My advice for you this week is to be very careful about clicking links or attachments that come in an email or other form of electronic message. If you are expected these items, that is one thing. But if the attachments or links seem out of the blue — this is a red flag! They can easily create a malware infection on your device. In terms of links, one thing that you can often to depending on the email program or devices is point to the link or press and hold on it (iOS) to reveal the true websites. You may be able to right click on the link (computer) and copy the link address. Then you could paste the address in Word or another word processor so that you can see it in print before clicking on it. Not a bad idea. If the true address doesn’t match what you are looking for — steer clear.
Additionally, decide very carefully whether you want to click on ads you see in your browser. You shouldn’t really see that many of them because I have installed an ad blocker in the browser for nearly all of you. Go to a well known technology news site — cnet.com . Unfortunately, they are known for displaying a ton of ads. If you see a lot of ads on their page, it means that you do not have an ad blocker installed. Being properly protected against malicious ads should be something to add to your list for our next visit.
Don’t know if anyone has been following this — but it’s the real deal
Microsoft was the king of the browser world in 2005. Through mostly illegal tactics, they killed off Netscape Navigator. The Mozilla project was underway and Firefox was just being born. Chrome was not even a factor yet.
Fast forward many years later, if you factor in iOS devices and Android phones — which are truly computers in their own right — Chrome and Safari became the dominant browsers. By the time Windows 10 came out in 2015, Internet Explorer was an afterthought. Microsoft buried it in the operating system in favor of a new “E” logo browser, the completely re-written Microsoft Edge. I’ll be honest, it was decent, but it never amassed more than a 2 or 3% market share.
Several months ago — Microsoft decided to do something radical. They began re-working Edge this time based on the open-source Chromium project (the foundation of Google Chrome). Wow. By being part of the Chromium project Microsoft is also able to contribute to development of this browser. It is also available for the Mac!! Think of the new Edge as Chrome underneath — but without any connection to Google services. Some people may really like that, though I think Brave and Vivaldi are also fine Chromium based browsers for those not wanting to be “dialing out” to Google all the time.
After several developer releases, Edge was finally released in Beta last week. Microsoft claims its ready for prime time. It is compatible with the Chrome Web Store for extensions. The official release should be out later this year, we hope.
Official link — https://www.microsoftedgeinsider.com/en-us/
Massive viruses still take over entire computers or networks in the world of computing at large, but most of the “infections” I deal with in terms of my clients are confined to the browser. That’s a good thing actually. It means that the problem is limited in scope. A browser redirect / hijack is as clear as day to me. You need to know how to spot it as well. When you search in the search box / address bar at the top of your browser (be it Chrome, Firefox, or Safari, etc) and the results page is not a Google page you have a problem. Virtually 100% of my clients have Google set as their default search engine. There is nothing wrong with that. It is the standard option in most browsers. However, when your search shows some weird “searchXYZ” in the address (or somewhere on the page) it means that your browser has been corrupted. Your searches are being captured. It’s also possible that everything you typed in your browser, including passwords and other sensitive information, has been transmitted to an unauthorized 3rd party since the date of the infection. This is a serious situation.
You need to reset your browser and remove the offending extensions. If you can’t do these tasks, ask for help. At that point, Google searching should return to normal.
With this said, there are other legitimate search engines out there. One that has come into the spotlight over the past few years is Duck Duck Go. Unlike Google, DDG is making privacy and a lack of censorship their top priorities. Apple has partnered with DDG by making it a default search option on the Safari browser. When you search for places on DDG, the results come up in Apple Maps. You don’t have to make DDG your default search engine to use it. You can simply go to https://duckduckgo.com/ and search at your leisure. While I still use Google for looking up local businesses and phone numbers, I am a big fan of Duck Duck Go.
Google discovered a major security flaw in Chrome and the put out an update for it on Thursday.
In the upper right hand corner of the browser window — you should see a big GREEN ARROW. Please click it and choose the update option. The update will get applied and Chrome will re-open in about 2 minutes or less.
If you don’t see the arrow — it means you probably already have the update. But to be sure — click on the “3 dot menu” in the upper right (where you go to get Chrome settings). Click Help — click About Google Chrome. Version # should be 72.0.3626.121
I hope you are having a great week with your technology.
Update to the Ad Blocker Updates
Google made an important announcement this week. They issued a partial reversal of the planned changes in their Google Chrome browser. There for it seems that ad blockers uBlock Origin and Ad Block Plus will not be rendered useless as previously thought. While they are in the business of delivering ads, Google made it clear that they are not in the business of restricting content blockers. Browse on! I will keep you posted as to further developments.
