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Thread: Is it safe to view the 'Message Source' of an email that may have a virus in it?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2004

    Question Is it safe to view the 'Message Source' of an email that may have a virus in it?

    I quite often receive suspicious emails that appear to have attachments embedded in them (like GIFs, or other files.)
    I assume these might well be viruses, or other malicious code.

    Up to now, I have sometimes looked at the contents of these emails by doing the following (in Outlook Express): right-click on the email, select 'Properties' from the drop-down menu, select the 'Details' tab on the pop-up window, and then click the 'Message Source' button.
    This displays the full contents of the email as a kind of HTML text file.

    I've been doing this on the assumption that it is safe to do so, because any attachments incorporated in the email are not (as far as I'm aware) opened when you do this - they just appear as code.
    But now I'm wondering if it's actually safe to do this?

    Is it safe to open the 'Message Source' of emails which are potentially infected with viruses?
    Or is there some risk involved?

    Thanks in advance for your help.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Probably safe, unless the sender has found some insanely clever exploit with some obscure string of characters.
    It's a much bigger risk to actually read the e-mail, either via opening it or by using the preview window. Try disabling the preview window and don't open e-mails unless your fairly sure that they are legimate.

    Besides, the most important part of security is just keeping your software up-to-date and configured sensibly.
    Disclaimer. (1) Whilst I will help you sometimes, if I feel like it, and my advice in relation to your actual question will be of good quality: my posts are to be taken with a pinch of salt. I will be sarcastic, deploy irony and include obscure cultural references for my own amusement without warning.
    (2) You will gain nothing from complaining, and if you try to argue with me then you will not win. No matter how noble your battle seems, I am still better than you, don't be an hero.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    American, living in Toronto, ON. CANADA
    Definately what 'the tree' said, for sure.

    If you do not have it, SEARCH and download this FREE tool, "Spybot Search & Destroy".

    Even with my anti-viral and firewall, "Spybot S&D" periodically finds and has always successfully removed 'crumbs' of things that don't belong. I ran it again manually the night before last and it found over 20 'things' that I had removed with other tools, -but they (other tools) missed these. Not virus, but more like 'internet-useage trackers'... Junk. Untrustworthy cruft. Maybe I'm slightly paranoid about my internet anomynity but I like 'cleaning out' my temp and cache folders and ridding myself of spybots & trackers several times weekly, and Spybot S&D is a big part of my efforts to do so. I all liklihood, Spybot would give additional protection against potential e-mail bugs.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2004


    Thanks for the replies.

    I have got the preview window disabled in OE, thanks.
    And I don't really open emails properly unless I know who they're from.

    I do have Spybot and AdAware on my machine.
    But I don't think Spybot is continuously checking what's going on.
    Maybe I should turn on the 'Immunize' function or something, if that's what it's for?

    I've only been using Spybot and AdAware to do periodic scans so far.
    They do seem to pick up plenty of undesirable cookies and stuff though.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Jerryville, Tejas
    You'd be safer if you were viewing that source from Thunderbird rather than OE.
    "Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it." Brian W. Kernighan

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