Question: My Outlook email program has begun blocking newsletters from National Geographic that I suppose some people might consider controversial (the history of the LGBTQ civil rights movement, for example.) When I click the email to read more or to see more photos, I’m sometimes told that content is blocked. Why is this happening? — L.S., Minneapolis

Answer: Outlook isn’t designed to block specific content. But, for computer security reasons, it will block some email images and Web links.

That happens because Outlook sometimes considers an email to be suspicious, even though there’s not enough evidence to classify it as harmful.

An email might be considered suspicious if it comes from a sender that Outlook doesn’t recognize and has some of the characteristics of a harmful email. (Harmful emails typically contain malicious software or engage in “phishing,” which means the sender tries to trick you into disclosing personal information.) Outlook sends these suspicious emails to your inbox, but disables any online links they contain.

Why would National Geographic newsletters be considered suspicious? Because they are mass-mailed to thousands of people, just as harmful email is. And Outlook doesn’t understand that you trust National Geographic to send you safe emails.

Here’s how this type of Outlook email blocking works, and how you can turn it off:

Photos: Emailed newsletters typically contain HTML (hypertext markup language) photos that are links to the original photo on someone’s website. If you click on one of these linked photos, you will be taken somewhere on the internet. Outlook considers this suspicious and blocks the linked photos from appearing in an email.

What to do about it: To turn off automatic blocking of linked photos, change Outlook’s “automatic download” settings, add the sender’s email address to your address book and add the sender’s “domain name” (nationalgeographic.com) to Outlook’s “safe sender list.” (See tinyurl.com/y6er5ptf and scroll down to Outlook.)

Links: Outlook disables Web links in suspicious emails to deter phishing attacks.

What to do about it: To change that in Outlook’s settings, see tinyurl.com/y2sx3kco and scroll down to “Turn off automatic disabling of links.”

Question: In your recent column about Windows 7 becoming obsolete (tinyurl.com/y45pgxy6), you didn’t mention the Windows 7 Extended Security Updates. I’ve read that these updates will make the operating system safe for up to three years beyond January 2020. Is my information about these updates correct? — L.F., Minneapolis

Answer: Microsoft offers Windows 7 Extended Security Updates only to business customers who have volume software licensing agreements. Consumers cannot obtain Windows 7 security updates after Jan. 14, 2020.

As I said in the earlier column, Windows 7 will not be safe without regular Microsoft security updates. These updates cannot be replaced by any antivirus, anti-malware or firewall software.

As a result, consumers should stop using Windows 7 by January. The only consumer Windows operating systems that will be safe after Jan. 14 are Windows 10 and Windows 8.1.

Alexander covers technology for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Readers can write to him at Tech Q&A, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn. 55488-0002; email: steve.j.alexander@gmail.com. Include a full name, city and phone number.

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