Dangers of Legitimate-Looking File Types in Windows

If you go mushroom picking in the woods, chances are you might end up plucking a few that are lethally poisonous.

It's the same with file types in Windows – while there are files that genuinely help you carry out your tasks, there are some file types that appear legitimate but actually can be detrimental to your computer data. Some common examples of file types that are misused for malicious purpose are listed below:

.exe – file extension for an executable file format

.com – website suffix to commercial domain addresses

.pif – stands for “program information file” and is created when you create a shortcut to an MS-DOS-based programs

.bat – an unformatted text file that contains one or more commands

.scr – file extension associated with screensavers created for Windows Operating System

One reason why the aforementioned file types are hazardous compared to other files types (.jpeg and .mp3) is because they are macros, i.e. documents capable of running codes and executing commands.

Fake File Extensions

Although these file types are perfectly safe in an ideal situation, cybercriminals float around files and email attachments with similar extensions to dupe naive users into opening them and committing their PCs to virus. And as if that is not enough, the scammers add an extra extension to a file type (e.g. BankOfAmerica.doc.txt), probably to make it more believable. Unfortunately, more than 40 million Americans fall prey to phishing attacks every year because they lack the basic information to identify malicious files and attachments in the emails they receive.

Because their appearance can be deceiving, it's best to have an antivirus software that scans all files coming from known and unknown sources and instantly blocks the one that it feels are potentially hazardous. Microsoft's help desk, the parent company behind Windows products, advises users to save files that they receive from dubious sources in a separate folder and run a scan on them immediately before attempting to open them. If it's a self-replicating virus or a harmful malware, your AV will alert you and prompt you to take necessary action.

Know The Dangers

The list of potentially dangerous files is endless, although a few websites have tried to maintain a comprehensive list of the most common file types. Click here to see the exhaustive list. If you are confronted with malware problem and want to dig out further, visit the Comodo File Intelligence page and type your query in the Malware Search Engine for a detailed report on a particular malware. The virus removal process gets easier and you build a better protection from malwares if you can identify what type of harmful file has attacked your system.