Because malware and viruses are often spread through email, Gartner Technology recommends multiple recipients not be placed in the ‘To:’ or ‘Cc:’ fields when emailing several people. When you place multiple recipients in the ‘To:’ or ‘Cc:’ field, all of the recipients receive the email addresses of all other recipients – as does anyone else that your message is forwarded to.

Typically, email based viruses and worms spread by scanning the infected computer for email addresses. The virus then sends itself to all of the addresses that it finds. When we place multiple recipients in the ‘To:’ or ‘Cc:’ fields all of the recipients gain a larger profile to potential virus or malware exposure. Additionally, other malicious programs, including those that generate spam use a similar technique. Once an address is in a spam database, the amount of junk email that we receive in our inboxes can increase exponentially.

A good alternative to placing multiple recipients in the ‘To:’ field is to place your own email address in the ‘To:’ field and then place the multiple recipient addresses in the ‘Bcc:’ field. This Blind carbon copies the email to all of the people that you want to reach without exposing their email addresses to anyone else. This approach has several benefits:

  • You get the email yourself so you can confirm that it went out
  • You reduce potential exposure to viruses, worms, and other malware
  • Some anti-spam algorithms mark multiple recipients in the ‘To’ and ‘Cc:’ fields as spam and therefore some of your intended readers may never see the message
  • You keep confidential the identities of those recipients in your distribution list

Setting up a mailing list also has similar benefits, additionally allowing for easier organization and administration of the list. Check your email software’s help for information on BCC and mailing lists. It’s easier than you think!