How to Scan Email Attachments for Virus / Malware

Email is still the primary means of communication for most people despite the popularity of social media and messaging applications. In 2018, there were over 3.8 billion email users around the world. And, it is projected to increase to 4.4 billion by 2023.

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That is why email remains one of the major thoroughfares for malware and viruses. Attaching malicious software in emails can turn an innocent message into a gateway to your computer. While people are getting better at recognizing warning signs of questionable emails and attachments, hackers are getting smarter as well.

Thankfully, it is very simple to protect your devices from threats coming from email attachments.

Protect Yourself From Malware in Email

The basic rules of protecting yourself from viruses and malware from email attachment still apply to this day. Make sure that you can trust the sender of the email. However, double check the email address as viruses are known to use existing contacts in your email to send itself.

Also, be aware of file types which are commonly used as carriers of infected files. Watch out for .exe, .pdf, .rtf, .vbs, .doc, and .xls attachment especially if it is from an unknown source. These file types are known carriers of worms and malware. On the other hand, .pdf, .jpg, .zip, .doc and other related file types are also popular tools for targeted attacks.

The malware automatically activates when you open these files on your computer. Some may even start scanning your device for vulnerabilities right after downloading them.

Luckily, most if not all modern email providers have built-in virus and malware scanners to protect you from threats. These functionalities scan incoming and outgoing emails for any questionable files in them. For instance, Gmail automatically rejects emails and notifies the sender when it detects threats. It prevents the threat from reaching your inbox.

Scan Using VirusTotal

In case you still receive an email, and its attachment looks fishy, you can screen the email and its attachments with VirusTotal without having to download the files.

First, forward the questionable email to In Gmail, click the triple dot menu on the upper right corner when you open the email. Choose Forward.

forward email in gmail

Enter in the To field. If you want to receive the VirusTotal Online Scanner results in plain text, write SCAN in the subject line. Click the dropdown menu on the upper left corner and choose Edit subject. You can also type SCAN+XML if you want to receive the results in XML format.

edit subject in gmail

In Outlook, click the arrow on the upper right corner when you open the email.

forward email in outlook

Enter in the To field and SCAN (or SCAN+XML) on the subject line.

edit subject in outlook

You will receive an email outlining the results of the malware and virus scan using various security technologies such as AVG, Ad-Aware, Avast, BitDefender, Comodo, Kaspersky, Malwarebytes, Panda, and TrendMicro among others. At the time of writing this article, VirusTotal ran the attachments against 57 security algorithms.

virustotal results

Full Protection with MalwareFox

If you already have the email attachment on your computer, ensure that you do not run or double-click the file. Scan the specific file using MalwareFox, one of the best anti-malware around.

Browse to the file location. Right-click on the file and choose Scan with MalwareFox AntiMalware. This will target any threats on the specific file

scan malware using malwarefox

MalwareFox will catch anything harmful hiding in the file.

malwarefox results

It is also a good idea to keep your anti-malware software running and enable real-time protection. MalwareFox will effectively identify and block any threats that will try to execute in your device. This will ultimately protect your computer in case you accidentally open a questionable email attachment.

Final Thoughts

Viruses and malware in email attachments are classic examples of spreading threats across different users. While significant improvements in real-time protection on email providers will protect you from common threats, it is still best to stay vigilant and ensure that you are receiving emails from senders that you trust.

Moreover, install powerful anti-malware software such as MalwareFox that will protect you from any threats before they even have the chance to infect your computer. Keep your security software regularly updated to ensure that it can recognize any new malicious software.

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