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Attachments, Viruses &
Effective Communication
(more People- & Planet-Friendly Portals & Guides)

Contents
(1) We Don't Send Attachments!
(2) Viruses that pretend to come from us
(3) Think twice before opening any attachment
(4) What's Wrong With Attachments???
(5) Need to send an attachment?
(6) Sending effective attachments (or not!)
(7) The Bottom Line
(8) To learn more...

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(1) We Don't Send Attachments!

People- & Planet-Friendly has never sent attachments and never will. This is partly because of the very real risk of viruses. Dozens of you are getting infected (from sources other than us) – often losing important files, having to reinstall your computer, and wasting a lot of time.

If you ever receive an attachment purporting to come from us, don't open it!

(Exception: While we never send attachments to our list, we do occasionally send small attachments in individual correspondence – to people we have already corresponded with and who are expecting such an attachment. We always include a full explanation in the plain text body of the message, giving plenty of information for you to decide whether or not you wish to open the attachment).

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(2) Viruses That Pretend To Come From Us

Today's e-mail viruses can forge the sender's address.

For example, if Jane Doe's computer is infected by a virus, and our e-mail address happens to be somewhere on Jane's computer, the virus could send an attachment that don't open it...appears to have come from us. So if you receive an attachment that seems to be from us,

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(3) Think Twice Before Opening Any Attachment

If you receive an unexpected attachment from anybody – including friends and coworkers – think twice before opening it. While plain text messages cannot contain viruses – attachments and HTML mail definitely can. Today's viruses can do everything from destroying your files, to damaging your computer, to violating your privacy (passwords, credit card numbers, etc.)

If someone sends you an unsolicited or unwanted attachment, politely ask them to resend the message as plain text, and refer them to this page or www.planetfriendly.net/emailtips.html for more information.

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(4) What's Wrong With Attachments?

There are many reasons – in addition to concerns about viruses – that make the sending and receiving of attachments problematic.

E-mail attachments:
can infect your computer with a virus and destroy your files;
can infect your friends (who may not know how to protect themselves);
exclude people who do not have the required software;
exclude people who have slower connections;
often take additional time & effort on the part of the recipient;
can make things more difficult for beginners;
can overfill people's mailboxes, causing further messages from you and others to be rejected;
are less frequently forwarded to others;
can be blocked, mangled or stripped off in transit;
are often deleted by recipients (i.e. not read!);
can waste a lot of time, effort and money.

Also, in a political and economic sense, attachments can:
needlessly increase the dependence of the entire community on expensive
corporate software (plus the expense of frequent required upgrades and other concerns);
foster dependence on monopolistic companies that operate without concern for diversity
or sustainability – and already have had major impacts far beyond the world of computers;
foster an imbalance of power in communication media;
be harmful to open, democratic communications (more info).

The above applies to all kinds of attachments. It also applies to HTML mail.

In most circumstances, e-mail should be plain text, and plain text only!

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(5) Need To Send An Attachment?

Sending an attachment to multiple recipients beyond your own immediate office is rarely appropriate. When is it appropriate?

If all of your recipients have the required software, and the time & ability to process the file;
If you and all your recipients have up-to-date virus protection software and recent backups of your files;
If you know that the file is not larger than your recipients will be happy with;
and if the graphics, formatting, or other non-textual content is critical to your message

...then sending an attachment might be appropriate.

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(6) Sending Effective Attachments

If, after considering the above, you feel that sending an attachment is appropriate in your situation, try to do it in an effective and considerate manner.

At a minimum, be sure to write a clear, descriptive subject line and use the text body of the message to describe the purpose and content of the attachment.

If it's a large message (say over 100K), consider contacting the recipient in advance and ask them if they want the attachment.

Or, Copy & Paste it into a Text Message

Better yet, copy and paste the entire thing into the plain text body of the message. Don't know how to copy, paste and format quickly and conveniently? Ask a friend or two to show you the tricks – it's an invaluable skill with many other applications. See also:
www.planetfriendly.net/emailtips.html
www.planetfriendly.net/emailtips.html#text

Another alternative: switch to "OpenOffice", a fully featured alternative to Microsoft Office, now available free as a download. Due to a fundamentally different design philosophy, documents created by OpenOffice are entirely virus-free (see the link below for details). Note that many of the other disadvantages listed in (4) above apply to all attachments, including attached OpenOffice files. To learn more about the advantages of OpenOffice: www.planetfriendly.net/opensource.html

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(7) The Bottom Line

For those of you who really don't want to spend even a few minutes learning about this, there's a simple rule that will protect you and your friends from many viruses: avoid opening or sending attachments ...and make sure you're not using software that automatically opens them on your behalf. But if you think you'd like to learn a little more, please see the following links.

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(8) To Learn More

Why not "empower" yourself on effective and safe e-mail communications? Take a few minutes to browse the three pages linked below. Bring them to the attention of your friends and co-workers. Help promote sensible e-mail practices ...and we all will benefit.

How Microsoft Word attachments destroy freedom and democracy www.fsf.org/philosophy/no-word-attachments.html
We do not accept Microsoft attachments www.flora.ca/no-outlook.shtml

E-Mail Tips & Strategies www.planetfriendly.net/emailtips.html
Seven Steps to Virus-Free Computing www.planetfriendly.net/virustips.html
Alternatives to Corporate Software www.planetfriendly.net/opensource.html

In hopes of effective communications for all,
– Peter Blanchard (contact)

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E-mail Forgery – As noted above, some viruses are capable of forging the "from" line and other parts of a message. Perhaps the easiest and most reliable way to find out if a suspicious message really came from where it seems, is to ask the sender. Send them an e-mail message or, if appropriate, phone them. To some degree, it is also possible to "trace" an e-mail message. Ask a technically inclined friend, or try these links:
www.cs.uu.nl/wais/html/na-dir/net-abuse-faq/spam-faq.html
www.google.com/search?q=%22tracing+an+e-mail+message%22

Virus protection is not just a matter of having anti-virus software! www.planetfriendly.net/virustips.html

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DISCLAIMER: The above information is provided free of charge, for your interest. There is no warranty, express or implied, as to the accuracy, reliability, utility or completeness of this information.

(c) Copyright Peter Blanchard, 2002. However, this document may be distributed for free by non-profit organizations, community groups and indivduals for non-commercial use – as long as full credit is given, including the name of the author and the address of this page (www.planetfriendly.net/attachments.html).

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