A Short Guide to Phishing

What is Phishing?

Microsoft’s Safety and Security Center describes phishing as the following:

“A type of online identity theft. It uses email and fraudulent websites that are designed to steal your personal data or information such as credit card numbers, passwords, account data, or other information”.

So phishers use techniques to steal your data, but they don’t do it by hacking into your security. Like fishers, they will bait you, and then you will take the bait if you aren’t aware. They tend to delve straight into the minds of the people they are scamming, and they convince you to give up personal info. There are many types of phishing, and some of it doesn’t have to involve identity theft. Here are some phishers you’ll encounter online.

Classic Phishing

These are the phishers Microsoft typically refers to when they discuss phishing. They’re designed to steal your personal info, and they do it by convincing you that you have to.phishing_safe_22

For instance, they may pretend to be your bank or an online shopping center that you use. They’ll claim that there’s a problem in your account, and to fix it, they will typically tell you to log into your account using the provided link. The link will take you to what appears to be the site, but it’s a lookalike. Once you enter your info, the phisher has it, and will use it to log into your account and use your credit cards or other personal info.

They may even ask for you to give them your credit card number, bank account number, address, and other precious info. Never do this. To fight against phishing, never give an email your personal info. If the email appears to be from the bank or from another source you usually trust, you should contact them and make sure that the email is legitimate.

Many sites and banks do not do this practice, as it would make phishing even more successful.Extensions can also help you against phishers. Extensions such as Web of Trust typically look for signs of a fake website or a phishing email.

Finally, read the contents of the email itself. Some phishers tend to come from places where English isn’t their first language. If the email has typos and awkward sentence structure, it’s definitely not from a professional organization.

Phone Phishers

This recent phenomenon has been a new way for phishers to exploit people. Typically, they may pose as a member from your credit card company, telling you that your card has been suspended because of suspicious activity, and that you must give them your information to lift the suspension. All they want is your number so they can purchase things with your card.

If you receive a call like this, never give them your information. If your card really is under suspicion, they’ll typically call you and ask you to verify the purchases the card has made recently, not give out your information. They are also vague with their claims, so sometimes they may say they’re from a generic organization instead of your bank or credit card provider. Because of this, contact your bank or credit card provider to make sure your account is in good standing.

Phishing on a Social Network

Phishers are taking advantage of the fact that more are social networking than ever. They may hack your friend’s account and post a strange article that you may not think twice about clicking.

However, it turns out to be a phishing link. These typically aren’t life-threatening. They may just want your email so they can spam you, but they aren’t going to take your personal info. However, some may cause more harm.phishing_protect_44

Seeing as though banks and credit card companies have social media presence, phishers may pose as those pages or accounts and try to ask their users for information. They may even be able to hack the official profiles of the bank accounts. However, you can combat against social network phishing.

One way is to make sure that you have security software. Another great extension is a link preview, which will show you the page the link takes you to without going there, so you can see if it’s a scam.

Overall

Phishing is here to stay, because as they say, a sucker is born every second. However, people who fall for phishing scams aren’t necessarily stupid. Some may not know about phishing, or may be using their computers under the influence of something.

That’s why we’re here to inform you about phishing. All you need to do to combat phishing is to be skeptical. A few extensions help as well, but as long as you don’t give them your personal info, their attempt to phish will fail.

Detecting Suspicious Email Attachments

If you get an email from an unknown source, never open its attachment. While you can read the email without worry, providing that your computer is updated, you may want to avoid attachments.

While email service providers typically scan and remove dangerous attachments, along with your own antivirus, some manage to slip through. Even emails from supposed trusted sources could be phishers in disguise, willing to compromise your computer using attachments.

Spotting a Suspicious Attachment by its Extension

When looking at a fishy attachment, you should first consider its extension. In case if you didn’t know, it tells you what file it is. For instance, if your file ends with .jpg, it’s an image. If it’s .avi, it’s a video.

One extension you should avoid is .exe, which will execute an installation, and that program may be malicious. While most email service providers block these files, they can sometimes slip through. A few other extensions to avoid include .jar, .cpl, .com, .bat, .msi, .js, .wsf, and so many more. If the extension looks funny, you should be suspicious.

