Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How to Scan Email File Attachments Without Downloading Them First

MailAs kids we’re taught not to take candy from strangers and as adults we’re told not to take file attachments from strangers.

What if that file is coming from a colleague or friend?

One of the various ways that viruses, worms or other malware have been known to spread is by spamming itself to all of the contacts within a victim’s address book.  So, it's necessary to be cautious with files attached to emails coming from people you know as well.

While it’s true that a lot of email clients have some sort of antivirus software backing them (for instance, Yahoo! uses Norton to scan messages), nothing is 100% and there’s a chance that the scan won’t detect the dangers lurking within.

As luck would have it, VirusTotal offers the ability to run file attachments through a laundry list of different antivirus programs including Kaspersky, NOD32, TrendMicro, McAfee, Panda, and others. Best of all, you don’t even have to download (or open) the file in order to do it!

All you have to do is:

  1. Change the “Subject:” field of the email to “SCAN”.

  2. Clear out the body of the email, only leaving the file attached.

  3. Forward the email with the file attachment to scan@virustotal.com.

Once the file has been processed, a report of the findings will be sent back to the same email address it was sent from.  And since the file will run through such a wide assortment of antivirus programs, there’s a very good chance that any malware hiding inside will be detected.

Just keep in mind that the response time varies on the server load and this only a method to detect malware, not eliminate it.

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