How Can I Check My Email to See if it’s Spam?

Every day it seems there is more and more spam coming to us in our email. Some have links that we’re tricked into clicking on. Some have attachments we’re pushed to download and “view”. Most have a connection to viruses, malware, or worse. But they look like they’re coming from websites or companies we know and use or they look like they’re coming from a family or friend. How would we know they’re bad?

There are a few things to check in the email but you have to learn to question every email, and then check it. Learn to “hover” your mouse over items, meaning move the mouse pointer over the link or other item in the email without clicking. What you’ll see may surprise you.

Watch my video here to see what I mean.

Did You Know You Could Do This With Your Apple iOS 8+ Device?

Now that Apple seems to have gotten the bugs worked out of their 8.+ update, I started to find various changes that are pretty cool. The more I searched, the more I found. I’d like to share them with you here. Some you’ll find to be very useful, others you’ll wonder how you ever got along without them. All are pretty cool.

Hide photos

When you tap and hold a photo within the Photos app you’ll see a “Hide Photos” option. If you tap it, the photo will be visible in the Hidden Album but not in your Moments, Collections and Years. This is nice if you have people who want to see your pictures or videos and there are some you’d not like to see.

More text control

There’s a lot more you can do with the texts you send and receive with iOS 8, including deleting them one by one. By holding your finger on a text message, an option for More will pop up — from there, you’ll be able to forward it along to someone else or tap to erase individual messages.

The new “details” section of Messages is pretty great for one key reason: you can now review all of the attachments that have been exchanged in each of your conversations on a single screen. You’ll see both images and videos you’ve sent as well as those received. And the archive goes back a long way — assuming you haven’t previously deleted your message history. But if you do need to free up space, the details view makes it even easier because you can just tap and hold on any attachment to erase it from your device

Timed selfies

When you’re taking a selfie and you need to set your device down so that you can get in the shot, your camera will now allow you a few seconds, up to 10, to get ready for that next photo. Just tap the clock icon at the top of the screen within the camera, choose how many seconds you need, and start snapping.

Bring Back Deleted Photos

If you’ve accidentally deleted a photo, it’s possible to bring it back: there’s a new Recently Deleted album in the Photo app that stores deleted pictures for up to 30 days before they disappear for good.

Battery Usage

Wondering why your battery is draining so fast? There is a new option that gives a percentage breakdown of what apps are killing your battery life most. To see which apps you should close when not in use, visit General > Usage > Battery Usage. You can then turn off some of those apps. This small step could add a few hours of extra battery life to your day.

Email Drafts

If you’re in the middle of an email, but want to go back to reading your inbox, you can hold the top of the message and drag down (but don’t put your finger too high on the screen or the notifications tab will appear). You can do this with multiple drafts, too. Double tap the minimized draft at the bottom to see all of them at once — this makes them appear in a carousel view, similar to how it looks with Safari tabs in iOS 8 — and proceed to open or delete them with taps and swipes.

Swipe to Delete in Email

Instead of hitting the small trash can icon for each email, you can now save time by swiping quickly to the left to get rid of individual emails. Just be careful when testing this feature; it’s so easy to remove emails that sometimes it happens when want to do other tasks. Meanwhile, dragging your finger slowly to the left on an email will let you flag or archive it. Swiping to the right will reveal the feature to mark a message as unread.

Interactive Notifications

Interactive notifications is one of the best parts about iOS 8. You can respond to texts, email, calendar invitations, reminders and messages within apps such as Facebook from the notification banners that pops up at the top of the screen. It’s a good way to reply to incoming messages without leaving the app you’re in or stopping what you’re doing all together. You have to have “notifications” activated on your device in order for this to work.

Keyboards

Finally, you’re no longer restricted to the keyboard Apple gives you and can pick better options from third-party developers, like Swype. Available for $0.99 in the Apple App Store, there’s a reason why Swype is the number one paid app right now: instead of tapping letters, you can swipe your fingers across the keys, which I’ve been wanting on my iPhone and iPad for years.

