Six Signs of a Phishing Email

How Do You Spot a Fake Email?

(excerpted from an article at eero.com)

Phishing – a fraudulent attempt to obtain your sensitive information by disguising oneself as trustworthy – continues to be one of the most prevalent ways for hackers to gain access to your accounts and compromise your identity.

At the end of 2019, over 86,000 phishing websites were discovered per month. Here are six common signs you are reading a phishing email. Here is an example:

1. Sense of Urgency

While phishers are not limited in who they try to imitate, they often try to copy financial institutions, cloud logins (Apple, Microsoft, Google), or disaster relief organizations. Their goal is an obvious one – to get you to take action on the email. To do so, they inspire a sense of urgency by telling you your funds are at risk, your account is being closed, or some other impending negative action.

2. Suspicious Sender Address

Email applications can only go so far to protect you from phishing. Scammers will often buy a domain name similar to the one they are trying to spoof. In the above example, the fisher is trying to imitate acmebank.com. They opted to use acrnebank.com hoping that your eye would be tricked by using “rn” instead of “m”.

3. Generic Greeting

In an era where marketing is personalized, it is less common to receive an email with a generic salutation. Most trusted institutions will address you by name, especially when an action is required.

4. Spelling and Grammar Mistakes

Spelling and grammar mistakes are a telltale sign of a phishing attempt. Reputable companies proofread communications before publishing. Run-on sentences, misspelled words, and odd phrases are all signs that the email is not legitimate.

5. Link to Invalid Domain

The aim of a phishing attempt is to collect sensitive information. A common way scammers do this is by redirecting you to a fake online form. The link title and where the link takes you will often be different. It is simple to make a link “look” legitimate.

6. Suspicious Attachments

A more nefarious tactic is to attach infected files that allow attackers to gain a foothold into the system. Instead of simply gaining access to one account, the phisher now has to access to the entire computer. They can use their access to target your contacts from your email address. Common file types used include .pdf, .doc/.docx, and .exe files. However, attack techniques are always evolving.

How you can defeat phishing

  • Notice how you felt when you initially read the questionable email. If something felt off, then it probably is.
  • You can always go to the targeted site manually, i.e. go to your browser and type in www.acmebank.com, and do not click on a link embedded in the email.
  • Reach out to a professional or technical friend to get a second opinion if the email seems wrong.

Phishers use a combination of social engineering tools to trick you into doing what they want, and many of them are very good at it. Moreover, many of them target retirement-age individuals, who tend to trust what they read more than younger people do.

If you receive an email that looks suspicious, contact us and we’ll happy to take a look at it for you. We are here to help!

ProtonVPN – a VPN for the Rest of Us

ProtonVPN

Proton Technologies AG, the Swiss company that originally brought us the very secure ProtonMail, has recently released a VPN client, ProtonVPN. What is remarkable about this offering is that their most basic plan is free! Not just a free trial, but actually free.

 

What is a VPN and why do I need it?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and it is a way of making sure that communications with your devices are secure and are not intercept-able. When you are at home, you can be reasonably sure that your connection to the Internet is secure. But if you are outside your home, for instance at a coffee shop or a library or a hotel, your chances of someone trying to co-opt your data are very high. Using a VPN minimizes this risk. Having a VPN service available should be part of everyone’s data security plan.

There are a large number of commercial VPN clients available for both Mac and iOS on the market, including familiar names like NordVPN, HideMyAss, and ExpressVPN. Most of these services offer a free trial. But ProtonVPN is the only one we’ve found so far that offers an actual free service. Their for-pay accounts offer simultaneous VPN connections, more connection points around the globe, and higher speeds.

Their most basic plan does have some restrictions (like only 1 simultaneous VPN connection per account) but for most people, that is a workable solution. If you have not yet landed on a VPN service for both your Mac and iOS devices, your time has come – this solution is a no-brainer. Their Mac and iOS clients are elegant and very pleasant to use. They offer the ability to save profiles, such as US-FastestService or Germany-MostSecure, and much more, to provide easy, one-click access as you need it.

You can sign up for all of their accounts at prontvpn.com. You can also use these links to download their Mac client and iOS client.

Wait, it’s all too much; I need some help!

