Category Archives: E-mail

Am I about to download a virus? (Part 1)

There are lots of good, useful things you can download from the Internet for free. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of things that will harm your PC, pop-up fake warnings, mess with your search results, and so on.

How do you tell a good download from a bad one?

The same applies to e-mail attachments – how do you tell a safe attachment from a dangerous one? Continue reading Am I about to download a virus? (Part 1)

BT mail settings

Updated 1st March 2017

To understand this post, you might need to read my article Understanding E-Mail Settings

If you want to use a non-BT e-mail address  (for example a Freeserve address, or maybe you have your own domain name) with your BT mail service, see my pages here.

BT has (at least) three different mail services. Your first challenge is to find out which one you use.

If your BT email address ends with:

Continue reading BT mail settings


I’m thinking of writing some articles on these topics:

  • BT Infinity … it’s probably not going to be as fast as BT claims; there are some constraints on installation which can be a problem for some people (and BT don’t warn you about); you can get identical products from people other than BT and VirginMedia.
  • iPads and smartphones … many of my customers don’t understand that they will almost certainly have to make some changes to any existing POP3 mail programs (Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Mail, Windows Live Mail, Thinderbird …) if they start using an iPad or smartphone (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry …) for e-mail
  • Possibly a general tutorial on how mail works. With the rise of smartphone (see above) people need to understand a little about POP3, SMTP and the rest of it.  People are increasingly getting problems with checking mail too frequently, mailboxes too full, timeouts set too short, mail clients falling over each other, not using the right SMTP server to allow them to send mail when away form home …
  • Domain names … more people seem to be changing ISPs these days (maybe because of the rise of fibre) and changing e-mail addresses is often an issue. A personal domain name is cheap and very useful, but almost no home users understand or consider getting one (in fact, quite a few small-business users aren’t as clued-up on this as they might be). I might write an explanation about domain names, mail forwarding, etc.

Mail problems

Apart from malware, setting up mail still seems to cause most problems I see, and I’ve lost count of the number of people who tell me that BT call centres don’t seem able to help with even simple mail problems. Some people have even told me that they found my BT help pages after having been told about it by BT, which is a compliment of sorts from BT, I suppose.

I notice that VirginMedia are now doing outbound validation in a similar way to BT — if you are not using a VirginMedia e-mail address to send from, you have to register the address you want to use with VirginMedia. They have managed to do this in an even more annoying way than BT, though, in that rather than just permit a validated sender to use their SMTP servers, they add a SENDER: header to each outgoing mail item. This means that recipients using most versions of Outlook with see it as from the virginmedia address “on behalf of” the validated address. Not many people like this, but — other than not using VirginMedia’s SMTP servers — there is no way round it that I know of.  For me, it would be a reason not to use VirginMedia.

Talking of reasons not to use certain ISPs, BT Business Broadband (which provides e-mail address) refuses to allow individual non-BT addresses to pass through its SMTP servers. This means that their customers who want to carry on using an old e-mail address from another ISP aren’t able to do so. BT Business Broadband won’t tell me why they have this policy (they cite only “security concerns” which they won’t or can’t explain) or why BT Broadband ( allows it and BT Business Broadband ( doesn’t. I suspect whoever made this decision doesn’t understand the issues. I’ve noticed this before in companies with “product managers” who often seem to be marketing people who don’t really understand the technology. I suppose BT would say it’s better to have product managers who are marketing people who don’t fully understand the product than it is to have product managers who are technical people who don’t fully understand marketing.

Personally, I’d be happier with a bit less marketing from BT, and a bit more product knowledge in its product managers and call centres. I still find their engineering staff are almost always absolutely excellent, though, although they tend to hide away from customers, maybe understandably!

New for 2011

Looking back over the last year, some things have changed in the world of PCs, but many problems remain pretty much the same!

