URGENT: Very Nasty Scam

Fake "Microsoft Support" pop-ups like the one in the actual screenshot below are multiplying like cockroaches lately. Typically, they contain scary warnings and urgent admonitions to "Call Microsoft immediately!" with a phone number.

Scams like this are a triple threat: very common, very deceptive, and very dangerous. Please warn your friends and family. (Especially the less tech-savvy and more technology-anxious).
If something like this shows up on your screen:
  • DO NOT call the number: it’s NOT really Microsoft. 
  • DO NOT allow the “technician” to access your computer, because if you do you’ll shortly be asked for payment; and here’s the worst part: as soon as you refuse payment or express suspicion, the scammers will maliciously RUIN YOUR COMPUTER—delete your files, lock you out, or lay waste to your operating system.  (You can actually watch this for yourself, if you like: see a ‘white hat’ hacker trolling, or baiting and fooling, the scammers here.)
  • If they are already connected to your computer, play along; don't let them know you are suspicious, just disconnect from the internet as fast as possible—or shut off the power if you have to—but get them OFF your computer as quickly as you can before they can do any damage.  If you hang up, and leave them connected to the computer, you're sunk.

What SHOULD you do? Just close the pop up window, or the browser. Run a virus scan. 

Sorry for the grim news, but these jerks infuriate me.  The more aware we are, the less successful they'll be.

Alison Holtzschue
and the computers dot mom team

[Echo] Show and Tell

** Two Important iPhone/iPad updates
Two Important iPhone/iPad updatesThere's a small-but-important update to iOS out now (10.3.3); info here. Be sure to back up your device first (directions in the link).
A much bigger update is coming this fall, iOS 11, along with the iPhone 8; we’ll cover it here as usual.  Do NOT leap blindly into that update as it includes some significant changes to your device; let others play guinea pig.  . . just in case.
Windows 10 Creators UpdateIf your computer runs Windows 10, you’ve recently had, or soon will have, a major update Although it has some pretty themes (backgrounds etc.) and safety improvements, unless you’re a gamer or interested in 3D printing and the like, there isn’t much in it for average computer user to get excited about. 
Amazon's Echo Show
I had high hopes for the Echo Show ($230), the first intelligent speaker with a screen (and a touchscreen at that). It would be like the brilliant child of an Echo and an iPad, with all the best features of both parents, without the iPad price tag; and would replace the useful if imperfect screenless Echo in my kitchen (my timer + radio + digital assistant), a loose-leaf crammed with recipes and maybe a shelf full of cookbooks.  

Well--Not so much. Not yet. 
  • Bright, beautiful touchscreen and decent sound
  • Much easier to set up and order products from Amazon (you can scan barcodes right on the device, see a list of items and touch the one you want) than Echo devices without a screen or camera
  • Visible timers (finally!) and calendar items, cooking videos, TV news and YouTube videos, etc.

Cons are about both functionality and privacy:

  • Very little content ("skills" in Amazon's parlance) takes advantage of the screen YET, so it just doesn't do a lot of what I wanted. Instead, Amazon displays a bunch of cutesy news teasers on the screen.
  • Timers don’t REMAIN visible (!) even if you ask for them again
  • Camera is on constantly. Creepy.
  • To use video calling, one of the most highly touted features, you must give Amazon access to ALL of your contacts (my refusal to allow this baffled Echo support. . .sigh)
  • It only displays the calendar of one person. And while it is helpful to have calendar events visible. . . they're visible to everyone. Does your neighbor need to see your gynecologist appointment?

Bottom line? Not ready for prime time.

Scams Du Jour
We've had a an awful of recent queries about calls from “Apple” claiming that “your account has been compromised” instructing you not to use your computer and to call an 888 number for help. They're fake; just hang up/delete them.

