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How to spot disguised malicious files before they infect your computer

How to spot disguised malicious files before they infect your computer

Imagine that you get an email from an acquaintance with an MP3 file attached. The email says that this is the best song ever, and you'll love it. An MP3 is harmless enough, so you download it and try to play it.

You can't hear any music, but you notice your computer is acting funny. You run a virus scan and it turns out that your computer is infected with a nasty bug. Obviously, the MP3 file was to blame, but probably not in the way you think.

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Savvy scammers can manipulate a file's extensions to disguise what kind of file it is. As a refresher, the file extension is the .xyz at the end of a file. So, an MP3 is .mp3, a video file could be .avi, .mov, .mp4 or something else along those lines, a photo can be .jpg, .bmp, .raw, and so forth.

Then there's .exe. This is the extension for an executable file, which is what actually executes the program's code. It's usually the extension of the file you double-click to install or open a program, including most viruses. Unfortunately, hackers have two ways to disguise .exe files so you don't spot them until it's too late.

Next page: Disguised file extensions and how you can spot them
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