How to Detect an Email Worm

by Contributor

An email worm is a malicious Internet-borne program that uses your email account and address book to copy itself and spread to other account holders. The best way to fight email worms is to prevent them, and the best way to prevent them is to detect them.

Be wary of attachments. Email worms come in the form of attachments to an email, and then burrow into your address book once you open or download the file. Exercise cautionwith any attachment, even if it comes from someone you know. Worms send themselves to contacts from a victim's address book, so you are likely to get the worm from someone you know.

If you aren't expecting a file attachment from a contact, respond to the sender to ask whether he sent you that file attachment. If the sender does not know about the attachment, you can be fairly certain that you have detected an email worm.

Look for strange or misspelled file extensions. Since worms send themselves to many different people, they have to use generic file names to trick people into opening them. Many times, the worm creators use technical-looking file names such as "Win32.Nyxem.exe." In other cases, the worms use time-relevant tags like "HappyHollyday," intentionally misspelling a word to emulate human error or to pique interest in the file.

Run your anti-virus or anti-malware. Anti-virus and anti-malware that is up to date and reliable can detect an email worm. Keep your software updated with new downloads so that the program can detect new viruses and worms. Invest in a reliable anti-virus or anti-malware program and check for updates every few days to detect any lingering email worms.