The built-in keyboard now offers predictive text, giving you word suggestions before you even type anything, right above the keypad. It “reads” what you’re keying in and anticipates what the next word will be. You can select it from the options and continue typing.

You turn other keyboards on after downloading by going to Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards > Add New Keyboard; you access them by clicking the globe key on the on-screen keyboard. 

Key People Shortcut

If you press the Home button twice, you’ll not only see the webpages you have open but the faces or initials of people you’ve recently talked to. This makes it easy to call or text your favorite contacts right away. The down side, however, is that it highlights contacts you might not want others to know about too. For example, if you’ve deleted a conversation you recently had with an ex (and you don’t want to broadcast this to anyone looking over your shoulder), their name will still display on the top. To remove this feature, visit Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Show in App Switcher and switch it of Off.

What’s that song?

Siri is now integrated with Shazam, an app that recognizes music and other media playing around it. You are now able to simply ask Siri “what song is playing?” and the title and artist will show up on your screen.

Hey Siri

So long as your iOS device is plugged in, you can now launch Siri just by calling out “Hey, Siri.” Just visit Siri’s settings to switch this feature on. You then tell Siri what you need.

Search Websites Instantly

Now here’s a super useful thing that most people will probably never even know about. If you go into Safari’s settings, there’s a new “Quick Website Search” feature. Whenever you search a website (Amazon, IMDB, etc.), Safari remembers that. So from then on, you can just launch a Safari search, type out “amazon” ahead of your search term, and Safari will offer to (instantly) search the website itself.

Control Center

You can access Control Center from anywhere in iOS—including the Lock screen. To access Control Center, swipe up from the bottom of the screen. To close Control Center, swipe down, tap the top of the screen, or press the Home button.

In Control Center, you can adjust these settings:

  • Turn on or off Airplane mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb, and screen-orientation lock
  • Adjust screen brightness
  • Play, pause, or skip a song, and adjust playback volume
  • Connect to an AirPlay device or toggle between audio output
  • Adjust whether your device is discoverable for AirDrop

Control Center also includes quick access to these apps:

  • Camera
  • Timer
  • Calculator (iPhone and iPod touch only)
  • Flashlight (iPhone and iPod touch only)

If your device is not locked, you can also access the currently playing audio app by tapping the song title. 

Spotlight Search

Previously designed to search for items just on your iPhone or iPad, Spotlight has been a handy tool for finding emails, appointments, contacts, music and other locally stored items. But in iOS 8, the search universe has expanded way beyond just your local device.

Here’s how the new Spotlight works:

Trigger Spotlight by swiping your finger down from just below the top of your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. The search field now says: “Spotlight Search” instead of just “Search iPhone” or “Search iPad.”

The screen also explains the types of items you can now find. Beyond searching your local device, Spotlight will offer suggestions from the Internet, iTunes and the App Store. It can also locate nearby locations, showtimes for movies, the latest news and even items from Wikipedia.

For example, I opened Spotlight and typed “Dracula,” the new movie that’s just opened. In response, Spotlight pointed me to a local theater where I could see the film, as well as to a Wikipedia entry on the movie. It also served up links to various Web sites about the film.

Asking Spotlight to track down “Mexican restaurants” showed me a couple such restaurants in my neighborhood, along with a few related websites. And searching for “Robin Williams” conjured up a Wikipedia entry on the late actor and comedian, an album that I could purchase on iTunes, and other items.

The new Spotlight is a handy way to delve beyond content that’s stored on your local device. But you can limit its capabilities through the Settings page should you wish.

Open the Settings app on your iOS device. Tap the General tab and then tap Spotlight Search. The results show you check marks in front of all the different types of items Spotlight will find in a search. To filter out a certain item from the search, simply tap it to remove the check mark. For example, tapping off Bing Web Results will prevent Spotlight from scouring the Web for information.

