Can I get malware from a picture?


Leo, I am terrified of getting a virus or some form of malware by clicking on a photo on the web such as an image in Google Image Search or on a forum where someone has posted a thumbnail image to a larger photo. I frequent a photo sharing website and asked the webmaster about this and he sent me this reply: “Well, technically speaking, a picture cannot contain malware. A picture can contain malicious code, which can only be executed by computers, which are already infected with a special virus designed to execute that malicious code. The name of that virus is “Perrun” and it’s more of a proof of concept than an actual virus. If you’d like to be on the safe side, I suggest you look for a freeware online to verify that you are not affected with the “Perrun” virus. Then you can click any photo you want on the web and not worry about catching anything.”

Now I use Google Chrome as my default browser and I frequently use the right-click “Search Google for this image” feature and find the highest resolution of a photo. I have even installed the VTchromizer extension to my browser and use it to pre-scan every photo. But still, just the act of right-clicking a thumbnail image worries me. Please help me. Am I worrying for no reason or am I at risk?

This is an interesting question for a number of reasons.

The pragmatic answer is no. You’re not going to get malware from a picture and it’s not something I’d worry about at all.

However, behind that answer are a few very important assumptions that I think people need to understand.

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Is the internet just full of scams?

All these PC online technicians say “your computer is infected; you need to pay at least $100 to have us fix it like new.” They told me that even if I go to factory settings it won’t help. Now, I’ve been running McAfee security and I do full scans and I have no virus. Is the internet just packed with tricksters?

The very direct answer to your question is yes.

Yes, there are a lot of scams and misleading advertisements out there.

That’s why there’s one skill I believe strongly that everyone needs to develop.

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Why do people I don’t know email me?

My friend has had her Gmail address for maybe 5 years. She regularly gets emails, which are sent to that address but are from people whom she has never heard of and who obviously don’t know her. It’s not always the same person. I’ve had my Gmail address for even longer and I’ve never, never had such an occurrence. What’s going on?

This is actually more common than you might think. There are two possibilities: spam and human error.

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If External Hard Drives Can Fail, Should I Bother with One?

I’ve been told that an external hard drive can still be corrupted after you transfer files, pictures, whatever. Should I still purchase an external hard drive or get a subscription to a good online service?

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

Everything can fail, including the online service. Backing up isn’t as much about which backup technology you choose as it is about having multiple copies.

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Why do Youtube videos start and stop when they didn’t used to?

I’ve used Mozilla to enjoy YouTube videos for years without problems. Now, I get lots of stops and starts. I checked your article on this and didn’t find out how or why the videos played faithfully before but not now. The problem started about a month ago. AT&T wants me to upgrade. Well, why would I pay more for something that I’ve enjoyed for years. I’m running Windows 7 and I’ve tried both IE 9 and Mozilla 25 with the same results. I even tried a different computer. I’ve emptied my cache and deleted my cookies; checked my browser speeds and so forth. So what’s happening? Is using the internet becoming more demanding of our resources? I could not even watch your videos without starts and stops. Am I going to be forced to pay AT&T more for something I’ve already enjoyed for years?

Progress is wonderful but it can also be kind of painful. And personally, I feel your pain. Or more specifically, my pocketbook shares your pain. A megabit per second just isn’t what it used to be. But let’s look at what you can do before you start shelling out more money.

Read moreWhy do Youtube videos start and stop when they didn’t used to?