And then there was this alarming email to a client, a staff favorite because of the grammar and spelling (we've highlighted in red):

>>>REMEMBER: If you have ANY concern that a warning call or email MIGHT be legitimate, DON'T call the number, DON'T click the link, just go directly to support for the appropriate company. It's tedious, but it's SAFE.<<<<<  

Handy links below for the big three:
Apple Support          Microsoft Support           Amazon Support

Enjoy your summer!
Alison Holtzschue
and the computers dot mom team

". . .And then some confusion happened"*

First, some quick notes:
  1. We're testing Amazon's new Echo Show: Alexa with a touch screen. Mixed impressions so far, full report in the next newsletter.
  2. As ransomware attacks become more sophisticated, protect yourself (advice here and here; note that Macs are not immune) and be sure you back up to a location that is NOT constantly connected to your computer or network; otherwise your backups can be infected as well.
  3. Time on your hands this summer? Build a self-driving potato.

Stop Confusing Us!
Somewhere, tech geniuses are plotting to take advantage of the unwary. Not hackers; we're talking about Microsoft and Apple!  

Maybe they’re not doing it intentionally, but programmers need a reality check when they leave landmines for consumers: innocent-sounding messages that pop up, to which you MUST respond whether or not you comprehend them; and when you choose incorrectly, major headaches ensue. 

For example, in Windows:

—can cause you to lose the ability to connect to the Internet properly.
Or this one that appears after a Mac update:
—removes your personal files from your computer’s hard drive and puts them in “the cloud”. Whoosh! Gone! Reversing the process can be a nightmare.

A prime example of this problem is the Apple/iCloud/iTunes password-passcode-security code mess. Intelligent, capable clients are CONSTANTLY getting locked out of their accounts and devices because the terms are so confusing. (In fairness, Apple's only trying to protect us from the bad guys; but when you’re resetting your password for the nine hundredth time, and ready to toss your phone out the window, you probably don’t care about the reason).

Decoding Apple/iCloud/iTunes Security
Normally,** each person has one account with Apple, and then each device (iPhone, iPad, Mac) also has its own separate security;  you need to keep track of both, and to know which is which.

Your Apple/iTunes/iCloud Account and Password
  1. Your Apple account = your iTunes account = your iCloud account. (Thanks, Apple!  That makes sense.)
  2. Your Apple/iTunes/iCloud account is the central repository for all your Apple information, including your name, address, payment and security info, iCloud data (contacts, photos, etc.) and purchases both hardware (computers, phones, iPads) and software (apps, movies, etc).  It’s your Apple identity.
  3. Accessing your Apple account requires two pieces of information:
    1. an email address AND 
    2. a password.  Be sure you know both.
  4. When you are asked to enter the password for your Apple ID, you will usually be prompted with the email address, like this:


5.  If you enable two-factor authentication, which we STRONGLY recommend, then any time you try to access your account for the first time on a new device, Apple will send you a one-time-use security code that you have to enter ALSO.  You don’t have to write down that code; they’ll send you a different one next time.

Individual Devices (iPhones, iPads, Macs)
If you have an iPhone or iPad, you should secure it with either a fingerprint or a passCODE (usually 4 or 6 digits long). This passcode is ONLY to unlock that specific device, is NOT the passWORD for your Apple account, and is NOT the same as the passcode Apple sometimes sends in #5 above. Okay so far?  You DO need to remember this one. (Please don't use your birthdate. . .)

Finally, if you have a Mac, you will have a user name and password just for your stuff on that computer .  The user name is (normally) a name, not an email address like the Apple ID: Fred, or Fred Smith, not fredsmith@gmail.com.  

When you turn on the computer, install or update software or make other changes to the computer, you will be asked for a password; that’s the USER password, not the APPLE account password, because the user NAME is shown instead of the email address, like this:

Bonus note: Note: choose security questions that have single word, unambiguous answers; “favorite food” is “chocolate” is much better than “city you were born in” is “New York” or “New York city” or “NY” or “Manhattan”—see the difference?

Happy Independence Day!

Alison Holtzschue
and the computers dot mom team

*Title of the chapter about lost children in the Unofficial Guide to Disneyworld. Also, probably, my epitaph.

**there are exceptions to this general explanation, but if you are one of them then either you don’t need this tutorial anyway, or you’ve got some kind of mess and should probably make an appointment with Apple or with us.