By default, your Spotlight searches and related information are sent to Apple. On its privacy screen for Spotlight, the company says it doesn’t store your searches and instead uses the data to try to make its search suggestions more relevant. However, those of you concerned about privacy may still wish to turn off the entry for Spotlight Suggestions to prevent your search queries from being shared in this way.

Is This Email from a Friend Safe to Open?

With all of the spam email being delivered, here are a few tips that will help you decide if the email you’ve just received are spam.

The To: field has email addresses in it that are obviously fake (you may be bcc’d on it)
The To: field has multiple email addresses in it that are in alphabetical order, many of which you have no clue who they belong to.
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Look at the time of day the email was sent. If it was sent at 2:00 in the morning and you know the person in the From: field most likely wasn’t up at that time, question it.
If the time sent on the email is several hours later than the time at your location, chances are it was sent from a server out of country. Question it.
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The attachments are either a .ZIP file or a .EXE file. There are legitimate reasons for someone to send a ZIP file but very few people do that any more. Always question it.
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There is a link in the body of the email and the text in the email is asking you to click that link to “verify” some information. TIP – Hover your mouse cursor over the link without clicking. Most of the time a text balloon opens showing the actual site the link will take you to. Compare it to what the link in the email is. If it’s different, even a little bit, don’t click. If you’re suspicious, don’t click.
If something needs to be verified, don’t do it by clicking on a link. Open your browser and go the website itself and login and verify information. Most companies won’t ask you to verify anything via email. They may notify you and then tell you to login to your account but won’t have you click a link.

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If you want to check to see if the email you received with an attachment is a virus, forward it to virustotal.

The sending process is as follows:

Create a new message, or forward the suspicious email to scan@virustotal.com as the destination address.
Attach the file to be scanned. Such file must not exceed 32MB in size. If the attached file is larger, the system will reject it automatically.

If you completed these steps correctly, you will receive an email with the file scan report. The response time will vary depending on the load of the system at the moment in which the file was sent.

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Don’t reply back to sender asking if it’s okay to open the email. Chances are it didn’t come from who is in the From: field. Don’t reply back asking the sender to stop sending you things. If there is an “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of the email, don’t. All of these things tell the spammer that they’ve reached a live email address and you’ll be put on more spam lists and receive more spam.
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Don’t EVER just click or open without questioning. Even if you’re expecting an email with an attachment, take your time to look at the email first for clues.

News Overload? Have You Heard of Flipboard?

By nature, I don’t watch the news. Often times it’s filled with nothing but bad news and then when I finally hear something I’m interested in, I never really get enough information since the newscasters are limited on length of talk. So, I just don’t watch the news.

With everything that’s going on in the world, from government, to business, to technology, to sports, how do I keep current on things? There are thousands of magazines, newspapers, web articles, but it would take me forever to read those. That’s not going to happen. What I do, is I open the Flipboard app my phone or tablet, and I flip through my personal magazines. (To install it, look for Flipboard in your devices app store. It’s compatible with Apple and Android devices)

Flipboard pulls together articles from magazines, blogs, social media sites and other places, categorizes them into sections such as: News, Business, Tech & Science, Arts & Culture, Food & Dining, Travel, Style and more. After downloading the app onto your device, you set up an account and then you choose the sections you want to keep up with. Flipboard populates the sections with articles. From there, you open the category and start flipping. Flipboard shows the first paragraph or so of the article and if you want to read the whole article, tap it and it opens on your device. Flip through the pages and when you’re done, back arrow and you are returned to main article lists. If it’s an article you want to share with others, there is a “share” icon where you can post it to social media, send it via email or save it. You can even search for individual people, hashtags, events, etc. and Flipboard will return articles related to that search.

Since you create an account, you can use that same account on all of your devices so it doesn’t matter what you have on hand, you have access to your selections. I find that I use Flipboard a lot on my phone while I’m standing in lines and then at home, I use it when I’m on my tablet.

The amount of news is overwhelming at times. With Flipboard, I feel I can keep it under control and still keep current on what’s happening around me.

End of Article….

