Arlington Composite Squadron IT Update for October 2012

As we begin November, I wanted to take a moment to give a brief IT update for October.  As you might imagine, things were a bit busy with this week’s storm and so I apologize for getting this out late.  I hope that all of you weathered the effects of Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy well and that you are getting back to your routines.

A few weeks ago, one of our squadron members approached me with concerns about an e-mail he received from CAP National Headquarters with a link to download an attachment.  As a rule, he doesn’t click on links in e-mail messages, and he didn’t know whether this one was legitimate.  Here are a few things to consider when you see a link in an e-mail message:

  1. Did the message come from an address you recognize?  If not, you may not want to click the link.
  2. Does the link go to a URL you recognize?  If not, more research may be needed.
  3. Does the link actually go to the place it indicates?  There are a couple of ways to find out.  If you hover your mouse over the link, it should indicate its destination.  You can also copy the link location and paste it to a document to see whether the actual link matches the displayed link.  Some e-mail programs warn you when there is a mismatch – this is a nice feature.
  4. Does the link go to an executable or a zip file?  Be especially careful here, as this is an easy way for a bad actor to inject viruses or other malicious code into your computer.

I always advise caution, but would also point out that there are plenty of legitimate e-mails with links out there.  In fact, the example I mentioned was a real e-mail from CAP NHQ.  As it turns out, NHQ uses an e-mail distribution service called Benchmark to send out messages to its membership.  Benchmark also hosts the files linked to such e-mails – this reduces the demand on CAP NHQ’s own e-mail system.

The bottom line is to always take care with links in e-mails, particularly when they come from addresses and/or organizations you do not know.  If you have any questions about this or about any CAP-related IT issue, please do not hesitate to contact me.