Author: Jesse Mueller (Page 1 of 16)

Shentel Email Best Security Practices

Many of my clientele are in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the home territory of an ISP named Shentel. And like many ISPs, Shentel provides free, courtesy email addresses to its subscribers. It’s like a mint on your pillow, except this mint needs some extra warnings on its wrapper and may give you some indigestion…

I can level a variety of criticisms against any ISP-provided email another time. For this post, I need to write on how Shentel customers can keep their email more secure. There are frequent scams targeting Shentel email addresses, and I want to help as many people as I can to tighten their defenses.

If you don’t have a Shentel email address, this post will not directly apply to you, but the overall security recommendations do. So please consider these points, and implement anything you are comfortable with!

Password Strength

I’ve helped with Shentel email users for almost 20 years now, and from the beginning, I’ve noticed Shentel doling out really weak passwords to their email addresses. In 2002, it was common for a brand-new Shentel email address to come with a 6-digit password. It was typically 3 letters (part of the person’s name), and 3 numbers (often the phone exchange of the user). To this day, I still encounter Shentel email addresses with these old, short passwords, like “abc465” and “joe933”.

If your email password is this short and simple, please change it now. Email thieves can determine such short passwords quickly, without hacking you or tricking you. There are password-guessing programs readily available on the dark web that anyone buy and use for this. And once they guess your password, they can use your email to start scamming your friends and family, or worse.

Changing your Shentel email password is easy, especially if you know your current password.

  • Go to the Shentel Webmail website and login with your email credentials.
  • Click the cogwheel icon to the upper-right.
  • When the Settings screen appears, click Password.
  • Type in your old password and then enter a new password on the next two fields.
  • Click Save and you are done!

Try to choose a password that is 8 or more characters long, and use a capital letter, a number and a special symbol. An example of a strong password is: Maverick20#21 .

If you do not remember your Shentel password, call Shentel at 1-800-SHENTEL and ask their tech support to change your password over the phone.

Recovery Options

If your password is strong enough, you should still visit Shentel’s Webmail website. Shentel is starting to implement Password Recovery Options for its email users, but you won’t see these if you use Outlook, Thunderbird or a Mail app to see your messages. You must go to their Webmail site!

When you visit that site nowadays, you will be prompted to set a recovery email and recovery phone number. Fill out and satisfy these items as best you can, and call Shentel for assistance if there’s any difficulty. These are important to do! If some bad actor invades your email next month, these will help you more quickly to regain control of your account.

Request 2FA to Be Implemented

The best security tool to prevent email abuse is 2FA. This stands for two-factor authentication, and adds an extra layer to the login process for an account. When you use 2FA, you first login using your password, and next have to enter a token or code sent to your mobile number or other security device. If someone steals your email password, the second step will block them from accessing your account.

Shentel does not offer 2FA on their email accounts and has a hard time answering my most basic questions about it. But many other email providers do offer 2FA. If you are going to stick with your Shentel email address, you might reach out to Shentel to ask them to consider adding this security feature. It would greatly reduce the number of hacked Shentel email accounts!

When In Doubt, Pick Up the Phone

If you receive an email, and something doesn’t seem right, take your hand off the mouse. Take a moment to think about what isn’t sitting right with you, and contact someone without using that email in front of you.

That means: if you want to contact Shentel, dial 1-800-SHENTEL or any support number that is printed on their bills. Do not use any number in the fishy email! Contact info showing in a suspicious email will often put you in touch with criminals. And those guys will be all too happy to pretend that they are with whatever company you say you’re trying to reach.

If you can’t reach the company for advice, call someone else. Talk to a trusted friend, police officer, church pastor or relative. Or drop me a line for a second opinion, I am happy to sound off on all things, legitimate and scammy! You’re even welcome to forward odd emails to me, and I will quickly write you back with my verdict of them.

Don’t Panic: Pegasus Spyware

There’s a lot of news about the powerful spyware named Pegasus. And it is some nasty stuff, being able to infect a phone without anyone clicking anything! You can read about some basics about Pegasus here.

Unfortunately, this is one of those news topics where the media can be more inciteful than insightful. For example, the NYTimes has a long write-up on Pegasus that might make you a little anxious to read. By the 6th paragraph, they mention that “more than 1.65 billion Apple products in use worldwide have been vulnerable”. They don’t mention what you should do until the final (33rd) paragraph.