Malware — viruses, trojans, spyware and the like — continues to be a big problem. I still see a lot of PCs infected with various trojans designed steal information or money from the unwary. The writers of this stuff are very professional, so I assume there is big money behind it.  The most common still seem to be the sort that tells you that tour PC is “at risk”and invites you to download some software to cure it. Invariably the software “finds” lots of things that aren’t really there, and then invited you to register if for about $49.95 to enable it to remove them.  If you ignore it, it will get ever more persistent, until the PC becomes unusable.

Sometimes these types of software claim to find viruses or other infections, sometime “memry problems”, “registry errors” and so on.  Of course, there are quite genuine and very useful products that do all these tasks, so it’s hard for the normal person to tell the genuine and useful from the fake and harmful. Sometime these fake products every have professional-looking websites (but almost always without traceable addresses or contact details).

An example of a fake product is here.

A simple tip: before you download any software, search for its name on Google.  Ignore any sponsored links, and if almost all you find in the search results is people asking how to remove the product, and reputable sites (such as and offering removal instructions, then tread very carefully!

A new development in 2010: three of my customers who had infected PCs received a phone call to the home numbers from the “Windows Support Group” telling them their PC was infected and offering to remove the infection at a price. It wasn’t clear how their phone number had been obtained (all had their phone numbers in at least one document on their PC, though), who the caller was or who he represented, or how much this “service” would cost. Very suspicious indeed.

Everyone should have a good and up-to-date antivirus program. Two good ones (both free) are the free versions of AVG 2011 from here or (my current favourite) Microsoft Security Essentials from here.

Happy new year to all.

Viral Spam

I’m seeing a lot of spam today with titles like Customs – We have received a parcel for you or Customs, please read. There was a lot yesterday about undelivered parcels from UPS.

These have a zipped attachment which is infected with a virus. Typical text of the e-mail is:

Good day,

We have received a parcel for you, sent from France on July 9. Please fill out the customs declaration attached to this message and send it to us by mail or fax. The address and the fax number are at the bottom of the declaration form.

Kind regards,
Grover Sterling
Your Customs Service


Dear Sirs,

We have received a parcel for you, sent from France on July 9. Please fill out the customs declaration attached to this message and send it to us by mail or fax. The address and the fax number are at the bottom of the declaration form.

Kind regards,
Casey Rhoades
Your Customs Service

The giveaway, as always, is that they are not addressed to you by name, and they come from unlikely e-mail addresses (typically harvested from infected computers). The two above came from Customs Service <> and Customs Service <> but each one will be different.

At the time of writing, these were not detected as malicious by AVG 8.0 (and nor by Symantec, Norton, McAfee, Avast, Ewido, F-Prot, Kaspersky or Panda). Just delete them.

If you have run the attachment (by double-clicking the contents of the zip file, typically) you’ll soon start getting warnings that “Your computer is infected” and inviting you to download software to clear it. The warnings are part of the infection, and the software it wants you to download will makes matters much worse. Don’t download anything, and contact someone who can help you remove the infection.

PS: I’m seeing a lot of fake airline ticket sales today (20 August). They typically start:

Thank you for using our new service “Buy flight ticket Online” on our website.
Your account has been created:

and then go on to give login details for a website whose address is not stated (!) and say your credit card has been charged for some amount (usually about $650). A “ticket” is attached.

The usual things give it away: not addressed to a specific person; dodgy attachment (this one is called and contains a file called Ticket_N141-SK.exe — a file ending in .exe is a program, and this one is instantly detected by AVG 8.0 as containing trojan Pakes.AFL).

Be careful not to run Ticket_N141-SK.exe, and just delete the e-mail and its attachment.

(Aug 23)  Sophos reports yet another variant, “Statement of Fees 2008/09”, whose attachment is sneakily named “Fees_2008-2009.doc______________.exe”.   They hope you’ll think it’s a Word document (.doc) not a program (.exe).   As Sophos says, “Don’t let curiosity get the better of you – don’t open the attachment if you didn’t order the package, or the tickets, or the contract, or the accommodation … or whatever else they’ll come up with next.”