I recently ran some programs on my computer that caused some kind of security breach, I reinstalled windows (after formatting) to fix it.

3 days later I got an email with my old windows password blackmailing me, the message seem...automated, didn't even have my name, so I'm sure it was a phishing attempt, I opened it on my iphone just to be safe (hopefull that's accurate?) It was on my outlook.

But later I may have reopen it on my chrome browser on windows 10 on my PC, I don't think I was that stupid...but in case I WAS. Can I get virus/malwares from opening an email on hotmail with my chrome browser?

I have scanned my computer with windows defender and malwarebytes and nothing turn up, so should that means I'm safe?


2 Answers 2


The answer to your question is not entirely straight forward.

When I say "opening" an email I mean clicking the subject and looking at it, nothing else, no loading of images, no clicking of links, nothing. Also I am assuming your email client won't automatically pull in linked content from emails;

Also I am presuming your account is not a local administrator, if it is... change it. You're facing a very high risk of full compromise if you use your computer under the privs of a local administrator since any malware would gain full control over it.

  • Can opening a phishing email cause issues? Yes it can, especially if your browser is vulnerable, but there could be other routes;

  • Does opening a phishing email usually trigger malware? Not if you're up to date and have your browser or email client configured securely;

  • Should you open a phishing email if you spot that on the subject alone? Definitely not;

  • Is it possible to meaningfully trigger an infection by simply clicking a link on a phishing email or by pulling in remote content automatically? Absolutely yes;

Concerning Chrome, it is not significantly better or worse security wise than firefox or opera, it's all relative to the current configuration, it being fully patched (have I mentioned how critical this is? it is critical).

Mobile email clients are usually safer for the simple reason that most attacks are still targeted at workstations. But this is changing.

  • Thanks for the info, I did NOT think about the security risk of running as an admin, and yes I am using my windows 10 as a local admin. So I really should create a new account and use it as a user? So what issues would opening a phishing email cause if I already have up to date malwarebytes and windows defender? Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 1:01
  • @Ecotistician you're assuming that those antivirus products already have signatures for whatever malware Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 12:44
  • Use a standard account and elevate only when required. Also pay attention to user elevation screens, make sure they're situations where you expected this to happen.
    – Pedro
    Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 13:51
  • Anti-malware software will protect you from known threats, known signatures, relatively known malware methodology. Anything that deviates (sometimes very slightly) from known vectors will in most cases bypass this software. This is really easy to do if you are in the field. Fortunately the vast majority of all malware your computer will see is known stuff, so keeping defender running and up to date is effective protection.
    – Pedro
    Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 13:56

The answer to your question is yes. If you download malicious software through a link in outlook it can/will cause problems. If you click on a link and supply information they can either steal your money or use the information you provided against you in a different way.

Outlook is not necessarily a safer way of reading emails than through a browser.

  • Sorry for not clarifying, I was reading my email on my chrome browser, I used hotmail so I was on hotmail.com. All I have potentially have done is clicking the email title and read the contents, I don't recall doing it and even if I did, I wouldn't have download anything. Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 0:58
  • i don't think you can do any damage to your computer by clicking on the email by itself.
    – Novelty
    Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 2:53

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