Yes, that’s why we’re here. Contact Us and we can set it all up on both your Mac and your iOS devices for you!

How to navigate the Genius Bar at the Apple Store

The “Genius Bar” name may do a disservice to everyday Apple users, scaring them away from fixing their own devices and implying only a “genius” can troubleshoot them. But sometimes, going to the Genius Bar makes sense—especially if your phone or Mac is still under warranty and you can get it fixed for free.

The vast majority of PC and phone manufacturers don’t have retail locations where you can walk in and get service—in fact, a lot of them require you to mail your device in for warranty service. A short trip to the Apple Store is much, much easier.

So if you’re headed to the Genius Bar for some help, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Research the issue before you go

Before you go: check with Google and see if the problem is easily fixable at home. If your iPhone is having trouble charging, for example, the charging port may just be full of lint—grab a toothpick and try to clean it out. You’d be surprised how often people waste a trip to the Apple Store for such a simple solution, and if you can save yourself an hour of hassle, you’ll feel pretty smart, too.

Similarly, the problem could be on your end—maybe your computer’s “slowness” is actually a poor Wi-Fi signal degrading your internet speed, or maybe your sound is finicky because the headphones are broken.

Plus – back up your data before you hand your phone or computer over to Apple. You never know when something will go wrong and you’ll be left without your crucial files.

Get an appointment—don’t try to walk in

Once upon a time, you could walk up to the Genius Bar, wait a few minutes, and get quick service. Those days are long gone. If this is your first trip in a while, going to the Apple store is like going to the DMV now, and an appointment is crucial if you don’t want to stand around waiting. Head to Apple’s website, click the “Get Hardware Help” button at the bottom, and make an appointment for the device in question. (You can also do this from the Apple Support app.)

If you have multiple issues or multiple devices that require service, make multiple appointments back-to-back from one another. Apple schedules those appointments assuming they’ll last 10-15 minutes each, so bringing a bunch of “but also” problems with you is only going to slow them down—and potentially get you worse service from a rushed technician.

Familiarize yourself with AppleCare

When you buy an Apple device, you get a one-year warranty with the device called AppleCare. You also have the option to purchase an extended warranty called AppleCare+, which not only adds an extra year (or two) of service but includes coverage for accidental damage, theft, and loss. That does not include a broken screen.

If your device has a known issue that you didn’t cause, then AppleCare will likely give you the repair for free. But if you damage your screen, dunk the phone in water, or otherwise damage it accidentally, you’ll have to pay a service fee to fix that damage. It’ll just be a lower service fee than you would have paid without AppleCare+. So don’t go demanding a free repair you aren’t entitled to.

In other cases, Apple may deny warranty coverage if you’ve damaged the phone, even if that damage isn’t directly related to your issue. The same goes for devices that you or a third party has repaired: Apple may decline to offer warranty coverage, even though it is illegal for them to do so. We’d encourage you to remind them of that fact if they try to pull a fast one.

See if you’re eligible for at-home repair

If you need service on a desktop Mac, it might be a hassle to take it into the store. They don’t advertise it heavily on their site, but Apple actually offers at-home repairs for desktop Macs if you’re still under the AppleCare warranty. You’ll need to give Apple a call, explain your situation, and they should be able to transfer you to a supervisor who can set up an at-home visit.

Don’t be afraid to look for help elsewhere

Geniuses are given specific troubleshooting steps by Apple, and many will just stick to those. Others may go above and beyond the call of duty, but that’s never guaranteed.

So if the Genius Bar can’t fix your problem, take it to an independent repair shop (or even a tech-savvy friend) and see if they can do anything. You may be out of luck, but you never know. So like visiting any other doctor, get a second opinion first.

Be nice, but be firm

At the end of the day, the Genius you’re talking to is just another person working their daily retail job. If you run in, angrily demanding repairs and blaming the Genius for your problems, you’re going to have a much worse experience than someone who is polite, listens carefully, and doesn’t act like you know more than them (even if you do). That doesn’t mean you should be a pushover—be firm in the resolution you want, especially if you know you’re entitled to it—but a little kindness goes a long way.

Wait… is there another option besides the Genius Bar?

Yes… It’s us! Faster, more available, and less people and hassle to deal with. Contact Us and we will take care of you before you spend hours at the Genius Bar!

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