One of the most important items people keep on their phone is pictures, lots of them. Google created the “Google Photos” application to address this.
Google Photos is an application that automatically backs up any photos on the device as soon as you connect to Wifi. The free version includes unlimited photo and video backup in “High Quality” mode. (High quality meaning that it is not full quality and it will compress the image slightly.) This should be fine for most users.
If you need to keep full quality versions of your photos (typically for doing Photoshop or similar things), Google will back them up while using your Google Drive storage. Google Drive offers 15GB free and then has different tiers available for more storage. Once backed up, your pictures can be viewed and downloaded across any computer, tablet, or phone that can connect to your Google account. Further, if you are running short of space, Photos will offer to delete those photos which have already been backed up, allowing your phone’s operating system some breathing room.
Google Photos is included by default with all versions of Android 5.0 and later and is available on the App Store for iOS users. Setting it up is as simple as opening it up, selecting your Google account and letting it do it’s thing. Remember, it does not work unless you set it up.
-Josh Sutinen 2017 Sutinen Consulting
For this week’s blog post, I thought I would take the opportunity to speak about one of the world’s handiest Gmail extensions, Boomerang. Boomerang is a browser extension for Chrome that gives you the ability to snooze, schedule, and return, or Boomerang, emails as need.
I use Boomerang to keep a handle on my inbox. After deleting or archiving unimportant emails every morning, I then start working down the list of all of the remaining emails and snooze those which do not require my immediate attention to either the time that is needed or when it works better for me to tackle them.
"I use Boomerang to keep a handle on my inbox." - Josh
Subsequently, when sending emails, I often make use of both the scheduled sending and the return email (Boomerang) functions. I often schedule emails for the following morning that might otherwise be sent late at night. Further, if I have an email that requires a response, I set the email to Boomerang if I do not receive a response from the recipient within a certain amount of time.
Boomerang has several levels of service, starting with their free level and going up from there. Their free level includes 10 message credits per month, which should be great for standard use, and the other tier are unlimited with additional perks. Boomerang can be downloaded from boomeranggmail.com, and it requires use of the Chrome Browser.
2017 Sutinen Consulting
The other day, a customer of ours, Jane (not her real name), received a phone call from a person claiming to be a technician with an online technical support company that she does business with occasionally. The person on the other end of the line said that Jane was due a refund of $200 and needed to give him access to her computer and then log into her online banking so that the refund could be processed.
Upon doing so, the technician then proceeded to transfer $2,000 into Jane’s checking account. Seemingly upset, the technician claimed that this had never happened before and asked Jane to send the extra $1800 back to him via Moneygram. Jane joked about how the money was now hers and that she wouldn’t do it. The technician then said that she really should because that would be the honest thing to do. Jane then agreed to send the money back and headed over to Walmart to do so.
While in the Walmart parking lot, Jane asked herself what on earth she thought she was doing. Because of this moment of doubt, Jane went over to her credit union to check on her account.
At the credit union, the teller looked at her account and saw that the technician had actually transferred $2,000 from Jane’s own savings account, not from his company, as he had claimed. Had Jane sent the Moneygram, she would have been out $1,800 of her own money.
This scenario comes as no surprise to Dori Harvel, Manager at Mint Valley Federal Credit Union.
Dori says that con artists like to use MoneyGram and Western Union because they can be cashed anywhere and since the fraudster does NOT hold an account with these places, they collect the money under a false name and the transaction is virtually untraceable. Basically, there is no "paper trail."
For any situation where the customer does not know for sure that the organization they are dealing with is completely trustworthy, Dori recommends doing some research before giving out any bank account or credit/debit card information. Wire transfers and debit cards should generally be avoided as they are a direct link to the customer's bank account and disputing fraudulent charges can be very difficult. Credit cards, on the other hand, have many fraud protections in place, making filing a fraud dispute somewhat easier.
If you have any situation that you suspect may be fraud, Dori recommends speaking with your financial institution. Chances are, they have dealt with a similar scenario before and can tell you if it is fraud or not. Remember the old saying, "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," (too good to be true).
2017 Sutinen Consulting
The first recorded instance of an unsolicited electronic message was a telegram in 1864 to British politicians, advertising a dentistry shop. Spam, unwanted or unsolicited email, is something we all have to contend with to this day and will for the foreseeable future. It is estimated that about 50 percent or more of all email today is spam. That is down from over 80 percent a few years ago. Understanding the nature of spam is key to getting an upper hand on managing this beast.