What if it’s just an Office file?

It should be fine, but you need to take some precautions. It may contain macros, which is a series of instructions that will execute a task. If your Office file ends with an m, it has macros. These include .docm. pptm, and .xlsm.

While some safe files use macros, you should avoid unless you can verify it’s from a trusted source.email_attachment_risk_44

The rule of thumb is to open extensions you can trust. Images files, macro-less Office files, and PDFs are usually fine, provided you have all the security updates in check.

Is it in an Encrypted Archive?

Archive files are useful for many reasons. They allow people to compress multiple files into one package, making it easier to send. However, they can be used by phishers as well. If you get an email and it has an archive extension, such as .7z, .rar, or .zip, and requires you to enter a password, it may be suspicious.

Why do they password protect?

It encrypts the archive so that any virus scanner cannot see it. They may do this to hide malware. Of course, it may be because it contains sensitive information, so you never know. Once again, make sure it comes from a trusted source before you open.

Who’s the Sender?

As we should know, you can usually trust someone who sends you an attachment if you know them. If you don’t know the person, it may be malware. However, someone you know could be infected themselves, and the malware will send you a file under the person’s name to build trust, so beware. If someone you know sends you a macro Office file without telling you, exercise caution.

You should contact the person to see if they sent the suspicious attachment. If they did, you can open it, but if they didn’t, discard their email and tell them that they’ve been hacked.

What’s the Email Say?

Before you open an attachment, read the email. If it appears to be a trusted source, but the contents don’t seem like something they would send, it could be a sign that it’s malware. These are typically done by phishers, who will disguise themselves as a bank or a site that has your payment info, telling you to enter your information due to your account potentially being compromised.

These emails may be poorly written, with typos everywhere and awkward sentences. If you get an email from Amazon, and tells you to download something and then run it, it may be a sign of a scam. Most business would not make you do this.

Virus Alerts

If your email is from a major service provider, like Yahoo!, Gmail, or Hotmail, they will scan for attachments and warn you if they’re potentially dangerous, making you not want to open it. Of course, the email may claim that the antivirus alert is due to a bug or something, but that’s obviously a lie.

If you download the attachment anyway, and your own antivirus program is telling you not to do it, listen. They’re obviously detecting something bad.

However, sometimes your antivirus may say nothing. This doesn’t mean it’s safe, as antivirus programs do mess up. Use your best judgment when opening files.

Be Cautious!

When looking at an attachment, you should be skeptical about its contents and assume that it may be dangerous. Never open an attachment unless you know for sure that it’s from a trusted source, and you’ve been accepting it.email_safety_44 Also, look at the extension. PDFs, images, and videos should be fine, provided you’re updated. But even then, tread lightly.

Usually, your email service allows you to preview attachments without downloading, so use that to your advantage. Look at its contents, and if everything seems fine, download away. While you shouldn’t be scared of everything you receive, you should be alert.

Tablets vs. Laptops: Why Tablets Are Better

Every time some new type of hardware appears, the overly enthusiastic journalists and fanboys deem the old hardware outdated and send it to the scrapyard. And, every time, they are wrong. Remember when laptops came out? Everyone thought they would spell the end of desktop PCs, yet they are still around, aren’t they? Very much so, as the options of putting together your own configuration with carefully chosen parts still appears to many professionals, as well as casual users who like to have a custom-made machine.

With the emergence of tablets, again, just about anyone thought they would spell the end of laptops. And, as usual they were wrong. Some people choose one over the other, or they have both. Some even have a desktop, a laptop, and a tablet, each one serving a certain purpose.

But, if you are torn between these two options, you have got your work cut out for you, since there is no clear winner. It all depends on your needs. On this occasion, we are going to discuss why you should get a tablet, or an iPad, to be more specific, instead of a laptop.

Battery Life

If you are really using your laptop, you are looking at 2 hours of running time before you have to plug in and recharge. An iPad’s battery would last up to 10 hours, which means you can pretty much use it all day before you have to plug in it.

