Tech

Phishing Emails: How You Can Tell When You Have One

Phishing has become increasingly popular. It’s a practice hackers use by impersonating a legit company to get your personal information. When one of our clients had a phishing situation, we asked her to send it to us so we could do a video. You can watch the video above or read our tips below for how you can tell if you’re being phished:

1) The ‘from’ email is not legit. In general, scammers are lazy. So if you notice your Microsoft email is from info@microsoft-info-center.org, that’s weird. (Yes people can pretend to email from a legit seeming email address too. If you want to see if someone could be spoofing your domain, check out  https://senderscore.org/)

2) Check out the spelling, grammar, and design. Non-sensical sentences, spelling errors, and the company logo seemingly slapped into place are all dead giveaways that you are dealing with a lazy scammer.

3) The links go to weird places. If you hover over the buttons or links, you’ll see they don’t seem to go to a company website. Ex: If a LinkedIn phishing scheme was going, that cancel password reset button might link to www.linked-in-password-reset-cancel.org. No need to click on these links, you can see where they go on the hover. (Clicking on links you don’t know may result in having things downloaded to your computer or worse.)

4) The action seems illogical. For example, if Microsoft365 was going to do anything, they would make everyone a) reset their password on the Microsoft website or b) tell everyone that their password had been reset (and maybe what it is temporarily). Why would I have to go to the website to put in my existing password… you know, unless they wanted to know my password. (Note from a company standpoint, most of us with websites have no idea what your password is. This is for your privacy. All we can do in an instance you forget your password is help you reset it.)

So don’t get phished! Add filtering to your email and be critical of emails like this that could sneak their way through.

The Time My Phone Spied On Me

Moments before Thanskgiving Dinner this year, I almost threw my phone across the room with the intent of shattering it into a million tiny pieces.

Earlier that day, I’d been having a conversation in our living room about carpet cleaning while the baby was doing some tummy time. The rest of the morning was a whirlwind of running a 5k, showering, and getting the baby ready and out the door to be with family, so when I had a moment to sit down, I decided to check Instagram (instead of watching football). As I scrolled through my feed, I saw an ad. Not unusual, but this was an ad for a carpet cleaning service.

Between all the craziness of the morning, I hadn’t had a chance to search online for carpet cleaning services, nor was I particularly interested- what I had said was “It probably wouldn’t hurt to buy some carpet cleaner.”

My kneejerk reaction was to destroy my phone (I have a serious distrust of robots/A.I. on a good day). Instead, I was informed by someone that I simply had to turn my microphone off for certain apps (the same ad appeared in my Facebook newsfeed, but I assume that was because Instagram and Facebook are connected). Anyway, it turns out that on iPhones, you have to go to Settings > Privacy > Microphone, and see what Apps have Microphone on. It turns out, I had both Facebook and Instagram on, as well as Snapchat.

Facebook vehemently denies that it uses our microphones to listen to us. Well, what they actually said was “…it would only use the microphone on someone’s cell if the app had permission to do so and if the user was engaging in a microphone-specific activity.” In this post from Marketing Land, Facebook addresses allegations that it was using the microphone to target ads, which they continue to deny (I haven’t found anything mentioning whether Instagram might be listening, though…).

To be fair, you have to give these apps permission to use your microphone, so it’s not like it happened without an opt-in. The tricky part is, certain features of these apps require microphone use to use, and it doesn’t disclose any other stuff that the microphone could be used for.

For instance, I allowed Facebook to have microphone access because in order to record a live video from your phone, you obviously need to utilize the microphone so people can hear you (unless, for some reason, you’re doing a “silent film” style live broadcast). On Instagram, if you want to do Stories (the little 24 hour posts), you have to enable both camera and microphone access.

Now, I’m not opposed to giving these apps permission to use my microphone so I can record video or posts of my child hiccupping that are probably only endearing to me personally, but it would be nice to know what exactly this permission entails (like, trying to get me to hire a certain carpet cleaning service, which may actually work, but that’s besides the point).

Moral of the story: read the fine print, and if there is no fine print, maybe think long and hard about what you might be giving permission for. This could all be paranoia/speculation, but regardless, it was fairly creepy.

