Can Malware Send Out Email?

By Avery Martin

Malware has the potential to hijack your email account, using it to send messages to every contact in your address book. These messages can include commercial spam or even threats. Email from malware isn't just sent to your friends and neighbors, either. According to Symantec, a leading security software company, malware has sent threats to government websites about mass murder, airline bomb threats and school attacks.

Types of Malware

Malware that sends unsolicited spam email often aims to take advantage of your email client to send free advertising to your contacts. There are several types of malware that can send email on an infected system. Bots, Trojans, viruses and a subset of a virus known as a worm can send email messages on infected computers. A worm can copy itself as an attachment to an email message, thereby sending itself to all of your contacts.

Malware Dangers

In addition to sending out unsolicited email, malware can also damage your system and make changes without your knowledge. Trojans can download programs, software and illegal files to your computer and bots can take control of your computer without your knowledge to attack websites, financial institutions and other large networks. Additionally, email-based malware creates a loss of productivity, uses up system resources and increases the possibility that important messages are accidentally deleted. You may even get put on an Internet blacklist that lists computers, servers and emails known to send out spam.

Guarding Against Malware

For greater protection against malware installing itself on your computer, purchase a complete security solution that includes anti-virus, firewall and anti-malware programs in one suite. Norton, TrendMicro and McAfee provide all-in-one security suites. Additionally, keep your Windows computer software up to date. Windows Update regularly releases patches and fixes for new, large-scale infections; installing the latest updates can help protect your computer. Some hardware-based firewalls that come as part of your router may also provide basic protection, but hardware-based firewalls generally only stop incoming connections.

Removing Malware

Malware can be removed, but in some cases it may cause permanent harm to your system. If you can identify the exact day and time that malware started affecting your system, running System Restore can quickly recover your system and remove the malware. For more insidious infections, running a virus scan, root-kit removal tool and making sure your system is up to date removes most threats. TrendMicro and Microsoft both offer anti-virus programs and malware removal tools. Additionally, you can immunize your computer against many threats by downloading a free spyware removal program such as SpyBot - Search & Destroy.