However, there are Ultrabooks equipped with the latest generation of processors which consume a lot less power, and have better batteries, allowing up to 14 hours of use. These are not exactly cheap and accessible to most people, so they are more of an exception, for now.

Portability

This one is pretty much a no-brainer. An iPad is much lighter and more portable than even the most compact laptop. You can carry it around in a purse, without even thinking about it. And there are other benefits, too.laptop_v_tablets_12

Laptops tend to heat up a lot, which means their fans will be working overtime to get that all that extra heat out. If you are keeping it on your lap, you will be uncomfortable, with all the heat and noise. An iPad is silent, and it doesn’t get so hot, which makes for a better user experience.

Touchscreen

Touchscreen is probably the biggest advantage that tablets have. While a keyboard and a mouse can get a lot of things done, touchscreens are much more intuitive and simple to use, and you will be floored how easy somethings become when you are using it.

Again, there are laptops out there which have touchscreens, but much like their Ultrabook cousins, they cannot be considered a standard. Plus, their price tag a lot higher than that of regular laptops

Instant Connectivity

PCs, laptops included, still aren’t able to instantly boot up. Tablets, however, are good to go in split second, and you’re never more than a few seconds away from checking your email, or messages on social media. More importantly, an iPad can still receive notifications even when on standby. The latest of Ultrabooks will have something to say about this, but, it will take some time before it becomes standard.

Debunking 4 Security Rumors

The world of online security and privacy is filled to the brim with rumors, misconceptions, and outright lies. So if you believe something that’s not true, don’t feel bad. With every site saying something different, even the smartest get confused.

However, it’s time for us to clear the smoke and debunk some of the most persistent rumors about security. Not only is it great to learn something new, but by clearing the rumors, you can make sure you’re secured.

Rumor: You Don’t Need Antivirus Software if You Constantly Use Windows Updates

Updates can be annoying, demanding you to restart the computer when you need it the most. However, they’re important, as they patch security flaws and strengthen your system. So one could assume that all you have to do is update, and there’s no need to worry about antivirus software. However, that is not the case, and it can lead to trouble.

Truth: The Updates Come After the Virus

While you should always update your computer, you need an antivirus handy, due to the fact that it always works hard to keep your computer safe.

Think of like this. The anti-virus is like a security system in your house. It works nonstop to make sure that your home is protected, and it will ward off people who try to break into your home. It works its best to make sure you’re safe. Meanwhile, a Windows update is like calling the police after your home has been ransacked. They may catch the person, and it’s one less intruder to worry about, but the damage has been done, and there are more people like that out there.

It happens all the time. There’s an issue with Windows, and Microsoft updates with a patch ASAP. spy_malware_54But sometimes, they don’t know about it until it’s too late, and by then, the virus has already did possibly irreversible damage to your computer. So you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you’re only relying on updates.

Besides that, they don’t protect you from things such as malware, so that’s another reason why you need an antivirus.

So while the updates fix flaws in the security, they’re not going to protect you from all the different threats out there. So keep updating, but keep an antivirus running at all times.

Rumor: You’ll Easily Know if You Have Malware

It seems obvious that if you have an application that’s rogue, it will be noticeable, and you’ll be able to get rid of the problem shortly after. A few applications are like that, after all. If you’ve been having strange popups in your browser, that’s usually a sign. However, that’s only a small part of malware out there.

Truth: Malware Can Be Discreet

While a good chunk of malware is obvious, another good chunk can be running on your computer without making a stir. They’ll spy on you, and you won’t even know it. They’ll attack your website and send you spam. They can get your password and take your accounts behind your back.

A recent example is the Scarlett Johansson incident, where a hacker put malware in email forwarding so the hacker could read her messages without her even noticing. If a celebrity can be easily hacked, you can too, and by knowing this, you can prevent it. The moral of the story is to not trust anything on your computer, and make sure you always change your password constantly to keep them at bay.

Rumor: If You Don’t Have Anything Valuable, You’re Not At Risk

People think that just because they’re not a celebrity or CEO of a company, they don’t need to worry. After all, a hacker couldn’t care less about them, right?

