Internet borne malware and viruses can infect your PC and corrupt and destroy your email address book - or worse. This computer security guide explains how to protect your computer address book.
How To Protect Your Computer Address Book
Whether you have amassed thousands of email contacts or have just one, you probably don’t want to lose these details, any more than you want them to be the target of a spam or virus attack hosted on your PC and conducted through your email client.
However, this can happen.
Without suitable security software and vigilance when opening unusual email messages and attachments, you can put your PC at risk and end up forwarding dangerous emails to friends and colleagues around the globe.
As such, protecting your PC from viruses is only part of the story – you also need to protect your address book to prevent others from potential data loss.
If your PC has become infected by a virus that is designed to propagate via email – and you have no way of knowing if it does or doesn’t – then you need to immediately disconnect from the Internet. This is how to protect your computer address book using Microsoft Outlook.
While you might not be able to see it, your PC might be busy sending email messages to everyone in your address book with an email-based virus. Depending on your email client, there might be some additional protection from this.
For instance Microsoft Outlook prevents other programs from accessing your address book and asks for confirmation from the user to proceed or cancel any such actions.
Meanwhile internet security suites (such as those from McAfee and Norton) offer address book protection – although this might be no good to you if your email address book has already been harvested, mined and destroyed.
Backing Up Address Book
Sadly, in order to prevent you from warning potential targets in your address book, email-based viruses often obliterate your address book, leaving you with no way to contact anyone in it.
Unless you have taken a backup of the address book, you’re unable to retrieve this information. Most mail clients have an option to backup or export contact details – for instance, Microsoft Outlook has the facility to export contacts separately to other information, while Outlook Express has a separate address book that can be copied and saved to disk via Windows Explorer.
(Note that if you are infected with such a virus you should complete a full virus scan and removal before restoring any email address information)
How NOT to Protect Your Computer Address Book
Doing the rounds for a few years has been the suggestion that setting up a fake email account in your address book with a made up email address (for instance A. Aardvark with an address of firstname.lastname@example.org) will prevent email borne viruses from harvesting and mailing your contacts.
This can be explained as an example of how to protect your computer address book the wrong way.
The thinking behind this is that when the malicious program takes hold of your computer and begins to use it as a new base of operations, it will begin spreading copies of itself via email to everyone in your address book. By setting up the Aardvark address, the mail client will be unable to send the series of messages as the first address doesn’t exist.
Unfortunately, although on the face of it a sensible idea, the logic simply isn’t sound, working on the incorrect assumption that an email virus works through a computer address book alphabetically.
In actual fact, viruses mine information in a different way – and can in some cases send emails without accessing the mail client.