Friday, 15 June 2012


Sometimes the simplest piece of information can have an incredible impact. It is always easy to forget how much you know when you are immersed in a subject. So, when you meet someone who has little to no awareness of your field, it is easy to assume that they know the things that you intrinsically take for granted.

When you take the time time listen to those around you and learn things that are completely new, you can find a fresh perspective and make connections that would otherwise have been impossible.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Facebook, Addiction and Suspended Accounts

According to the quiz was provided by BlueGlass, I am 78% addicted to social media.  Personally, I'd have guessed that percentage would have been higher, but it's a subjective quiz.  So, is being 78% addicted to social media a good thing?  Given that I live, work and breathe social media, is it a problem?  Is it something that I want to change?  What would happen if I lost one or all of my social media networks without warning?

Facebook is the network where I have my longest and most involved personal history with interactions, photographs, friends, family, likes and comments all laid out in a timeline; a diary of my life from July 2006 to today. Could I stand to lose 6 years worth of  personal history without blinking, if Facebook decides to suspend my account or I lose access for whatever reason? For me the answer is no, absolutely not, and I have taken several steps to safeguard this data:
  1. Ensure that backup copies of all photographs are kept on my computer and not deleted when uploaded to Facebook.
  2. Download photographs published by friends that I am tagged in and want to keep.
  3. Activate mobile access to Facebook, providing an alternate authentication method.
  4. Add secondary administrators to all groups and pages that I manage.
  5. Download an archive copy of my Facebook Data.
Another security feature that is worth considering is 'Trusted Friends', which allows you to nominate between 3 to 5 friends to enable you to recover a locked account using a password reset process.

Safeguarding an existing profile is a far better solution than signing up for a new profile and starting to rebuild from scratch, especially one that is used to manage multiple groups and pages.  It is also not possible to merge personal profiles; so, if an account is recovered after you set up a new profile, you have to make a choice about which account to continue using.

What would happen to you if you lost all of your social media profiles and access rights without warning?

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Cold Calling from Microsoft Scammers

The tactics are the same but scammers have updated their strategies. I just received a rather suspicious telephone call that would have been very convincing to someone with a little less IT awareness.
The caller stated that they were calling from an IT Solutions company in London as a certified representative of Microsoft.  The theme of the call was that my computer was reporting error messages on a daily basis to Microsoft, that this was a courtesy customer phone call, that he was going to talk me through the error messages and show me how to fix them before the errors stopped my operating system from working.
Would you have heard the warning bells by now?
So, what information did the guy have about me? He had a phone number and a name and he could tell me that I was using Windows on my PC. When pressed, he could not tell me what operating system I was using or any other personal information concerning my computer, apparently because the Data Protection Act would not let him disclose that to me.
Hmmmmm....are we feeling suspicious yet?
He had quite a convincing spiel and you could tell that he was sticking to the script that he had in front of him, with no deviation and no engagement in the conversation.  He starts to get aggressive about how MS Windows is going to shut my PC down if I don't listen to him and let him prove to me that there are errors on my computer...even questioning my technical ability!  Oh yes, and apparently it would not matter which computer I was on or that I am not the designated person that he was supposed to be calling...because we are all using the same home internet connection and the errors are definitely coming from my computer!
So, ok, what does he want me to do, click Start, go to Run, My Computer, Computer Management, Event Viewer...and here we are looking at a list of daily error messages. Well, yes, of course there are error messages, hundreds of them, I am using Microsoft Windows, this is normal, every little glitch does get logged and listed here. What is his point?
At this point, my lack of cooperation and questioning his legitimacy as a caller prompts him to 'pass me to his supervisor'. Standard call centre practice, yes, but in this case, a second opinion to see if I am worth pressing further.  The 'supervisor' is bright and cheerful and starts with 'let's start from the beginning' to which I say 'oh no, not again', to which he states 'oh and can you tell me what happened' and I reply 'I was getting frustrated with your colleague...' Click...bzzzzzzzzzzzzz...and suddenly I am no longer speaking to anyone.
Yes, I'm pretty sure that was a scam, but just to prove it to myself, I logged in to Microsoft Support and had a live online chat with a very nice man called Matthew, who confirmed that Microsoft does not make cold calls to residential customers.  Well, that was a surprise wasn't it!
Had I taken this call seriously at any point, the scammer would no doubt have asked my for personally identifiable data, login information, passwords and likely asked me to download software onto my computer.  The risks of any of these actions would have compromised my computer, security and lead me to being hacked, phished and probably been the target of identity theft and fraud. More information on avoiding phone scams is available on the Microsoft Security website.
On the plus side, the call did remind me to run my software updates and connect my external hard drive for a fresh back-up.  So, I'm hoping that by writing this post I will at least remind someone else to do likewise!