from Rob Marin, IT Specialist*
It’s a great time in technology! We have all these devices that give us access to resources we never dreamed of years ago. However, with this new access there are some tips to help guide you through that information and data superhighway:
1 – iTunes Trouble
Most Macs and PC’s, iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches can have iTunes on them. To have an iTunes account, you must have a credit card attached to the account. There are two ways this can get you (or your grandkids using your iTunes) into trouble.
First, is to simply browse through the iTunes store and purchase music, books, movies, apps, etc. which is charged to the card.
Secondly, many games and apps can be free initially but contain purchases made within the app or game, to get more information, get more options, features, etc. This can make the initial free download seem harmless, especially if it’s a kid’s game, but be wary that there may be purchases easily made beyond the free download.
2 – Sender Bender
Many people have email accounts, and nowadays, with email accounts come junk email, aka spam. Many of these spam email are “phishing” schemes, where the email looks like a legitimate email but it’s really a fake one trying to get information from you. These emails can look like ones from banking institutions, insurance, eBay, Paypal, Amazon or other entities that could have financial information of yours, using formatting and logos that make the email look real.
The way to “smell a rat” is to look at the sender’s email address, not the given name, but the address. If the address does not look legitimate, it’s probably a fake. For instance, the email name may say “Paypal Support” but the actual email could be “firstname.lastname@example.org” or some other odd email.
What the email wants you to do is click on the link provided, which looks real in the email but actually takes you to a website designed to try and get information from you. The best way to deal with the email is to simply delete it and/or forward it to your internet service provider’s spam department, such as “email@example.com”.
TIP: most financial institutions will not send and email with direct links due to this type of scam, but rather send and email notifying of you to go to their website and log in manually.
3 – Saw You In A Video
This is another kind of spam email, but has been very popular lately so merits its own section. Many emails using this approach will have a subject saying they saw you in this picture or video, many times with the sender’s email address and name being legitimate. However, what’s happened is spammers have gotten the name and email address, created the fake spam email and sent them out wanting you to log into the website link they have provided.
Best advice: just like the above spam email, do not click on the link in the email at all. Instead, delete the email.
4 – Facebook Address Harvesting
The website that lets you connect with friends and family all over the world can also have some of it’s own unique issues. One of them is address harvesting.
Many groups, games or other features of Facebook will ask if they can access your information. This also includes your information you entered in Facebook along with the Friends you have on Facebook.
A nefarious use of this information can be for spamming the email addresses, telemarketing, similar likes sent to others, etc. Be wary of “clicking through” approvals for access to your Facebook information.
5 – Insecure Email
Email can look so confident, but it’s actually insecure. Okay, it’s not insecure but it does lack security. Email is not encrypted or protected while passing through the great information pipeline. “Internet sniffers”, people who sample data sent, can intercept an email and read everything in it: email address, names, content.
I once had someone ask me to email my Social Security Number from a very large and well-respected defense company. I informed them that I could call them and give it over the phone, but would not email it since it could be intercepted and read. The shocking part is the individual in their accounting department had never heard of that.
This principle also includes JPEGs or non password-protected PDF forms. If you are filling out a PDF form that does not allow you to password protect it and it contains sensitive information, do not email it. Find another way to get the information or get the PDF password protected and then call the receiver and verbally give them the password (when a PDF is password-protected, the PDF contents are encrypted and cannot be read).
6 – Secure And Confident Websites
So it’s a corny title, but it is the opposite of the above insecure email issue. If you go to a website, or are redirected to a site, and the site has a “padlock” symbol appear in the top of the web browser and/or it begins with “https://xxx.com” <https://xxx.com%E2%80%9D> , then the information entered and sent to the website is encrypted and safe to send. Many financial institutions use this.
7 – Email Forwards: Wham, Bam, Thank You Spam!
Many of us receive emails we like. We then forward those emails, which many times, get forwarded again. The problem with this approach is as the email is forwarded again and again, the email addresses accumulate and you can see everyone who has been sent the email.
For instance, you send the “funny kitten” email to your mom, who forwards it to all her neighbors; they forward it to their kids, who send it to their classmates. While this is being forwarded, all the email addresses are included. Spammers love these, because they can get the email and harvest the email addresses to send spam to.
To avoid this, when you get an email you want to forward, you can simply copy the contents of that email into a new email and then send it. For added security, if there are multiple recipients, use the BCC(Blind Carbon Copy) feature in your email program. This will make the email look as if you only sent it to that receiver, without the receiver seeing all the other people you also sent the email to.
8 – Flash Forward Gets Your Behind
How many times have you gone to a website, only to be informed that your Flash is out of date and needs to be updated? It happens all the time….and criminals know this. So many criminals will create a pop-up window on some sites that state Flash is out of date and provide a link to update it; however the link goes to some unwanted website.
If you do get a notice that your Flash is out of date, then manually go to “www.flash.com <https://www.flash.com> ”, and download the plug-in and install it yourself. If a window pops up and provides a link, just close it.
9 – Freeby Jeebies
Many websites state they will have something for free and some do. You can go to YouTube and watch videos for free, you can sign up for free memberships and get a gift or many other options. Other mischievous websites will state you have to fill out your information to get access, download a file to get a feature or many other freebies. However, many of these are freebies lure a user in, but what they get is access to your information, malware (virus) downloaded to your computer or something else that has malicious intent.
The best way to avoid this is to be wary of freebies, especially from not well-known and/or non-reputable sites. If in doubt, don’t do it or ask someone who knows. I can’t tell you how many times my own mother has called me about something like this and asks if she should proceed or not! (and of course, since she’s a highly respected grandmother, I always answer her calls!)
Computers, electronic devices and the internet are great tools and give access to resources all over the world covering almost anything our imagination can envision. We can search for information, be entertained, enrich our lives, play a game, communicate with each other and the list goes on and on. If we boldly venture out into it, armed with guidelines then it can be “grand parenting” in this new world. (Okay, so that was pretty hokey…guess it’s time to download an app or do an internet search for a better closing.)
*Rob Marin has been working with computers since 1987 and has branched out as technology has expanded into many areas: computer support, networking, integration, graphics and various other areas. He is a California native, provides services all over the Los Angeles area and even provides equipment and support for his mother (who happens to be a Grandmother, too!).