What should you do? Try my two-step plan:

1) Don’t Panic. 2) Update your iPhone.

The first step is because you’re probably not affected by Pegasus. This spyware, while it can do everything it says on the tin, was probably not something that was unleashed on the entire world. Instead, researchers are fairly sure that it was deliberately used against specific people. World leaders, politicians, activists or billionaires were the likely targets.

I’ll go out on a limb and wager that most of my readers don’t fit those categories. And for any who is a Pegasus target, they’ve probably already had their iPhone replaced or wiped.

Anyhow, the second step is what can give you full peace of mind, and may have already happened automagically. Many iDevices update on their own, and the latest iOS 14.8 update will patch iPhones against Pegasus. So go ahead and check for updates on your iPhone, and then put this nasty business out of your mind.

PS: Android phones might also be vulnerable to Pegasus, but the news media is not reporting a whole lot on that. I still recommend you Don’t Panic.

PPS: Yes, you can check your iPhone for Pegasus, but it rather involved and possibly not worth the effort. Still, if you are interested, here’s one method that appears to have no cost associated with it. I do not see any way to check an Android phone for Pegasus.

Defending Against Misinformation

You can call it misinformation, false news, alternative facts or misleading journalism. The internet is plagued with ubiquitous lies & fraudulent stories, promoted by real people and bot accounts, alike. It’s awful out there, folks.

And it’s not just the news. Forwarded emails of photos and videos dupe people into believing inaccurate science. Ads and posts convince people into strange & unnecessary behaviors through clickbait manipulation. On the internet, you are constantly targeted with junk info.

Protect your brain. Defend against the garbage that laps up against the shores of your consciousness. Here are some tools and tactics:

Fact-checking Websites

There are many websites devoted to revealing false news and fraudulent info. Search any of these to see if they can validate or refute any subject:

Snopes

Factcheck by AFP

LeadStories

Hoax Slayer shut down its website earlier this year, but still debunks on Twitter.

Check out Wikipedia for other fact-checking recommendations, too.

Reverse Image Search

If you’re looking at an unbelievable picture, you can search for it on the internet. When you find it on other websites, it may become apparent that it is either true or altered/fake.

To perform a “reverse image search”, many use Google Image Search. Click the camera icon at the end of the search field, and Google will allow you to upload any picture file, or paste in a weblink to any photo. The search results should help you learn more about the origins of your dubious picture.

Another great site that works similarly is Tineye.com . And it looks like Bing offers an image search function, if you click the curious camera-like icon at the end of the search field.

There aren’t a lot of good options for reverse video searches. While some tools exist, they are more for creators who are looking for plagiarism. And they often cost money to use. If you’re looking to check a video for legitimacy, you can take a screenshot and upload that one frame to a reverse image search site. You might also simply visit YouTube and type in a search that describes the video you want to check.

Learn More about Misinformation

There are many institutions out there that discuss this societal problem, and have advice for you. Consider reading up on misinformation and how to guard against it:

ASU: Seven Ways to Protect Yourself Against Misinformation

Security.org: Misinformation and Disinformation: A Guide for Protecting Yourself

The Verge: How to Fight Lies, Tricks and Chaos Online

Brookings: How to Combat Fake News and Disinformation

And you may also want to peruse the fact-checking websites listed at the top of this post, even when you don’t need to debunk something. Casual reading of those types of sites may teach you the hallmarks of false info and train you to be more judgmental about what you read.

MS Publisher Unavailable for MacOS

If you use Microsoft Publisher, you might be interested to know that Publisher is not available for Apple users. Anyone using an iMac or MacBook is free to buy and install Microsoft 365, like anyone else. But after the install, the Apple computer will offer Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc., but NO Publisher.

It’s not such a big deal, until someone sends a Publisher file to a Mac user. Then the trouble starts: the Mac will be unable to open or show the file, and it will offer no help as to what to do!

Since there is no way to get Publisher for MacOS, here are some workarounds:

Try LibreOffice

LibreOffice can open Publisher files, as well as allow for some editing. Install it for free from their website.

Convert the File to PDF

There are plenty of free websites that can convert an unopenable file to a PDF version. The converted file will then easily open in Adobe Reader or your browser. Consider uploading the .pub file to PublisherToPDF.com for this option.

