Actrix Online Informer – April 2014
The Actrix Online Informer is published each month to help keep
Actrix customers up-to-date with what's happening on the Internet, and to
help ensure they have every opportunity to benefit from it.
Welcome to the April Actrix Online Informer
Welcome to the Actrix Online Informer for April 2014. This month we take a look at a few phishing scams that have been doing the rounds lately, including one pretending to be from Actrix!
We also discuss Microsoft's decision to end support of Windows XP, and look at a couple of options for going forward if you're still using the XP operating system.
Following our article last month on obsolete technology, we received a great response Tony who shared a story about someone's first experience with a fax machine.
Some years ago there was the case of a semi-retired Partner in an Auckland law firm who came into the office once a week (and probably made a nuisance of himself).
Anyway, the firm had just acquired their first fax machine, and the fellow in question decided to send his first fax. He handed it to the receptionist with the following instruction:
"Make sure you photocopy it before you send it".
It's hard to believe your eyes when watching this month's YouTube feature. When a river near the small Vietnamese village of Sam Lang flooded, knocking down the nearby suspension bridge, parents resorted to floating their kids across the river in huge plastic bags. Severe flooding isn't enough to get these kids a day off school.
Have you ever received an email claiming to be from ANZ or KiwiBank telling you that you're urgently required to log in to your account to update your security? Most people receive one or two of these kinds of emails every week, so chances are you've had your fair share too.
Now if you're smart, the only thing you'll ever do with these emails is delete them without a second thought. These emails are called phishing emails, designed to trick you into handing over your banking details, giving scammers full access to your accounts.
We've talked a lot about phishing emails in the past, but this month one of our readers sent us a phishing email claiming to be from Actrix! So we thought it would be good to refresh everyone's memories about how to identify these nasties.
How they work
There are a couple of reasons scammers send phishing emails. One is to get you to click the link, which will direct you to a new page that downloads a virus or some form of malware onto your computer. This could do anything from monitor what you do on the internet to entirely taking over your computer.
Another objective is to steal your information. After clicking the link in the email, you're directed to a site that looks identical to the actual ANZ or KiwiBank (or whatever) log in page. So you enter your account number and password, but instead of logging you in, the page sends your log in details back to the scammer.
What's in a phishing email
Phishing emails generally contain a few key components. The first is a logo or design to make you think the email is genuine. Often the logo is shoddy, of low quality and sometimes even outdated.
These emails also have a call to action that's requires you to log in to your account urgently. Some emails say your account has been hacked or someone has stolen your identity, so you need to change your password immediately.
One of the more successful phishing emails tells you your credit card has been charged for one of your accounts, be that your Apple account or your TradeMe account. This one gets people's attention because they think "I haven't spent any money", and quickly log in to see how much was spent and whether they can get their money back.
Another component is the link. Often it's an official looking button stolen from the real website, and sometimes it's just a text link, but clicking it never a good idea.
How to spot a phishing email
There is a range of tell-tale signs for spotting phishing emails. Often they come from non-English speaking countries, so the spelling and grammar is often pretty bad. They generally have poor of tense or punctuation, which is not what you'd expect from companies such as Apple and ANZ that have good communications and customer relations departments.
Another is the email address the email was sent from. You'd expect an email from ANZ to have an ANZ-related email address, not something like firstname.lastname@example.org. Sometimes the scammer is a little more clever and can mask his email address to look more official. However, hovering over their address will usually pop up a box showing you what the real address is. With modern emailing software it's possible to send an email and make it look like it comes from one address, but have any replies go to another address. So even if the email claims to come from email@example.com, don't click the link!
Another sure indication you're looking at a phishing email is the link's address. Hovering your mouse over the link button or text link will make a small box appear which will tell you the url or address of the link. We checked out the phishing email someone sent claiming to be from Actrix, and it looked like clicking the link would send us to some page written in Russian.
Here are a couple of examples of phishing emails, one from "Actrix", and the other from "ANZ".
Looking at this email claiming to be from Actrix, there are a few things you should notice. The first is the "From" address, which has the title "Actrix Webmail", but the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org – obviously not Actrix!
Another indication is the grammar, which is atrocious.
This one from ANZ is interesting. Note the inconsistent capitalisation in the from address – Anz – and email@example.com is hardly an address you'd associate with ANZ bank. Also, the "To" address is firstname.lastname@example.org, which isn't even an email address I own.
Funnily enough, the ANZ logo is linked to the actual ANZ website. You'd expect ANZ to know your name when contacting you, and not just refer to you as "Customer". The "Log on" button has been copied from the ANZ website, and hovering your mouse over it will show you it most certainly doesn't go to the ANZ site. And then we have a bunch of links at the bottom, offering more information on security and help. None of these are actually links at all, but are just text designed to look like links. They don't want you to be able to click anywhere else, just to their scam site.
