.
  • Keep your operating system, applications, and everything else updated with the latest version. An outdated OS or mail application might not detect the latest threats.
  • When you receive an email with a catchy subject line or too good to be true offers, thoroughly verify its authenticity before following its instructions.
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Can Malware be in Emails?

Cybercriminals can send malware through email attachments or through links in the email body.

Can I get hacked by opening an email?

You might not get hacked just by opening an email. However, if you interact with malicious emails, such as clicking on the links or downloading the attachments, you might introduce hacking tools or codes into your system and get hacked.

How do I know if my email has malware?

There are various signs to detect malware in an email. The sender’s address is suspicious. It contains unsolicited links. The email is full of grammatical and punctuation errors. The contents of the email are too good to be true.

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