Ask the File Creator for a Different Format

You can always let the sender know that you don’t have access to Publisher. They may be able to save their work as a PDF and send that over to you, instead!

iPhone Profiles and How to Remove Them

Smartphones are pretty well-defended against viruses, but there are a few ways to abuse them that avoid detection. One of the ways that iPhones get hijacked is through “Profiles”.

The Profiles part of the iOS is typically only used by employers or schools on iPhones that they assign to their staff. For some companies, there is a legitimate purpose for installing Profiles on iPhones. iPhone Profiles might help them monitor the phones and how they are used.

But on a personal or store-bought iPhone, you should never see any Profiles in the Settings panel. The presence of Profile on your personal iPhone is a sign of spyware. Some apps or websites may sneak a Profile onto an iPhone, for the purpose of collecting or sending info from your phone without you knowing. An unknown Profile can turn your iPhone into a keystroke collector or spam relay!

The good news is that Profiles are easy to check for and remove, if any are present. For most iPhones, you may open your Settings icon and tap on General. Scroll up and down, looking for Profiles. If you cannot find Profiles on the General menu, then none are present on the phone and you are clean! But if you do see Profiles, tap on it and remove anything listed inside.

Microsoft Editor: Spelling & Grammar Checker

This freebie does what it says on the tin: it checks your spelling and grammar for you, within your web browser. Install Microsoft Editor: Spelling & Grammar Checker and it will underline spelling errors or grammar mistakes as you type.

For the most part, this will help with typing email. But it should also red-line any writing errors on other websites, say, as you fill in a web form or write a comment on social media. Whatever errors it detects will have a zigzag underline that you can click for suggested corrections.

Grammarly does a similar job to ME: S&GC, but I find Microsoft’s extension bothers me with fewer ads. If you want to try this out, it’s available for either Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome. Just make sure to click its browser icon after you install, and sign in with your Microsoft account.

The Google Voice Verification Scam

Are you selling items on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist? Then watch for this scam!

The Setup

A potential buyer contacts you and asks for your cellphone number. Once you share your contact info, a text comes in from Google Voice. It contains a 6-digit verification code, and your would-be buyer quickly asks to know what that code is. The verification message says NOT share that code with anyone, but the buyer will insist it is to verify your identity and legitimacy.

The Scam

The person contacting you is trying to create a new Google Voice number. But Google requires that the new number be attached to an existing US phone number. The verification code is the last step in creating that Google Voice number, and will bind the Google Voice number to your phone number.

What Use is a Google Voice Number?

The potential buyer is actually a crook, looking to use a Google Voice number in his/her scams. Essentially, the bad guy gets a brand-new phone number (that won’t be on any spam lists) that can be used anywhere in the world, on any computer or mobile device. It’s kind of like buying a burner phone, except with Google Voice, there’s no physical phone and the new number is free. It’s a burner number, to be used, abused and discarded.

The Fallout

Who knows what scams or harassment will be carried out over the new number. But it will be very easy for the criminal to later stop using the number and cover their tracks. And as they scamper off without a trace, you might not be in the clear. If the authorities investigate illegal activity on the Google Voice number, they may track down the owner of the linked phone number. That would be you, if you were duped into giving over the verification code!

It gets even worse if you’re already using Google Voice. If you fall for this scam on your Google Voice number, the scammer may succeed in stealing your phone number from you!

Recovery Methods

If your cell number was used and linked to an unwanted Google Voice number, there is a complicated process to follow to unlink your number. Check out this forum for the steps, and feel free to contact BlueScreen Computer if you need extra assistance.

If someone stole your Google Voice number from you, you’ll want to act quickly to reclaim your Google Voice.

Final Advice

When selling goods online, be choosy about where you give out your mobile number. And never share verification codes that come to your phone or email. When a verification message says Don’t Share This Code, they mean it!

Experiments with Google

You should check out the Experiments by Google website! Programmers and coders everywhere have been submitting their projects to Google, and many of them are shared here, free for all to use.

But if you go to the main Experiments page I linked above, it may seem like too much to browse through. There’s over 1600 “experiments” out there! So the Collections menu or page may help you narrow it down to more relevant and interesting items.

