Spam, Spam - Go Away

used with permission from Norton by Symantec

Spam. In some ways, it's the electronic equivalent of junk mail and junk phone calls. Spam is not only an unsolicited and annoying nuisance, it's also a pervasive problem that's clogging and overwhelming the Internet's email systems. Spam accounts for approximately 80 percent of worldwide email volume.

In other ways, spam is worse than junk mail or junk phone calls. Although some spam is simply unwanted but legitimate advertising, much of it is worse. It can include everything from scam offers to malicious code--all designed to wreak havoc on your financial well-being or on your computer. Here are some of the most current and prevalent spam threats:

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Watch Out for Tech Support Scams

Every month or two, we get a call from someone who describes what turns out to be some kind of tech support scam. And once we get a look at the machine involved, there's usually some kind of nefarious software installed and there's quite a lot of work to be done to clean-up the mess.  These scams almost always start with an unsolicisted phone call or email. We don't make those kinds of calls. To the best of our knowledge neither do the other local service shops. If someone from any tech support organization contacts you that you don't know or work with regularly, don't respond. Call us or other service organization you trust.

Tech support scams, which get people to pay for fake computer help or steal their personal information, are convincing. You might already know the signs of a tech support scam, but do your friends and family? Here’s what they need to know now:

  • Companies like Microsoft don’t call and ask for access to your computer. If you get a call like that, it’s a scam.
  • Real companies also won’t ask for your account passwords. Only scammers do.
  • Tech support scammers try to convince you they’re legitimate. They’ll pretend to know about a problem on your computer. They’ll ask you to open normal files that look alarming to make you think you need help.
  • If you do need computer help, go directly to a person, business, or website you know you can trust. General online searches are risky because they might pull up another scam.

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Watch out for Card Skimmers at Gas Stations

Credit card skimming at gas stations is happening all over the country including here. With lots of travellers on the road, here are some tips to avoid this common technology hazard.

With the summer travel season in high gear, the FTC is warning drivers about skimming scams at the pump.

Skimmers are illegal card readers attached to payment terminals.  These card readers grab data off a credit or debit card’s magnetic stripe without your knowledge. Criminals sell the stolen data or use it to buy things online. You won’t know your information has been stolen until you get your statement or an overdraft notice.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid a skimmer when you gas up:

  • Make sure the gas pump panel is closed and doesn’t show signs of tampering. Many stations now put security seals over the cabinet panel. If the pump panel is opened, the label will read "void."

    skimmer-01.png

    Photo credit: National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and Conexxus
     
  • Look at the card reader itself. Does it look different than other readers at the station? For example, the card reader on the left has a skimmer attached; the reader on the right doesn’t.|
     

    skimmer-02.jpg

    Photo credit: Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Kamloops, Canada
     
  • Try to wiggle the card reader before you put in your card. If it moves, report it to the attendant. Then use a different pump.
  • If you use a debit card at the pump, run it as a credit card instead of entering a PIN. That way, the PIN is safe and the money isn’t deducted immediately from your account.
  • If you’re really concerned about skimmers, pay inside rather than at the pump.
  • Monitor your credit card and bank accounts regularly to spot unauthorized charges.

If your credit card has been compromised, report it to your bank or card issuer. Federal law limits your liability if your credit, ATM, or debit card is lost or stolen, but your liability may depend on how quickly you report the loss or theft. For more information, read Lost or Stolen Credit, ATM, and Debit Cards.

 

Why use a VPN on Public Wi-Fi Networks

Ithaca is a traveling community. The vast majority of our student population travels to and from Ithaca. Our business community and many individuals travel regularly for business. Virtually everyone who travels with a laptop, pad, or other mobile device usually ends up on some type of public Wi-Fi network. Getting to your data without exposing your private information to others takes effort. VPN technology is a good solution. The VPN discussed here is from Norton, but there are many other good ones as well.

If you’ve ever wondered if it’s safe to use public Wi-Fi, you are not alone. In fact, according to the Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report, 6 in 10 consumers believe using public Wi-Fi is riskier than using a public restroom. And it is. Surfing the Web or transacting on an unsecured Wi-Fi network means you’re placing your private information and anonymity at risk. That’s why a virtual private network, better known as a VPN, is a must for anyone worried about online security and privacy.

What is a VPN?

A virtual private network gives you online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network from a public Internet connection. VPNs mask your Internet protocol (IP) address so your online actions are virtually untraceable. Most important, VPN services establish secure and encrypted connections, guaranteed to provide greater privacy than even a secured Wi-Fi hotspot.

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Home Router Security Issue

Just prior to the Memorial Day holiday, the Justice Department and FBI sent out a mass communication highly recommending that everyone with a home connection to the Internet reboot their routers. This was to protect against a new Internet exploit called “VPNFilter”. If you attacked by VPNFilter, you login credentials, email address, etc. could be hacked.

Many of us in the technology industry were surprised at the announcement and skeptical that a reboot could fix anything like this. Turns out that it’s all for real. However after doing some digging, we discovered that this very real problem potentially affects a relatively small number of home based routers; about 500,000 around the world.  And only certain models (mostly older routers) are vulnerable.  Here’s the list that Symantec published of the affected routers:

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