Truth: No Matter the Contents, You Are Worth Something

If you think that malware makers only care about stealing valuable data, such as a billionaire’s payment info or secret government documents, you’ve thought wrong. First, your time, hardware, and energy are valuable. After all, you’ll need time to remove the malware, and you’ll waste time and money if you hire someone to fix your computer.

If you have to start over, that wastes more time. But malware developers aren’t looking to just waste your time. They want to spy on you, steal your passwords, and track every stroke you make. Everyone is worth something, and hackers love to target an unsuspecting person. Even if your computer is old and you barely use it, you’re still at risk.

Rumor: Only Microsoft Gets Viruses and Malware

This rumor just won’t die. A lot of Mac users believe that Apple has it all figured out, and their software could never get a virus. malware_rumour_44Or, you may think that your smartphone and tablet are virus-free as well. There’s truth to that; because Windows is one of the most used systems out there, more malware and virus crafters are going to make programs exclusively for that OS. That’s why malware happens less often. But it still happens.

Truth: No Matter What, You’re Vulnerable

Viruses made for one OS won’t affect the other, but every one has their own problems. Back in 2012, for instance, the Flashback Trojan hit Macs that ran OS X. Your Androids can be hacked, as ransomware and apps that scam you are real. While iOS is secure, you need to watch out if you’re running a jailbroken device.

While you may not need to install an antivirus on your phone, you shouldn’t run it unguarded. Beware of scams, phishing attempts, and hacking no matter what your platform. If someone has your password, it could be the end of you, no matter what platform you use.

So while these rumors keep persisting, you can stand up against them by arming yourself with knowledge. By doing this, you can protect yourself with that, and make sure no virus hits you. So stop relying on Security Essentials and updates, and get you an antivirus software that will protect your computer. You’ll be glad you did.

What are Today’s Best Blogging Platforms

Although I thought the rise of social networks would mark an end of the blogging era, the two actually complement each other quite nicely. Social networks are used to promote blog content, and social networks are present on every blog, whether it’s via comment section, or buttons on the page itself. There are a multitude of different blog platforms out there, so if you still haven’t gotten your feet wet when it comes to blogging, it’s about time you did, and this list should help you get started. We got a lot of ground to cover, so we’ll get straight to the point.

WordPress

The mother of all blogging platforms, WordPress.com covers nearly 20% percent of the internet. Once you have decided to go with WordPress, you can choose between freemium hosting, where you get a wordpress.com domain, with limited customization options, and free .org incarnation which gives you a much a higher degree of control, such as theme customization, coding, and as much plug-ins as you can possibly handle, which range from plain, to incredibly sophisticated. WordPress is great for pros, but its mountain of advanced options might scare off casual users.

Blogger

You can get started with Blogger immediately if you already have a Google account. Blogger is completely free to use, and can be customized without much complication, although it is nowhere near WordPress in that department. What we like is that it is connected with Google AdSense, which means, if your blog becomes popular, you can earn some money. Also, Blogger is connected to other Google services, such as Google+, and Feedburner. However, that’s pretty much it, and reminds a bit of other Google services which weren’t particularly tied into Google. All of them were abandoned since. Luckily, that’s is not the case with Blogger.

Tumblr

The young upstart among blogging platforms, Tumblr is somewhat of a hybrid, part blogging platform, part social network. It has a large community of users, and its influence is apparent in the fact that most companies nowadays have a separate Tumblr blog, even if they have their own company blog. Tumblr makes it incredibly easy to reblog stuff from other Tumblr users, which makes it somewhat similar to Twitter and Facebook in that aspect.

Medium

Stepping onto the market somewhat quietly in 2013, Medium is the brainchild of people that who made Twitter. Apart from connecting well with Twitter, it’s unique for its social aspect, which makes it possible for other people to edit or annotate your work, and vice versa. While it doesn’t allow for much customization because of its features that are pretty much set in stone, it can help writers expose their work and talent to a large number of people, because of Medium’s growing popularity.

We haven’t even scratched the surface of this topic, but these 5 platforms should be enough to get you started. After you have “conquered” each of them, you can work your way down, or up, to other blogging platforms, and find one which provides the best outlet for your creativity.