What is Email Virus? (How Do They Spread, How to Prevent)

If your device starts misbehaving after you open an email or its attachment, then your system might become a victim of an Email Virus. In this post, we would discuss more about email virus, methods of spreading, and how to prevent it.

What is an Email Virus?

Cybercriminals tend to use the popular mediums to cover the maximum number of devices in less time for wide spreading the malware programs and codes they created. One such commonly used medium for malware spreading is email. The malicious programs or codes spread through emails are widely known as 'email viruses.'

The infected codes can be hidden in the email message, attachments, or links. The malware generally gets activated when the user interacts with it. For example, if the malware is in the attachment, it would be active only when the user downloads and opens it. Similarly, clicking on the malicious link of the email can trigger the installation of a malicious program in the system.

Other than the malware spread, email viruses can also be used to bring down the servers by continuous spam email bombarding. The spam emails are designed by professional attackers in such a way that it becomes challenging to detect whether or not they contain malicious programs. Generally, email viruses are sent for extracting the private information of the user, such as bank credentials, social media logins, social security numbers, and other security info.

Common Methods of Spreading Email Viruses

There are multiple methods through which email viruses are spread across the devices. Here are the most common methods −

Hoax Mails

Hoax emails are one of the most common email virus spread mediums. In such emails, false warnings such as fake virus alert, system hack warning, etc., are delivered to create a panic among the users. The email receivers are then advised to download the email attachment and install it to remove viruses or solve any other problem. Users in fear do whatever is instructed in the email.

Spam Emails

Another famous method to spread email viruses is spam mails. Spam mail is designed in such a way that the users could not resist themselves for clicking on them. The subject line is made catchy and attractive, for example - 70% Off on your Favorite Product. Users are presented with fake offers that would get activated only if they click the given link. That link is unsurprisingly malicious and can trigger the malware installation.


Whaling is an organizational-level email fraud. It is more popularly used for scamming than virus spreading. In it, a genuine-looking email is sent to the person who handles the finances of an organization and can initiate the transactions. The email pretends to be sent from a top official of the company asking for carrying out monetary transactions. Although Whaling looks challenging and unlikely to happen, it still regularly happens even in big organizations. Whaling can also be used for forcing employees to click on malicious links and download malware.

How to Prevent Email Viruses?

Email viruses can cause havoc into computer systems after their infiltration. It is essential to discover them early on and remove them immediately. You will usually find them trickier to guess; some loosely designed fake emails can be easily identified by their subject line, suspicious or phony sender, or the useless matter. Anyway, prevention is better than cure, so here are a few preventive measures to restrain Email Viruses −

  • Use the spam filters on your email so that fake emails do not find their way into your inbox. Though many top email service providers like Gmail already have the in-built capability of filtering the spam in a separate folder, getting a third-party spam filter would provide you added security.

  • Avoid opening the email attachments sent from unknown sources. The file extensions .dll, .exe, .com, .pif, .js, .scr, .dot, .xls, .xlt, etc., can be virus carrier. Always be careful while downloading such files from emails.

  • Like the attachments, never interact with the links of the email sent through an unreliable source.

  • Restrain yourself from providing your email address to untrustworthy sources.

In addition, you should always keep your operating system and applications up to date. And, always have a robust security solution on your system.

Updated on: 19-Jul-2022

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