These are articles I write for local Village magazines. I’ve posted them here so if you missed one, you can re-read it.
I recently had a phone call from the ‘Cyber Crime Technical Team’. (scam alert!) On this occasion, having a bit of time to spare, I decide to have a bit of fun so I played along. Sounding very concerned, I asked what the problem was. The man on the phone told me my internet connection had been ‘compromised’ and had been used for ‘illegal activities’. I replied with shock to this, saying ‘Oh No!’ over and over. Sensing a possible victim, the man on the phone ramped up the ‘problems’, with me replying with groaning and more ‘Oh No!’ responses. I then decided to go full-on and told him to wait while I spoke to my Wife. I then held the phone at arms-length and began to rant that we were in trouble and that ‘the kids must have been downloading stuff’ and finally…began to weep!!
He rang off!! And hasn’t rung back since!
Although I don’t condone it, stringing them along and wasting their time can be fun and it does mean they’re not scamming someone else whilst you’re doing it. However, I never rise to the bait with email scams as that can backfire. It is really tempting though, to send back one of those laughing emojis! Unfortunately, all this will do is confirm that the email address they have targeted is valid. If you get an obvious scam email, then send it to: NFIBPhishing@city-of-london.pnn.police.uk
By the way, I am pleased that so many of you are now alert to scammers ringing you up. However, if in doubt, don’t hesitate to ring me to ask advice.
Those of you still hesitating over upgrading your Windows 7 PCs and Laptops, have another five months to take the plunge before Microsoft withdraws support for it. It will still work of course but they won’t be updating and patching it anymore. Well, that’s what they say but they recently released a security patch for Windows XP to plug a vulnerability so I expect the same will happen with Windows 7.
With security firmly in mind, you can check to see if your email address has been compromised in one of the many hacking incidents with the likes of tallktalk et al. Head over to the website: https://haveibeenpwned.com/ and put in your email address and it will check known databases of hacked accounts. If you haven’t changed your email password lately, it is worth doing it. And don’t forget other passwords you (don’t) use regularly (because the websites hold them) like Amazon, Paypal, ebay, Facebook etc.
Paypal is a useful way to pay for things on-line. It means that whoever you’re buying from doesn’t get your card details, as paypal acts as an intermediary, handling the payment to the merchant. You then pay Paypal.
That’s all for this month! Enjoy the sunny weather (it’s very warm as I type this) and stay safe on the Internet.
There appears to be a bit of a lull in scamming attempts at the moment. The only one I’ve been getting is the email that appears to come from my own email address telling me (via the ‘hacker’) that my email account has been hacked and he/she knows my password. This is sometimes displayed as well for effect, but is always a very old one that was changed. If you get one of these, don’t panic because they haven’t hacked your account, they have just got clever at ‘spoofing’ the address so it appears to come from yourself. It’s similar to the trick of mimicking a local phone number when a scammer rings you up with some story or other.
However, do not think that the scammers have been beaten! They are no doubt out there, somewhere, plotting their next move! Happily, articles such as mine keep reminding everyone to be vigilant and to be suspicious of any strange email or odd phone call.
I’ve recently seen several PCs which have ‘driver updater’ software installed on them. The owners had no idea how it got installed, it just “…appeared.” I’m not a fan of these programs at all, whether they are paid for or free. If your computer is working fine, why fiddle with installing unknown updates? There is much in the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. So if you find one of these has mysteriously appeared on your PC, just un-install it. Don’t be tempted to comment on any removal webpage that pops up either, that may just highlight your email address leading to more rubbish.
With that out the way, let’s have a refresher on some of the more fun things to do with the internet. To track or discover that aircraft flying overhead: www.flightradar24.com is the one to use. Then frighten yourself by scrolling around to see just how many aircraft there are in the air at any one time! Want to track whether or not it’s going to start/stop raining? Then www.netweather.tv/live-weather/radar is then website to use, and you can also track local thunderstorms here too. For a world view of lightning than try: www.lightningmaps.org .
You can track down old films now on: https://archive.org/details/moviesandfilms and www.gutenberg.com has a library of free books for your kindle/e-reader. For more up-to-date books then try: https://openlibrary.org/ and if you can’t face reading them then you can find audio books here: https://librivox.org/ . If you want to transfer large files then use: https://wetransfer.com/ where you can send anyone up to 2Gb of data for free. That’s a lot of photos!
For a bit of entertainment, the try the website www.printableboardgames.net where you can print off all sorts of basic board game items. Thought there was only one way to fold a paper airplane? No there are dozens of ways! Try some here: www.foldnfly.com .