Every month new phishing emails are emerging. Here are a couple or articles people have written about some of the latest scams and how you can spot them.
Always be suspicious. Phishing e-mails try to freak you out with warnings of stolen information (or worse), and then offer an easy fix if you just "click here." When in doubt, don't click. Instead, open your browser, go the the company's real website, then sign in normally to see if there are any signs of strange activity. If you're concerned, change your password and call the company.
Check for bad spelling and grammar. Most phishermen come from outside the English-speaking world, so their emails are riddled with spelling mistakes and bad grammar. Big companies hire professional writers and editors to make sure their emails contain perfect prose. If you're looking at one that doesn't, it's almost certainly a fake.
Beef up your browser. An accidental click of a phishing link doesn't have to spell disaster. McAfee SiteAdvisor and Web of Trust are free browser add-ons that will warn you if the site you're about to visit is suspected of malicious activity. They're like warning signs at the end of cliff-side roads.
Most of all, rely on common sense. You can't win a contest you didn't enter. Your bank won't contact you using an e-mail address you never registered. Microsoft did not "remotely detect a virus on your PC." Know the warning signs, think before you click, and never, ever give out your password or financial info unless you're properly signed into your account.
Microsoft has recently announced it is discontinuing support for Windows XP users. As of 8 April 2014, technical assistance for Windows XP will no longer be available, including automatic updates that help protect your PC from online threats.
This doesn't mean your computer will stop working – in fact, you can continue to use your computer as normal, without noticing any changes or differences. However, it does mean if you continue to use Windows XP after support ends, your computer might become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses. Also, as more software and hardware manufacturers continue to optimise for more recent versions of Windows, you can expect to encounter greater numbers of apps and devices that do not work with Windows XP.
How do I stay protected?
To stay protected after support ends, you have two options:
1. Get a new PC
2. Upgrade your current PC's operating system.
You can either upgrade to Windows 7, or choose to upgrade to Windows 8. Some older computers might not be able to handle Windows 8 yet, and we've talked to a few technicians who recommend upgrading to Windows 7 instead.
Microsoft has created a tool to help you check if your computer can handle the upgrade. The Windows Upgrade Assistant will scan your computer to to check if your PC meets the necessary system requirements, and then offers a simple tutorial you can follow to upgrade if your PC is able.
And if you get stuck along the way, you can read Microsoft's Frequently Asked Questions:
If you'd like to know more about Windows 7 or Windows 8 before deciding which to upgrade to, Microsoft has created a tour of both operating systems:
Please note: Actrix supplies links to these sites for your interest and possible use. We cannot endorse or take any responsibility for their contents.
Got a site you think would be neat to share with other readers?
Click here to e-mail and let me know!
Cyberspace news snippets
What's been happening in the online world?
Labour plans for free computers: Labour is planning to supply tablet computers or laptops to all pupils of low decile schools, according to speech notes the party accidentally sent to the Government. Click here for more.
Many Kiwis falling to cyber scammers: More than one in 10 Kiwis have been touched by cyber crime, from dodgy online trades to credit card theft, a university study shows. Click here for more.
Kiwi website is a box-office hit: A site for movie-lovers run from a small design company in Auckland is attracting thousands of members and millions of hits from around the world. Click here for more.
Promise and peril being ultra-connected: We're in the beginning of a world in which everything is connected to the internet and with one another, while powerful yet relatively cheap computers analyse all that data for ways to improve lives. Click here for more.
Ellen's super selfie a marketing stunt: Before it was officially confirmed, it had already been declared the biggest selfie in history. Click here for more.
Toymaker says children can learn to code: Kindergarten kids can write computer code and computer science should be a fundamental skill for children as young as five, according to a start-up team developing programmable toy robots for kids. Click here for more.
House building with 3-D printers: Hundreds of years after wealthy merchants began building the tall, narrow brick houses that have come to define Amsterdam's skyline, Dutch architects are updating the process for the 21st century: fabricating pieces of a canal house out of plastic with a giant 3-D printer and slotting them together like oversized Lego blocks. Click here for more.
Erasable printer to reduce paper costs: An "erasable" printer will go on sale tomorrow that outputs printed pages that can later be wiped clean and reused. Click here for more.
You can't fake it with this computer: In the ever-expanding contest between artificial intelligence and the ordinary human mind, you can chalk up another one for the computer. Click here for more.
Email entrepreneur counting on numbers: A Richmond-based IT expert has come upon what he believes is the next step in the evolution of electronic communication. Click here for more.
Microsoft releases OneNote for Macs: Microsoft has released a version of its OneNote note-taking software for Macs and added new features and a free tier for all of the software's users in moves clearly targeted at up-and-coming productivity software rival Evernote. Click here for more.
