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Another day, another uncomplicated way to protect yourself from common security threats!

Beginning about 15 years ago, Microsoft began to drop file extensions out of a user’s view to provide a cleaner look. File extensions, like .doc, .mp3, and .txt, dictate what program will open the file when you double click or run from within your browser. The setting to hide those extension codes is likely the default on your computer right now.

People with malicious intent use this visually clean default setting to their advantage by tricking computer users into running virus and malware-laden files that they think to be innocent text, image, or audio files. You may know not to open a random file in your email with an unfamiliar or uncommon file extension, like .exe (executable file) or .iso (disc image), but you may not hesitate to open a .csv (comma-separated value file) from a familiar looking email address.

As a test, can you tell the difference between these two files?

 

They both look like innocent text files, probably containing your notes, right?

Let’s reveal the true nature of these files:

  1. Open any folder: 
  2. Click the “View” tab at the top
  3. Make sure that this option is checked: 

(If you are running a version of Windows prior to 10, please reference this great guide.)

The files are revealed to be a relatively safe .txt file and a very suspicious .iso file:

Disable AutoPlay

The .iso file extension is used in this example because most computers are configured to automatically run these files through the Windows AutoPlay feature. This setting offers the convenience of automatically launching your audio/video software when you insert a disc or automatically open folders when you insert a flash drive. Each of these conveniences carries some risk, so EVAN recommends disabling this feature:

  1. Click , then 
  2. Type “AutoPlay” in the search bar at the top and select “AutoPlay Settings”
  3. Disable the AutoPlay feature with the on/off switch at the top of the page

 


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