December 2019

At the end of last month’s article, I mentioned that there was a scam phone-call doing the rounds, where a recorded message told you your ‘BT internet’ had been ‘hacked’ and you were going to be cut off unless you pressed 1 to speak to their ‘team’. Well this didn’t work very well I guess, because it quickly morphed into a similar message saying your ‘amazon account’ had been hacked etc etc. I doubly-dislike these calls as you can’t have fun winding up the scammer on the other end of the line! Don’t ever be tempted to press 1, because I have no doubt it instantly connects to a premium rate phone line.

Getting caught out by a scammer can happen at any time. A friend was recently trying to get a new piece of computer kit to work, and was searching the Company’s website looking for help, when a little box popped up asking if they needed help. So they thought, ‘hey that’s handy’ and assumed they were ‘talking’ to a tech person from the company. Having been encouraged to allow access to their PC, it was only when said ‘tech’ person started showing them lots of ‘corrupted files’ on their PC, and asking for money to sort the issue that alarm bells started ringing. They quickly disconnected the link. Was it a coincidence that the ‘help’ box appeared when they were looking for help? Or a piece of click-bait planted into the website?? We’ll never now, but please be aware that scammers are like that old Martini advert. They can strike, any time, any place, anywhere!

By the time of the next Outreach, Windows 10 will have been effectively abandoned by Microsoft. January 14th 2020 is the cut-off date. So just to remind you: after this, Windows 7 will continue to work as normal, it just won’t receive any more updates or patches from Microsoft. As I type this up, the latest update to Windows 10 is installing on PCs everywhere. You can check which version of Windows 10 you have by simply left-clicking the Start button, and then (without touching anything else) typing WINVER and then pressing return/enter. A window will open and the version number is easy to spot. It should say 1903 (for the May update) or 1909 (for the latest one). Any other number means you aren’t getting updates! I came across a laptop the other day with version 1703 on it. That’s the update from March 2017.

Now for something slightly different: If you are using a laptop and you are interested in how well your battery is doing, did you know you can get a battery report from Windows? Nope, neither did I. Now, I am using windows 10 but this should work on windows 7 too. Click on the start button and type ‘command’. A window will open and at the top, you should see ‘Command Prompt’ (with APP) below it. Left click on this and a black ‘command prompt’ window will open. Now, for those with long memories, this will look like the days of DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.1 and it pretty much is exactly what it looks like, because good old DOS (for Disk Operating System) is still the backbone of every version of Windows. Anyway…I digress! Click in the black box, and then type (without the speech marks) “powercfg /batteryreport” after a second or two, a message will tell you the report has been saved in your user files (c://users/<name>/battery-report.html). Find the file and open it and you will see lots of info about the state of your laptop battery.

October/November 2019

Unfortunately, I have to start this article with another warning about phone scams. In the last month, I have heard of three attempts locally to scam people which shows that you can never let your guard down. There is one golden rule to follow and it is this: If anyone rings you saying that there is a fault on your phone line; that your computer is telling, (insert impressive sounding company name here) that is has a virus; that there is a mystery transaction on your bank account; or in fact just about any variation of the above, the simply HANG UP. Treat any such caller as though they have the plague.

One person was rung by their ‘Bank’ saying there was ‘mystery transaction’ on their account. They were talked into going to their bank to draw out a large sum of money, which they would then hand to a ‘policeman’ who would meet them, for safe keeping. Luckily, this person spoke to a relative on their way to the Bank, who was able to put a halt to this. Another person had all their documents, pictures, etc, deleted by a very irate scammer who realised he had failed with his scam attempt so took revenge as he had control of the computer. I was able to recover all the deleted files from this one luckily.

I have mentioned the ‘sextortion’ emails previously and they have got more vicious recently which shows, possibly, that they aren’t as successful in catching people out. Still, it can be quite frightening when you get an email saying you have been ‘videoed’ by your webcam, ahem, ‘enjoying yourself’ and demanding bitcoins to stop them sending the video to friends and family because they hacked your email account. All tosh of course. What’s fun for me is that because I monitor about five or more email addresses, I get EXACTLY the same email sent to each account! Email addresses are regularly bought and sold on the ‘Dark Web’ so there is no way of stopping them, although I do feel that Internet Companies could easily cut these off at source if they were so minded.

And now for something completely different. (did you know Monty Python’s Flying Circus is 50 years old?)

You must all now be aware that Windows 7 will not be supported by Microsoft after January 2020. This means no more patches and updates, although I am certain any major security hole would receive a patch if one was needed. Most Windows 7 computers are capable of being upgraded to Windows 10 (which isn’t as bad as some make out by the way). The upgrade licence is still (at the time of writing) free from Microsoft. You can do it yourself, (google ‘Windows 10 upgrade’ for instructions) but make sure you have backed your files up first, or you can bring it to me.

If you already have Windows 10, then there is a new version of Microsoft Edge, the internet browser that has replace Internet Explorer, (IE). Up until now, Edge has been rubbish in my opinion and I have generally used Google Chrome, or IE (which is still there on Windows 10 if you didn’t know). However, Microsoft took all the criticism to heart, and Edge has had a complete makeover which has completely transformed it into a much more usable, and speedy, browser. You can download and install a copy by visiting the Buckland Computers website; www.bucklandcomputers.com and following the links there.

That’s all for now. I have to go now because I have just had a recorded message on the phone from ‘BT’ saying my internet is going to be disconnected unless I press ‘1’ to talk to someone. Sigh! You couldn’t make it up!!

August/September 2019

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.

March/April 2019

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 .

January/February 2019

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.