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Configuring Microsoft products for safety, security and privacy

Permitting 'trusted senders' to 'download' richer content in E-MAILs

Occasionally you will want or need to see an e-mail (OR A WEB PAGE - see How to trust a web site) as the sender intended you to view it - images, interactivity etc.. Bear in mind that if you are not absolutely certain that the sender was fully in control of their PC when the e-mail was sent you may be exposing yourself to a serious computer virus that could cost £300-500UKP to fix and a lot more in terms of lost business, data and many other bad consequences.

Detecting bad links - especially valuable to avoid IDENTITY THEFT

This is so simple to implement but can save your PC and your identity. When someone sends a link in an e-mail they can choose to show you text which is different to the actual web address that you will visit when you click on it!

To avoid this obvious problem you should enable the 'Status Bar' in Outlook Express by clicking on View and then Layout - see image to right.

The option is enabled by checking the 'Status Bar' as shown to the left.

When you then hover over any link in an e-mail you will see the REAL address which you will be sent to if you click on that link - STILL BE CAREFUL because fraudsters will obviously try to fool you with spelling mistakes. This is an excellent reason to have your default (Internet Zone) browsing security set to very high and only promoting sites to higher zones when you are absolutley certain you can trust the exact site names, see How to trust a web site for more details.

To view an e-mail with full graphics/interactivity "etc." and associated risks

Opening any attachments exposes you to great degrees of risk so please only open items when you:

  • already expected exactly whatever has arrived from the Sender and that notification was NOT sent by e-mail unless you are absolutely certain that it was created by the human author who you trust.
  • have checked your Anti-Virus is up-to-date in the past 2 days
  • normally see file 'extensions' on ALL documents (not just in mail) and the extension of the attachment is one you explicitly know and have a trusted program which you know will be used to open it. For example - a '.pdf' extension is normally opened with Acrobat reader but if you don't normally see the '.pdf' then the file may actually be called: 'OpenMe.pdf   .exe' which would be run as a program on your PC with your authority to make changes to any part of it!

Apart from attachments - improving the visual appearance of (HTML) e-mails

With the option set in Outlook (Express) to view all messages as plain text then you have not only stopped most viruses, worms and Spam tracking applications but you can process e-mail much faster because you see the body text of what people are sending rather than any peripheral marketing or "fancy" material that is intended to impress you. With XP and Outlook Express you can now choose "Don't load remote images" which when coupled to the use of the untrusted zone as the settings for things such as JavaScript makes this as safe as 'Read all in Plain Text'.

Occasionally you will want or need to see an e-mail as the sender intended you to view it - images etc.. Bear in mind that if you are not absolutely certain that the sender was fully in control of their PC when the e-mail was sent you may be exposing yourself to a serious computer virus that could cost £300-500UKP to fix and a lot more in terms of lost business, data and many other bad consequences.

When using the (XP only) Outlook Express option to 'Block remote images and content'

If you have kept up-to-date with Windows Updates then as of Nov'06 you should now get a narrow bar of black on grey writing just above the text of the e-mail with the words 'Some pictures have been blocked to help prevent the sender from identifying your computer. Click here to download pictures'

If the only thing you want to do is to see the images and you don't mind the sender knowing that you have opened the e-mail then simply click on the prompt as described above.

If you want to do/see more then you may need to resort to the technique below which is described for Windows 98 users.

When using the 'Read all messages as plain text' in Windows 98 or XP Outlook Express

To see images that have not been downloaded there is a workaround that is OK for the occassional e-mail. The process is simply to click on the Reply or Forward buttons - this should now show all images. If you then need to make the links in the e-mail 'clickable' it is a little more tortuous. You need to click on 'View' and then 'Source Edit' while forwarding an e-mail. You will then have three Tabs at the bottom of the editing window - choosing 'Preview' allows you to click on links.

Note that this will not allow you to print e-mails in their rich format - you need to use the 'Block images' option in XP OE rather than the 'Plain text' option which Windows 98 users must use unless they have different accounts and identities set-up so they can process different mail sources in different ways.

I hope that has been useful. Any Comments, suggestions or corrections to: Contact us please. This would be especially useful if the software environment you have is different to mine and the headings, text or prompts are different.


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