New Samsung Phones – The Battle is On
The iPhone’s closest competitor, the Samsung Galaxy S line of phones, was updated today. If you like Android or are looking to try something high end but different — these Galaxy S10 phones may be for you. Just like the 2018 iPhones, Samsung will have three new phones of note: the Galaxy S10e (think iPhone XR price), the Galaxy S10 (iPhone XS), and the Galaxy S10+ (iPhone XS Max). These phones will be priced starting at $750, $900, and $1000 – with the familiar interest free payment plans available from your carrier. Like the iPhone XR, the S10e will be a premium phone. Think of the larger sized and more expensive siblings as just a higher level trim of an already excellent phone. That is how I see the iPhone XS and XS Max as well. For those in the Apple world, the XR is technically a larger phone than the XS. Pre-orders on the Samsungs start on Friday.
Lower Cost Smart Phones
If you are interested in lower cost smartphones in the $200’s and $300’s – I have a few models in mind that could work on all of the major carriers. You don’t have to feel forced to spend iPhone money to have a decent smartphone experience.
You May Need to Replace Your Verizon Phone
On this train of thought, I also want to let you know that if you or anyone you know is still using an older Verizon flip phone (or even an older smart phone, ie. pre-iPhone 6) you will need a new phone by the end of 2019. Verizon is retiring their older calling network. Your old phone will no longer be able to make calls.
PSA: All of you with a Google account have probably gotten an e-mail from Google recently about the closing of some of their services. I have already advised a couple of clients in a panic over this issue. Please go back and read the e-mail carefully. Your Google account is NOT closing. Your Google + account is closing (Google Plus). Google what? Yeah, most of you probably never knew that Google launched a half baked social network several years back in an attempt to take on Facebook. By default, you also had a Google + account. I thought it was good for sharing photos and longer text posts than were typically the norm on Facebook. It seemed like a great tool for groups. Unfortunately, it never caught fire. Google + is shutting down on April 2nd. Your Google account and Gmail functionality will be just fine.
Browsers and Ad Blockers – Part 2
Taking all Mac and Windows computers into consideration, the Google Chrome browser is by far the most used in the world. Among my Mac using clients, I would say that 50 to 60% of them use Safari as their primary browser. However, even with them, Chrome is still popular. No matter what your browser of choice is, remember that its critical to have a second browser installed on your computer. Your regular browser may become corrupted, infected, or just not work well on certain sites. That second (or even third) browser can be a lifeline.
On your Safari browser, I had no choice but to install the Ad Block Plus ad blocker. On your Firefox or Chrome browsers, I have installed either Ad Block Plus or uBlock Origin. In recent years I have favored uBlock Origin. It was developed by a Canadian programmer named Raymond Hill. It is open source, provided free of charge, with no donations sought. Unfortunately, in recent years, Ad Block Plus has gone on the take — accepting revenue by allowing “acceptable ads”. This option can be turned off, but it left a lot of users with a bad taste in their mouths.
As with the other major browsers, Google Chrome puts out several updates a year which are delivered to you automatically. You have to remember that Google’s primary business is advertising. Frankly, I am surprised that they did not block the ability to limit ads in Chrome a long time ago. That could be changing. In a new version of Chrome, coming out later this year, changes will be made “under the hood” that render uBlock Origin useless. You will either have to stick with the ads or switch to using Ad Block Plus, which may also be rendered less functional but still operational.
These changes to Google Chrome are proposed at this time and not set in stone. Should they become reality, the Firefox browser will remain unaffected in terms of uBlock Origin. It wouldn’t hurt to make sure that you have a browser other than Chrome installed on your computer. After all, having alternate browsers is about more than just one issue. Having options gives you independence and computing stability. Here are links to options beyond Chrome:
Firefox — Firefox.com
Brave (started by former Firefox CEO) — https://brave.com/
Vivaldi (started by the founders of Opera) — https://vivaldi.com/
Find the browser that fits you.
Most of you use the Google Chrome browser. It is my browser of choice as well. However, this message is still applicable if you use Firefox, Safari, or even Microsoft Edge.
The security threat I see most often these days is the browser hijack. This does not mean your whole computer had been taken over by malware. However, your browser has been corrupted. Your homepage may be unfamiliar to you. Google searches are being rerouted to a strange search engine. Its even possible that all of your browser traffic is being intercepted. Scary stuff!
You can tell if you are being hijacked by searching in the search box of your browser or going to Google.com. Search for whatever you’d like, “new restaurants Philadelphia” for example. The results page should CLEARLY come up on a Google page (or possibly Bing if you use the Edge browser). It should be obvious – clear as day.
If you do not see Google search results, you have a problem. It’s likely that you have mistakenly installed a bad extension in your browser. Most often, this is not a crisis requiring the operating system to be reinstalled.
However, your browser history needs to be cleared, the offending extensions need to be removed, and the browser needs to be reset.
Don’t lose hope!