How to Scan Emails for Viruses

how to scan emails for viruses

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Emailing, despite being a fundamental tool in how we communicate and do business, is the most effective delivery method for attacks. Virus-laden email attachments have been there for decades.

Instead of a browser-based tool like Gmail, there is desktop email software used by millions of people, which makes their operating system vulnerable every time an email gets opened. The problem that lies here is that a substantially higher risk of opening cybersecurity threats when using them.

So, how to avoid these viruses? Well, Antivirus software that can scan attachments for viruses is required for this. Not just by prohibiting viruses, but also by scanning any outbound messages en-routing the mail server, they help to prevent spam emails and corrupted attachments from going onto the network.

Scan Procedures

For any desktop email client, here’s what you need to know:

  • Navigate to the email containing the attachment you want to open.
  • Now, click on the attachment icon. In Microsoft email clients like Live Mail, you can find the context menu at the top of the mail. In Mozilla Thunderbird, the bottom of the reading pane contains the attachment.
  • An entry from the antivirus program is generated at the context menu. Select “Scan with Microsoft Security Essentials” in Windows, if you have not installed any third-party tool. Individual files attached to the email will be checked by the Windows in-built scanner. Other users can download the file and scan it manually.

After finishing the scan, the antivirus will give a message that either the attachment is safe or it is infected and has been moved to quarantine or securely deleted from the system.

Which Software to Use?

Though Windows built-in antivirus programs can detect plenty of threats, it is highly recommended to install third-party antivirus software because they have the most frequently updated definition database and offer real-time protection.


norton logoBeing in the biggies, Norton prevails in the department of internet security. It automatically configures the email program for protection against threats and viruses.

It can be set for two-way scanning of both inbound and outbound emails. It can also create a Norton Antispam Folder to direct the junks away from your inbox.

Norton Security Top Features
Real-time threat protectionDark web monitoring
Password manager10GB cloud backup
SafeCamSmart Firewall

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mcafee logoMcAfee offers two security products – McAfee Email Protection and McAfee Security for Email Servers. When considered collectively, they support all available email security gateways, deployment models.

Organizations of nearly any size can easily acquire and scale those models to meet their email security needs.

McAfee Top Features
Comprehensive internet securityMulti-faceted privacy protection
On-the-go secured Wi-FiPerformance optimization
Password managerEncrypted storage

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Scanning Gmail for Viruses

Gmail account automatically runs scan whenever an email message arrives. Google Gmail blocks those emails from entering your inbox, which it finds to be suspicious of virus-containing attachment.

scanning gmail for virusesGmail blocks certain types of attachments- such as executable files, files with the extension of BAT and SCR, etc. These files can change or modify the configuration of your system. Google Gmail uses a suite of virus detection applications to scan all the incoming mails.

Emails are blocked when a virus or prohibited file type is detected, and the sender is informed the email failed to reach the recipient. It does not recommend downloading those attachments which can’t be scanned.

For outgoing mails, Gmail generates an error message in case of viruses or prohibited files. You can click “Help” to know why the data is blocked.

You have to clean your attachment files with your own virus removal application because Gmail can only detect viruses but cannot clean those infected files by itself.

Prevention – Better than Cure

Emails are used to spread various pieces of malware, whether it is some ransomware, adware, spyware, or any other malicious piece of code, and building a good defense against them becomes a priority.

It is a priority not just for companies but for anybody that has access to an internet-enabled device. It can be relatively quickly done; only you have to understand how hackers use emails to catch users off guard so they install malware so that it can be easily detected and dealt with.

Hackers know the art of manipulating people so that they give up confidential information. They may try to trick you with emails appearing as if related to your bank, mails which appear to be a resume with some attached malicious payload, mails claiming to be from some e-commerce, those containing invoices, or relating to any event.

email virus prevention

So, it’s always important to see the sender is before opening anything. One should also look at the URL links, and their validity can be checked by hovering your mouse over the link.

At the bottom left corner of the web browser, you will see the real URL that you’re going to be redirected to. If it looks suspicious or ends in .exe, .js or .zip, then never click on it.

Over the years, email phishing scams have evolved, and they now include the installation of malware as a second stage in the attack. It’s worrying to note that 11% of phishing email recipients appear to be clicking on the attachments linked along with the emails.

It just takes one employee to fall for the ruse, and if more than one in ten is doing so, then the organization is losing.

Executable files or .exe files are always the most concerned ones, so always keep a close eye on them. And as a default position, avoid opening files having extensions that you are not aware of even if it might be scanned.


The convenience offered by browser-based webmail platforms is unmatchable, but sometimes it’s simply not possible to beat the work of a dedicated piece of software.

Hackers are continually evolving new methods to trick users into becoming victims. Email continues to be an easy platform for cybercrooks seeking to induce viruses and malware programs onto the system through malicious attachments.

So, every desktop email user should equip their system with an antivirus program with email scanning installed. By just adopting simple changes in the way you respond and treat emails, you can go a long way in preventing yourself from being a victim.


Best Software for Email Scanning

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Author: Tony Weber
Tony Weber often jokes that he learned how to code before learning to walk. His father being a computer engineer, taught him everything about computers and coding since he was a child. Tony was a swift learner, and even before starting school, he knew this would be his profession.