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How to secure Outlook Express against email viruses

Outlook Express is an easy to use email client with many user friendly features. Unfortunately, it is also open to attack by an ever growing number of email viruses. The primary problem is that it displays new messages on the preview pane even before the user has actively opened them. If the new message contains virus code, this code will, by default, be executed. This guide explains how to prevent this from happening.

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1  Transfer display to Restricted Sites zone

By default, Outlook Express uses the same security settings to display web-enabled email messages as Internet Explorer does for standard web sites - the Internet zone. The first stage is therefore to set Outlook Express to use the Restricted sites zone.

  • Select Tools | Options | Security
  • Click Restricted Sites Zone
  • Click OK

2  Assess Restricted Sites Zone settings

By default, even the Restricted Sites zone offers too much freedom to virus developers. You should therefore tighten up the settings on this zone. These changes will also affect web sites which are in this zone. By default, there are none.

  • Launch Internet Explorer - you should do this even if it is not your default browser
  • Select Tools | Options | Security
  • Click on the Restricted Sites icon
  • Click the Custom Level button
  • Work your way down the displayed settings changing all "Enable" options to "Prompt"
  • Click OK
  • Click OK

3  Action to take when you receive a message

In general use, you will simply click on new messages to display them in the preview pane. If you receive a message which contains a script, whether it is a virus or not, a warning message will pop up asking if you want to run the script. You should answer no. If once you've read the message, it becomes clear that you need the script to run, and you are completely confident that there is no virus script present, you can reselect the message and answer yes to the question. Remember though that many email viruses work by sending themselves to every address on someone's addressbook. This means that you may receive an email virus from someone who you trust. Therefore, if a friend sends you an unexpected script message, you must assume it is infected.

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