From the President’s Desk

posted in: February 2018 | 0

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Dear VMUG Members,

In the last few weeks I have been very shocked by how many scams I have seen people either fall prey to, or or be terrified that they have been taken advantage of by. Over the years, I have seen folks fleeced for anywhere between $300 to $3000. No one person is alike another, yet they all share one thing in common—one momentary lapse of reason brought on by fear.

If you listen to TechTalk on AM1070 with Alan Perry and I, you’ll know that we’re often talking about security updates, and new threats that they’re trying to fix. You’ll likely also know that I’m not a big fan of Antivirus software either.

The reason is simple—in seven years, I’ve seen lots of adware and malware, but the only thing that’s really affected anyone are webpage hijacks—sudden inexplicable warnings that take over your computer.

How you come across them:

• You have some adware installed on your computer that can take over your search results and lead your web browsing astray
• You’re visiting websites that are:
• Poorly funded, outdated and ill-maintained
• Offer free content that would ordinarily be paid-for content
• Free TV, Gambling, Pornography websites
• Free, unmoderated, gaming websites
• You click on unsolicited emails that make you believe that you need to update passwords or login credentials
• You click on warning emails from the CRA or your bank
• You click on unsolicited package tracking emails—be vary wary of generic emails from UPS, US postal Service and Canada Post

All in all definitely a case of “browser beware”. If you’re the kind that only ever walks the strait and narrow—sticking to larger, commercial websites, you’re less likely to come across these threats, but not completely immune.

They come in different forms:

• The whole screen is taken over, no menubar, no dock
• Warning signs. Some even have audio alerts playing
• Oversized spinning beachballs
• Threat messages that suggest your computer is being hacked
• Offers to call a 1800 number for support
• Can appear to be an Apple support company—sometimes even looking like Apple

If you ever come across something like this, don’t panic, and rest assured of the following:

• You computer is not hacked, you may have some adware at the worst, but no one is inside your computer
• It’s actually quite easy to bypass these scams
• It cannot cross-contaminate your iPad or iPhone
• If you do actually call the company shown on the page, the person at the other end is not an Apple tech support provider, and definitely not trustworthy
• If you do call them, they will talk you into giving them access to your computer

This is without a doubt the biggest threat that I have seen to date—at least on Macs, and in numerous cases the victims did actually have antivirus like ESET, Sophos or Norton Antivirus installed.

Always remember: no person or website can ever tell you that you are under threat and being actively hacked.

Coming back to VMUG, we’re looking forward this month to having Charles and Alan doing a “Best of CES” recap of some the most interesting announcements from the Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas. Additionally, I will be showing you how to access one of the finest tutorial video resources online——which used to cost $300 / year, for free through your Victoria Public Library Access Card. The videos are much more oriented toward professional users in depth and length, but the collection is so large, that you’re bound to find something useful and just your speed.
I look forward to seeing many of you at the Meeting on February 14th. I’m sure my wife would rather see me at home, but how often to we all get to spend Valentine’s day together? Happy almost spring!