Report: Facebook looks to buy own drones: Facebook is in talks to buy Titan Aerospace, a maker of solar-powered drones, to step up its efforts to provide internet access to remote parts of the world, according to reports from technology blog Techcrunch and financial news outlet CNBC. Click here for more.
New platform wants to take on YouTube: Wonder PL, a new video platform for lifestyle content that launched on March 13, is taking direct aim at YouTube and Vimeo while hoping to capitalize on the soaring popularity of online video. Click here for more.
Cloaking app for the anti-social: Awkwardly bumping into your ex and his or her new flame could be a thing of the past as a new "anti-social" networking app promises to help users avoid unwanted confrontations. Click here for more.
Facial recognition now 97 per cent accurate: Almost two years ago, Facebook bought Face.com, an Israeli start-up that specialised in face-recognition software. Given the instant backlash, it's no surprise Facebook has kept pretty quiet about the technology since then. Click here for more.
Twitter outages in Turkey after PM threat: Twitter users in Turkey reported widespread outages hours after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to shut down access to the social network as he battles a damaging corruption scandal. Click here for more.
How to tweet in China: Western internet brands have mostly failed to catch on in mainland China. It's not hard to understand why. Many of the larger ones are outright banned – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the ones that aren't, often don't put too much effort into expanding there, since they could get blocked at any time. Click here for more.
Apple and Android
Google plans $60 customisable phones: Google is aiming to sell $50 (NZ$60) customisable modular phones by early next year. Click here for more.
Apple's Cook promises new products: Apple sold more than US$1 billion (NZ$1.197 billion) of Apple TV set-top boxes in 2013 and is investing heavily in the next generation of products, chief executive Tim Cook said at the company's annual meeting on Friday. Click here for more.
Apple launch iPhone voice control for cars: Apple makes its next move in hands-free smartphone technology for car drivers when it unveils a new, integrated iPhone voice-control system at the Geneva Motor Show this week. Click here for more.
Android to power smartwatches: Google smartwatches based on its Android mobile software will be available later this year, enlisting a variety of partners and signaling the internet company's intent to play a leading role in what could be the next big computing market. Click here for more.
Copyright vs Piracy
MP3tunes boss held liable in copyright case: The former chief executive of bankrupt online music storage firm MP3tunes has been found liable for infringing copyrights for sound recordings, compositions and cover art owned by record companies and music publishers once part of EMI. Click here for more.
Security and Privacy
Judge throws out Google email privacy case: Google won a significant legal victory as a US judge decided not to combine several lawsuits that accused the internet search company of violating the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of email users into a single class action. Click here for more.
NSA's MYSTIC reaches 'into the past': The National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording "100 per cent" of a foreign country's telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden. Click here for more.
Microsoft employee charged with leaks: A former employee of Microsoft is facing criminal charges after he allegedly passed trade secrets to a blogger in France, US court documents showed. Click here for more.
Obama: internet freedom a universal right: US first lady Michelle Obama told an audience of tertiary students in the Chinese capital that open access to information - especially online - is a universal right. Click here for more.
The Weird, Wide Web
Welcome to the cat economy: Making cat videos may have previously appeared to be a fantastic waste of time but this hobby is now a legitimate source of income. Some cat owners are making tens of thousands of dollars a year from their prized felines who, via YouTube, entertain millions of cat lovers around the world. Click here for more.
University hires Wikipedian-in-residence: A 24-year-old geography major is the first Wikipedian-in-residence at the University of California, Berkeley. Click here for more.
Meet the 'most connected man' in the world: Forty-five year-old Chris Dancy is known as the most connected man in the world. He has between 300 and 700 systems running at any given time, systems that capture real-time data about his life. Click here for more.
Each month we dredge through our archives to pull out stories from the Actrix Newsletter of exactly five years ago. Sometimes these stories will show just how much the net has changed in such a short time, and sometimes they'll be included just because they're interesting.
NZ plugged into secret internet: A leaked American study into military actions in Afghanistan reveals New Zealand is quietly plugged into the world's most secret internet allowing access to the Pentagon's battle plans at strategic and tactical level. Click here for more.
More Kiwis being stung by scams: Kiwis are swindled out of an average $2500 a year after falling for elaborate frauds and efficient scams, the Consumer Affairs Ministry says. Click here for more.
NZ ranks 16th in telco survey: New Zealand ranks among the top 20 in the world in a survey of phone, computer and internet technology developments. Click here for more.
NZ court papers can be served via Facebook, judge rules: A High Court judge today approved the serving of court papers via Facebook, the popular social network website, in what is thought to be a New Zealand first. Click here for more.
Govt bid to simplify online auction rules: Work has started on updating consumer law to provide more protection for sales made on internet auction sites. Click here for more.
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