Binary attachments are limited to posting in the “alt.binaries” hierarchy. You can send a newsgroup posting with an attached binary file with the “Attach” button or menu item of most news reader programs. However, most newsgroups are designed for text communication only. Therefore, most news servers will ignore any posting with an attached binary file unless it is posted to “alt.binaries”.
Binary newsgroups can contain messages with attached office documents, pictures, sounds, video, or computer program files. A good example of a binary newsgroup is alt.binaries.pictures.fine-art, which often contains a nice set of new and beautiful pictures. The binary hierarchy is also known to contain a range of newsgroups containing programming resources, hacker distribution newsgroups, and adult content.
You can download binary attachments from newsgroups onto your computer for viewing or running. You should specify in your program settings where download files should be stored, usually in a special folder called “downloads” or “attachments” on your desktop. See the section on downloading for more information.
During the actual process of downloading a binary file, it can’t hurt your computer. Also, image files such as JPEG or GIF formats are safe for simply viewing with a non-compromised viewer. However, video files, multimedia files, and Microsoft application documents may contain macro viruses, and executable files may contain program viruses. Therefore, you should download non-image binaries from trustworthy sources on the web instead of the Usenet whenever possible to maximize safety.
Of course, whatever its source, you should ensure that all binary files are scanned on download by your virus protection program. Like the larger Internet, the Usenet is a public space with many different types of users from a broad cross section of humanity across the planet, so applications downloaded from binary newsgroups are never guaranteed to be safe.