Personally, I’m finding the most enjoyable offerings under Play with Arts & Culture, Experiments for Learning, Creatability, Arts & Culture Experiments, and Chrome Experiments. You’ll encounter information tools suitable for homeschooling, fun games & puzzles that you can share over the internet, and so much more.

I’ll specifically call out:

3D Periodic Table

Puzzle Party

Autodraw

Song Maker

Art Coloring Book

Typing Trainer (Learn Morse Code)

Bookmark anything you love, to avoid the challenge of finding it again later!

Simple Keyboard Shortcuts for MS Word, A-Z

There are too many handy shortcuts within Microsoft Word, but I’m going to try to list out the easier ones for you to review. This is not to say that you should memorize all of them! Rather, check them out and see if a few would be especially useful to the way you use your computer. Practice one or two and you may discover they change your computer-life!

  • Control + A: Highlights & Selects all text in a document.
  • Control + B: Emboldens selected text.
  • Control + C: Copies selected text to clipboard.
  • Control + D: Opens the Font Formatting window.
  • Control + E: Toggles text between Align-Left and Centered.
  • Control + F: Opens a Find field.
  • Control + G: Moves to the next result after using the Find tool.
  • Control + H: Opens the Find & Replace tool.
  • Control + I: Italicizes selected text.
  • Control + J: Toggles text between Align-Left and Justified.
  • Control + K: Inserts a hyperlink into your document.
  • Control + L: Toggles text between Align-Left and Justified.
  • Control + M: Indent entire paragraph.
  • Control + N: Opens a new document.
  • Control + O: Opens the Open File window.
  • Control + P: Opens the Print options window.
  • Control + Q: Removes paragraph formatting (indentation/spacing).
  • Control + R: Toggles text between Align-Left and Align-Right.
  • Control + S: Opens the Save window.
  • Control + T: Creates a hanging indent.
  • Control + U: Underlines selected text.
  • Control + V: Pastes text from clipboard into the document.
  • Control + W: Closes the open document
  • Control + X: Cuts selected text, saving it to the clipboard.
  • Control + Y: Redo the action that was just Undone (see next shortcut).
  • Control + Z: Undo the last action taken.

Many of these shortcuts should carry over to Chromebooks and Linux computers. On Apple computers, most of these shortcuts will also work, if you use the Command key instead of Control.

Most of these shortcuts will also work in OpenOffice, LibreOffice and other non-Microsoft word processing apps.

Simple Keyboard Shortcuts for your Browser, A-Z

There are too many handy shortcuts within Windows, but I’m going to try to list out the easier ones for you to review. This is not to say that you should memorize all of them! Rather, check them out and see if a few would be especially useful to the way you use your computer. Practice one or two and you may discover they change your computer-life!

  • Control + A: Highlights & Selects all text in a given area.
  • Control + B: Shows the Bookmarks (Firefox only).
  • Control + C: Copies selected text to clipboard.
  • Control + D: Creates a bookmark in your browser.
  • Control + E: Starts a web search in your browser.
  • Control + F: Opens a Find field (to search the current site for a word/phrase).
  • Control + G: Moves to the next result after using the Find field.
  • Control + H: Opens your web history in your browser.
  • Control + I: Opens the Page Info window (Firefox only).
  • Control + J: Opens your Downloads list in your browser.
  • Control + K: Starts a web search in your browser.
  • Control + L: Takes you to the address bar in your browser.
  • Control + M: Mutes the current Tab (Firefox and Edge only).
  • Control + N: Opens a new browser window.
  • Control + O: Opens the Open File window.
  • Control + P: Opens the Print options window.
  • Control + Q: Does nothing!
  • Control + R: Refreshes/reloads the current website.
  • Control + S: Opens the Save window (Firefox & Chrome only).
  • Control + T: Opens a new tab in your browser.
  • Control + U: Reveals the source code of the current website.
  • Control + V: Pastes text from clipboard into a text field.
  • Control + W: Closes the current tab.
  • Control + X: Cuts selected text from a text field, saving it to the clipboard.
  • Control + Y: Redo the action that was just Undone (see next shortcut).
  • Control + Z: Undo the last action taken in a text field.

Many of these shortcuts should carry over to Chromebooks and Linux computers. On Apple computers, most of these shortcuts will also work, if you use the Command key instead of Control.

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