Internet Explorer Compatibility with Chrome

If you use  Chrome as your primary browser, you may have run into an internet page that works best under Internet Explorer, or actually requires Internet Explorer. I ran into this the other day when I was helping someone with a problem they were having in Yahoo Mail, in which the right-click copy/paste function wouldn’t work in Chrome but worked fine in IE. In researching it, I found that this problem has existed for quite a while. A day or so later, I was logging onto a site and it wouldn’t load, only to find out that Chrome wasn’t a supported browser.

The answer to these problems is a  Chrome extension that works wonderfully - http://www.ietab.net/home (you’ll also see the link to the Firefox Add-In on this page). With this tool, you right-click on the page to have it rendered in Internet Explorer. When you right click, you’ll see a menu option for “IE Tab Options.  Under IE Tab Options, you can set which version of IE you want to emulate, from versions 7 to 9.

Email: Spam, Virus or Clean?

Not sure if you’ve noticed, but there are a lot of emails being received that have a few lines of gibberish followed by a hyperlink, and often times a nice motivational quote. Many times, these emails are coming from someone you know. How are these emails getting past the spam and virus filters you have in place? Why isn’t your antivirus program stopping them?

Well, first, most of these emails are coming through as plain text, with no formatting like HTML emails have. Spam filters usually are looking for key words, phrases, or graphics. With these emails, often times there aren’t any “key” words that will trigger the filter. As for the virus, there usually aren’t any attachments, just a hyperlink, again, nothing that will trigger the filter.

The following is a sample of a text based email with normal words and a hyperlink. Also note that it’s not addressed to me but I received it anyway so it must have gone out to a group. Click on the examples that follow to see them full screen. They will open in a new window so when you’re ready to move back to the article, just close the image window.

It’s a lot more difficult getting an HTML formatted email through spam filters but some do get through. The following is an example for comparison sake between an HTML format and Text Only format:

And then there is the email trying to convince you that it’s okay to open the attachment to print or verify the information they’re telling you about in the email. In this case, the email is stating that I paid property tax on property in King County, where ever that is. Since I don’t remember doing that, maybe I should print the document to see what they’re talking about. Well, wouldn’t you? Except for the fact that none of the reference numbers match up, from the payment confirmation to the reference number to the number on the attachment, none match. Notice also that the attachment is zipped. This is a common method of hiding a virus to get it past the filters.

 

Well, I didn’t open it. It forwarded it on to scan@virustotal.com and in less than 5 minutes, I received the following report. Note that virustotal scanned the file against 40 some antivirus engines and most came back with no virus found…but 4 of them did find something. That was good enough for me. I deleted the email.

Image

I hope this helps clarify those emails you’ve been getting.

Oh, and by-the-way, if you get an email similar to the ones above from a friend, have them change their email program’s password as it’s possible that their email program has been hijacked.

Maybe My Password Isn’t As Strong As I Thought It Was

For years, we in the computer industry, have been telling people to create cryptic passwords that include upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. We’ve been saying that if you replace certain characters with others, such as @ instead of “a”, or 3 instead of “E”, or ! instead of l, that chances of getting your password stolen are remote. Well, it would be remote, but with today’s technology, someone trying to break that password would have it figured out in 3 days with 1000 guesses/second, which is probably faster than you trying to remember what the password actually is.

A far better and safer way to create passwords is to string words together. Four random words, such as dogsbakewoodseat, would take 550 years with 1000 guesses/second to break, and would be much easier to remember if you use words that have meaning to you. The reason isn’t so much in the letters you use but is a combination of length as well as content. Most cryptic passwords are shorter than 8 characters because they’re hard enough to remember as is without them being longer. By using the word combination, you can make your passwords long and still be easy to remember.

I still recommend you using a different password for every site so with all of those passwords to try to remember you may want to use a password manager. I recommend RoboForm which allows you to save your passwords to your computer, or to the internet where they’re available just by clicking, when you need to log-in to a site.

If you want to see how safe some of your passwords are, or passwords similar to what you use, try them here, and see how long it would take someone to hack your password.

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