Types of Unwanted email
The most effective measures to control spam vary among the types and sources of email, so it is important to identify them. Much of spam comes from unscrupulous sources, such as hijacked computers that have become robots for sending spam and viruses. Some of these emails are used to infect even more computers to send even more spam. Make sure your anti-virus software is up to date so you don't become part of the problem.
Other unwanted email is legitimate. These include advertisers that you may have authorized to receive email from and are compliant with the law in their methods. Marking these as spam in your spam filter is not very effective and can reduce its effectiveness. If it is a message from Target or Home Depot, you may have authorized the sender to email you, even if inadvertently.
In many cases, the type of spam can be easily identified. For example, unexpected email that claims you won the lottery, or offers something too good to be true, is almost certainly spam. In other cases, email from familiar vendors such as Fred Meyer, can be identified by its familiar look and content, even if it is unwanted. In any case, do not rely on the sender email address for evidence of any kind as it can be easily forged or "spoofed".
Some email can have the look and feel of legitimacy, even having a company logo, and still be forged. Many of these will entice you to click on a link to update your password or give some other private information which legitimate companies never do. To get a better identification of these, examining the hidden email header records will usually do.
Gaining access to and examining the email header is an area where many fear to tread. But it has tracking information, much like a package sent through the mail, that can identify every place the email was, including its source. This can usually provide a definitive answer of whether the email is legitimate, even when all other efforts have failed. If the geek in you is up to the challenge, there are many sources on Internet to guide you through finding them, depending on your email program and version.
As spam mitigation measures improve, so does the ability of spam to evade filters. Like anti-virus software that has to reactively combat new computer viruses, so do spam filters have to change their tactics. For example, a few years ago, spammers found a way around spam filters by sending image email rather than text, as spam filters were largely text based. In time, spam filters were upgraded to convert images to text for effective evaluation and classification.
Most people do not see the large volume of spam that is blocked on email servers so they don't get a sense for how well it is already doing its job. As spammers' techniques change, some of their unwanted email sometimes gets through. These are the ones that get your attention. And sometimes mine, when I am called on to help in controlling this menace. Most of the time, these emails will stop on their own after a short time, when spam filters on the email servers catch up.
Most spam is blocked by email servers at your provider so you don't even see it. This prevents delivery of the email. This method is most effective for email from unscrupulous sources. Any spam mitigation efforts built in to your email program, such as Outlook or Thunderbird, are less effective as it targets email that has already been accepted for delivery from the spammer.
Unwanted email from legitimate sources such as Walmart, Amazon and other vendors, is not effectively blocked by spam filters, neither should it be, as it is a matter of preference whether one should receive it. For these, check the bottom of the page for a link to unsubscribe. It is required by law for the sender to honor opt-out, unsubscribe requests promptly. Click on this link and fill out the required information.
There are a number of things you can do to reduce unwanted email. First, when filling out forms, check to see if you are agreeing to receive email that you don't want before submitting, especially if you are signing up for free stuff. Avoid posting your email address to public forums and social media. The addresses can be harvested by spammers. Never respond to unwanted email from unscrupulous sources. It can be used to verify your email address. Don't make your user name the same as your email address if possible. For web based email providers such as Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook.com, use their system to block and report spam. Also, make sure you use a unique password for your email accounts as any other site that has your password might be hacked and your email account may be used for spamming.
Spam is something that we can expect, as long as we receive email. There is no way to effectively block all spam. We can only decide how much to tolerate. And remember, for every spam email we get, there is probably at least one more that we never see.
-2016 Sutinen Consulting
Similar to the tab hijackers that were the subject of last week’s blog post, phone scams are another common scam that we deal with here at Sutinen Computers. These scams happen when a person claiming to be a technician from Microsoft, Norton, Comcast, or other well-known and reputable company, calls in out of the blue and claims that the victim’s computer has a virus on it and they need urgent access to the computer to fix it. Victims often trust the “technician” because they might actually do business with the company that the fake technician claims to be calling from.
