While Outlook is a popular and easy to use mail program, there are instabilities central to the application that make it vulnerable to viruses and spyware. It’s not surprising that it’s a target for spyware and viruses. Bundled with most Windows operating systems, it is used on almost all computers and it gives hackers direct access to your hard drive.
Here are some steps you can take to improve Outlook security.
*Switch off the Preview Pane*
The Preview Pane is a great little feature to scan through a lot emails quickly. Unfortunately, its very convenience makes the Preview Pane a strong target for hackers. The problem, is that Outlook considers previewing and email and opening an email one and the same thing. This means you’re scanning through a bunch of emails — without knowing what the content is — and Outlook is downloading the email contents at the same time. You can see how this perverse outcome can leave you exposed to hackers. Turn Preview Pane off at View -> Layout, and deselect the Show Preview Pane option.
*Turn off HTML*
HTML emails may look good with images and links, but those elements can easily be manipulated by someone looking to damage your PC.
In much the same way that the Preview Pane will allow unchecked email contents into your PC without your knowing, HTML emails are an easy way for malicious senders to hide the viruses and spyware you want to block. Bogus links and trojan attachments dressed up as images are two simple flaws of HTML emails.
You can easily make the switch to plain text email. Go to Tools -> Options -> Mail Sending Format -> Text.
*Block malicious attachments*
While we’re switching of HTML, let’s remove the possibility of nasty attachments too. While almost all attachments are safe, some can look safe but cause damage. Go to Tools -> Options -> Security, and under Virus Protection, select the checkbox Do Not Allow Attachments To Be Saved Or Opened That Could Potentially Be A Virus
These next steps will control what Outlook does with malicious content.
Open the Security tab under Options, and select Restricted Sites from the dropdown menu next to Zone Settings. When you select OK you’ll see a security window with various icons along the top. Select ‘Restricted Sites’, then push ‘Custom Level’. Set everything to Disabled, except the following:
* Script ActiveX controls
* Font download
* Display mixed content
* Drag and drop or copy and paste files
* Submit nonencrypted form data
Select OK and and OK to go back to the Options panel. Finally, push ‘Attachment Security’, and choose High. From now on, Outlook will warn you when it finds an unsafe attachment.
These steps should secure Outlook. If you notice more problems, such as Outlook is slow to load, or crashes, you may need to download a recommended hard disk scan and check for free if hackers have targeted your inbox.