Responding to a potential threat

Spam can look like a legitimate email, text or social media message until you inspect it more closely. Sometimes you realize a few seconds too late that you shouldn’t have clicked a link or opened an attachment. Find out what you should do next in these situations.

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I shouldn’t have opened that attachment. Now what?

Unfortunately, opening links or attachments in spam electronic communications can have malicious effects on your computer system—even if there is no obvious change in how your computer functions. If you think your computer may be infected, the first step is to update your anti-virus and anti-malware software and run a scan of your system. The software may be able to identify a virus or malicious program and remove it.

Maintaining updated anti-virus software is one way to protect yourself. These applications can scan emails before they’re received and automatically get rid of recognized spam. They can also protect against malicious software, such as malware, adware, spyware, viruses and trojans. However, they are not foolproof. You still need to be vigilant and take precautions online.

For more information, visit Get Cyber Safe. To report spam, visit the Spam Reporting Centre.

Are cookies safe?

Some websites you visit may ask you to agree to their use of cookies. A cookie is a small data file created by a web server and stored on your computer. Cookies don’t typically contain viruses or malware, but there may be other reasons not to consent to their use. Cookies let websites identify you, track your preferences and recognize when you return to a website.

Under CASL, a person is considered to consent to the installation of a cookie if the person's conduct is such that it is reasonable to believe that they consent. The CRTC offers more detailed information about consent and cookies.

For more information about web tracking and cookies, visit the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

Should I answer that email?

Is it spam or a scam? The answer is: sometimes it’s both. Spam messages can use different strategies to trick you into responding. They can offer jobs, trips, business opportunities, lottery wins, discounts and more. Generally, if you notice 1 or more of the hallmarks of spam, you shouldn’t answer the message.

For more information, see Canadian Centre for Cyber Security’s information about email scams.