Like in similar schemes, once the victim is directed to download a remote control application that then gives the fake technician the ability to control the victim’s computer, the technician will then pull up any number of false and/or dubious scanners and proceed to demonstrate to the victim how badly the computer is infected. They will then try to convince the victim through any number of lies or threats to pay for a virus removal. Should the customer refuse to pay, the “technician” will then try to load the computer up with viruses, take control of the webcam and take pictures of the victim, or any number of other intimidating methods.
If the victim does pay, usually through credit card or wire transfer, the “technician” will then proceed to do what he claims is a virus cleanup that, in reality, is usually just removing phantom viruses “discovered” by the scanners.
As I am sure you can tell, letting these scammers onto your computer is quite dangerous and the risk of there being something bad left behind is very high. If you have been victimized, the best thing to do is to attempt to recover your money and then perform a factory reset on your computer after backing up your data.
Recovering your money can be relatively easy, should you have paid with a credit card, or very difficult, if you paid with a wire transfer. Always contact your bank and see what can be done. Chances are, they have dealt with similar things in the past and will know pretty quickly if they can help you.
Resetting your computer, also known as a wipe and reload, can be really straightforward if you have a recovery partition or recovery media from the factory. If you do not have either, then a reinstall with standard media has to be done. This can range from simple to complex, depending on the operating system and manufacturer.
Remember, a factory reset will wipe out all data and programs. Make sure to perform a backup of all important data and save any product keys if you do not have them in physical form. Programs and data can then be reloaded onto the computer after the reload.
Phone scams are a confidence trick that can be fought by simply knowing how technology companies work. Microsoft, Norton, Comcast, et. al. will not call you about problems with your computer. Should you receive such a phone call, you can verify that it is good or bad by ending the call and calling the organization back if they have a common customer service line. Never pay for any service that you did not initiate and keep your Anti-Virus up to date. Then, you will have the confidence to be able to tell any potential scammer, “Hasta la vista, baby!”
-- Josh Sutinen
2016 Sutinen Consulting
For the inaugural blog post we thought we would take the opportunity to talk about a common scam currently making the rounds. If you have ever seen this while browsing the web, you will know what I am talking about. Usually, they are accompanied by a cacophonous and dire sounding audio warning that does not stop.
Tab hijackers are a form of cleverly designed fake viruses that convince people that their computer has been compromised. Usually, they will provide a phone number to call “Microsoft” or some other reputable brand to “clean up” the virus. Once a person calls said number, the scammers direct the victim to install a remote access program so that the scammer can “diagnose” the virus. After a “diagnostic” process (usually full of techno-babble, false claims, and catastrophic predictions) the scammers then ask for a certain amount of money, usually $200-400 to “repair” the computer, payable by credit card or money transfer. They will then attempt to hard sell the victim on why they must do this repair NOW.
Should the victim pay, the scammers usually run any number of programs, ranging from legitimate virus scanners and utilities to redundant PC tune-up programs to downright malicious malware. After they are done, they will call back, usually within a few days, saying that they have discovered another urgent problem and attempt to collect more money from the victim. Often, they will pretend to offer a refund in hopes of collecting banking information from the victim.
When they obtain a working relationship with the victim, they will often say things like “We will be closing down soon and so we need access to your computer one last time to uninstall our software.” After they get access to the computer, they will then claim to have found another problem and do another hard sell, trying to get the victim to pay even more money. All subsequent calls will use similar psychological tricks with the goal being access to the computer and another round of cash.
Should the victim refuse to pay, the scammers will typically attempt to coerce the victim into paying by threatening to lock down the computer, threatening to take over the webcam, threatening to infect all computers on the network with viruses, or threatening to turn the victim over to law enforcement.
To be clear, tab hijackers are NOT viruses! They are popups within respective web browsers that are designed to be generated over and over so that you can never click out of them. As long as you do not make the phone call to the scammers, your computer is safe and you do not need to run a virus cleanup any more than you already are.
If you have made the phone call and granted access to your computer, the best course of action is to do a complete reload of your operating system to make sure that nothing the scammers might have left behind will cause trouble in the future.
Should you ever come across another tab hijacker in the future, here are the steps for dealing with it:
If you are using Internet Explorer and/or cannot get the “Prevent this page from creating additional dialogs” box, follow these steps.
-- Josh Sutinen
2016 Sutinen Consulting