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  • Five ways to make Outlook Express more secure

    Five ways to make Outlook Express more secure

    Microsoft Outlook Express is a popular and free e-mail client that comes bundled with most versions of Windows client (except for Windows Vista, which replaces Outlook Express with Windows Mail). It’s easy to set up, and it’s easy to use.

    However, it’s also a target for a lot of current and future hacks and viruses — thanks to the fact that it’s an e-mail client (one of the preferred methods of virus delivery) and its tight integration with Internet Explorer (the most heavily targeted browser of black hats). But just because it’s popular with the bad guys does not’t mean you have to pay for a client to read your e-mail.

    You can still use Outlook Express safely: You just need to add a little security and follow a few simple rules. Here are five ways to make Outlook Express more secure.

    Prevent applications from sending e-mail

    A virus that wants to replicate and share itself with other computers will try to use Outlook Express to get the job done. But it’s rather easy to prevent. In Outlook Express, go to Tools | Options, select the Security tab, and enable the Warn Me When Other Applications Try To Send Mail As Me option.

    Turn off HTML e-mail

    Although HTML e-mail looks cool with all of its pictures and links, it’s a dangerous format overall. Web bugs, bogus links, and a host of other nasty problems can do a great deal of damage to your computer. Sometimes just opening an HTML e-mail is enough to launch a malicious surprise. That’s why I recommend using text mail instead.

    To disable HTML e-mail in Outlook Express, go to Tools | Options, select the Mail Sending Format tab, and select the Text option. To configure Outlook Express to read HTML e-mail as text, which strips away any malicious content, go to Tools | Options, select the Read tab, and select the Read All Messages In Plain Text option.

    Give up the Preview Pane

    The Preview Pane definitely comes in handy when scanning through e-mails. However, it’s actually quite dangerous: The operating system considers previewing an e-mail and opening an e-mail to be the same thing. To get rid of the Preview Pane, go to View | Layout, and deselect the Show Preview Pane option.

    Disable JavaScript

    The malicious use of JavaScript can pull a lot of information off a computer — specifically, browsing history and cookies. It can’t format your hard drive, but it can help someone steal information without your knowledge.

    Because of Outlook Express’ integration with Internet Explorer, disabling JavaScript takes a little more effort. Follow these steps:

    1. In Outlook Express, go to Tools | Options, and select the Security tab.
    2. Enable the Restricted Sites Zone (More Secure) option.
    3. Go to Start | Control Panel, and double-click the Internet Options applet.
    4. On the Security tab, click the Custom Level button.
    5. Under Scripting, select Disable under the Active Scripting heading.

    Note: This also disables Visual Basic scripts (VBS).

    Block potentially malicious attachments

    Some attachments are bad; some are good. But sometimes, it’s just better to be safe. To disable potentially malicious attachments, go to Tools | Options, select the Security tab, and select the Do Not Allow Attachments To Be Saved Or Opened That Could Potentially Be A Virus check box under Virus Protection.

    If you enable this option, Outlook Express uses the Internet Explorer 6 Unsafe File list and the Confirm Open After Download setting in Folder Options to determine whether a file is safe. It blocks the download of any e-mail attachment with a file type reported as “unsafe.”

    Note: Outlook Express Service Pack 1 enables this option by default.

    Final thoughts

    Outlook Express is a handy, easy-to-use e-mail client — it just needs a little help in the security department. You don’t need to dump it because of security integration flaws with Internet Explorer; you just need to add a little security and remember to never open an attachment from someone you don’t know.

    Author: Mike Mullins

    Source: techrepublic.com

    Edit:

    Something else you can do is change the toolbar buttons.

    Here are some of things that can be added:

    First:

    At the top click on View - choose Layout from the drop-down menu - click on the Customize Toolbar radio button.

    You will see on the left side Available toolbar radio buttons. Select one radio button at a time for items you want to add to the OE toolbar, then click the Add radio button. Don’t worry if you get it wrong, you can click the reset button and restore the original radio buttons.

    The default for Text Options = Show text labels
    The default for Icon Options = Large Icons

    Three radio buttons that may be added are:

    Contacts
    This radio button will show and hide your address book contacts on the left hand side of OE. Some folks like the fact that you can double click a contact to create a new email with the address already in the To Field.

    Folder List
    This radio button will hide and show the mail folders on the left hand side of OE. It is nice to hide all the stuff that is on the left hand side. It allows you use the entire width of OE's window to read your mail. Good on small displays.

    Preview
    This radio button will hide or show the Preview Pane. It is recommended leaving it off until you have deleted the spam. Turn it on to read the mail that you trust. You can hide it permanently and just double click on the mail you want to read. Then use the Previous and next radio buttons to step through your emails.

    There is one other radio button that is useful: the Offline radio button - try it out...

    The radio buttons can be set up differently for each group of folders, i.e.,
    Hotmail, Imap or the Local Folders.
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