Another year, but the scams keep coming! As 2018 rolled over into 2019, news of a clever scam tricking people into thinking that their TV Licence had ‘expired’ was reported in the press. Like all these ‘phishing’ scams, the crooks are after your bank details, but happily, most of us are becoming a lot more aware of the tricks being tried. Even my preferred anti-virus supplier, Kaspersky, was targeted recently, when customers started getting messages saying their licence had expired. Luckily, most knew to click on the Kaspersky icon to see just how many days their licence actually had left. We have also had ‘sextortion’ emails, alleging naughtiness online, and this has now been followed by a much darker variation, threatening to send round a hitman for ‘swift and painless execution’ if you fail to pay a ransom. Eeek!
On a more pleasant note, those of you using Windows 10 should now be receiving the much-delayed September update to your operating system, (OS). Microsoft had major issues with their latest release with all sorts of problems reported. This led to them withdrawing the update twice before they got it sorted. I have loaded it on several PCs and have had no problems so far.
Which leads me on to talk about Windows 7. This superb OS is due to be pensioned off by Microsoft in exactly 12 months’ time, in January 2020. You may be surprised to hear it is over ten years old now! After that, it will still function quite happily, but will no longer get any patches or updates from Microsoft. Note that Windows 8 (and 8.1) are also in the firing line but not for another year or so. If you are still using either Windows 7 or 8, then it is still possible to get a free upgrade to Windows 10 on your laptop or PC from Microsoft. But it has to be done in a specific way. If you are using Windows 7 or 8 and would like to upgrade to Windows 10 then please get in touch with me. Incidentally, Microsoft say there will never be another version of Windows, they will just keep upgrading Windows 10.
Some of you will recall me banging on about backing up photos etc, so that you don’t lose any precious memories. (You are backing up your photos aren’t you!) At the time I suggested either an external hard drive or by creating a Google account and using the [unlimited] online storage. I discovered that this latter suggestion has hidden benefits in that Google Photos neatly catalogues all your photos and videos and stores them in date order. You can search through them, create albums and photo books, which you can share with others using email links. Yes, Google does weird things like trying to ‘enhance’ your photos, and I’ve even had it join my panorama photos into one huge photo without being asked. Seems a bit creepy at times! However, they are safe in the ‘cloud’ and don’t require checking to see if they are OK (as they would do on a hard drive).
That’s all for this month.
September -October 2018
As I was pondering what to put into this month’s article, several stories hit the headlines. First there was the sad story from the Tavistock Times, that yet another person had fallen for the ‘talktalk’ “we owe you a refund so if we can just have your bank details…..”. This resulted in £20,000 being stolen from them. It is so frustrating to keep hearing of this happening, given all the publicity in recent months. So I will repeat it once again here: if someone rings and starts telling you that there is a fault on your phone/computer, or you are owed money or whatever, treat the caller as if they have the plague and HANG UP!
The second one is a slightly new twist on a phishing email. We’ll call this one ‘sextortion-ware’! The email alleges that you have been viewing ‘naughty websites’ and that this person has put a virus on your machine and has videoed you in a ‘compromising position’ shall we say! Well this is a family magazine!! The email also lists an old password you might have used in the past, so evidently hacked (or bought) from somewhere. A sum of money in bitcoin is demanded, or else all the contacts in your address book will get to see the video. Unfortunately for the scammer, when I got this email, it arrived in all my other accounts too, they were all from different ‘people’. Some had the password in, some didn’t. A variation of this email uses a phone number in place of the password apparently. Anyway, I hit the delete button.
Another threatening call we had, was from ‘BT Technical Department’ who were going to turn off our broadband for two weeks because of attempts to hack our account. When we started quizzing them, they first claimed to be a Government department, but then ‘James’ (with a thick foreign accent) got suspicious of our questions and rang off. A quick check online revealed a number of people reporting the same type of call.
The last story was about a free program called ‘Ccleaner’ which I have recommended in the past as a great way to clear out temporary files etc on the your laptop or PC. It seems that the Company that created the program, Piriform’ were bought up by Avast, the anti-virus Company. Ccleaner was still free to download and use, but now had hidden ‘extras’ which weren’t so good. First, unless you unticked the monitoring tick-boxes, Ccleaner installed itself and ran in the background, ostensibly looking out for a build-up of junk files but in doing so, sent tracking data back to Avast. It also kept popping up adverts all the time. To start with, you could turn this off, but the next update seemed to make this more difficult! After lots of online complaints from users, the update was withdrawn and we are now waiting for a completely new version. So if you use this program, ignore requests to update it and stick with an earlier version.