Check out our related post, Is your phone listening to you? for additional slightly creepy info.

Five Steps For Organizing Tech Clutter

I have two boxes of cords I’ve now moved from two apartments to two offices. You know the cords I’m talking about: those hookups you remember paying $30 for but can’t remember why/what they go to, so they are still wrapped up.

What do I mean by technology? At first, I wasn’t sure this blog post would have enough content in it then I started this list and realized even us so-called minimalists have a lot of technology:

  • Computers and computer accessories (monitors, hard drives, etc.)
  • Cell phones
  • Tablets/ereaders and accessories
  • Small electronics (iPods, FitBits, etc.)
  • Cords
  • Gaming systems and accessories
  • Printers, scanners, and copiers
  • Routers and modems
  • Electronics storage (CD racks, monitor stands, etc.)
  • Other supplies (different kinds of papers for the printer, blank CDs, etc.)



Step 1: Identifying Your Technology

By taking an inventory of what you have, you can catalog what you actually need in terms of chargers, connectors, and accessories. Ex: You may find a Mac charger that only works with your eight year old Mac that is now dead (true story).

If you can’t match an cord or accessory to a piece of technology, do something with it. Ex: I have ink jet transfer paper but a laser printer so those probably won’t work. Other examples:
If you have a duplicate of something, do something with it.
If something is unidentifiable, do something with it.
If the item is damaged, clearly do something with it.

But what, exactly? That’s what these next steps are about.



Step 2: Selling What’s Still Good (And You Feel Like Dealing With)

Now if you have something perfectly good you don’t need, you could sell it (ex: those ridiculously expensive Mac dongles, your backup external hard drive). Craigslist, Ebay, and Facebook groups are good places to start. There are also special websites just for electronics sales:
https://www.usell.com/
https://www.kiiboo.com/
https://www.gazelle.com/

If you are an electronics enthusiast, you can also attend an electronics swap or organize your own.



Step 3: Donating What’s Still Good (And You Don’t Feel Like Dealing With)

If your technology is in good enough shape and you don’t want to go through the hassle of selling it, consider donating it to a worthy cause.
Here are some national programs: http://mashable.com/2010/04/29/donating-electronics/#yHUrBWh8pkqM
Within the state of Maine, there is also: http://www.pcsformaine.org/
When in doubt, connect with a local computer repair shop about what you have. They likely have an idea of what is going on locally and will know how best to direct you.

As with any donation, 1) make sure the item is in good enough shape that you would give it to your best friend and 2) make sure you wipe any personal data from the device; don’t assume the organization will do it.



Step 4: Trashing What’s Not Good

If something isn’t in good shape, it is time to get rid of it. Most communities have an annual e-waste event (our local Rotary Club sponsors ours) but you can contact your local transfer station about details.

Step 5: Labeling What You Are Keeping

Ideally now you only have the electronics you want, need, and use. Now it’s time to organize them so you never have to do this again. Consider labeling your cords and accessories, here are some ways people have done this attractively: http://www.simplyspaced.com/2015/09/04/7-ways-to-label-your-cords-and-cables/

(Here’s where you can buy some labels on Amazon (note this is an affiliate link).)



Things We’ve Written About That Are No Longer ‘Things’

The other day I saw this tweet and thought “Huh, I did actually forget about the whole clown thing from last year”:

 

In that vein, I got to thinking about some of the other things that I’ve forgotten about over the past few years. We stay on top of the trends, new apps and websites we think are cool or could become be a big deal, but that doesn’t always mean those things have staying power. Thanks to @imchip’s tweet, I dug through some of our older blog posts to take a look at some of the apps that have been left behind:

Yik-Yak. This was a blog post I’d written almost 3 years ago now, and I’d completely forgotten about how FUN this app was. An anonymous social network that allowed you to post an update and up-/down-vote others within a certain location, it was pretty hilarious. The app wasn’t really popular in rural Maine so I only ever saw maybe 4 yaks that summer when I wasn’t traveling. However, Yik-Yak was also an example of social media turning ugly after some Yakkers used the platform for cyberbulling and making bomb threats. A couple months ago, the company announced that they would be no more. Although I admittedly haven’t paid attention to the app in a long time, I’m still a bit sad to see it go.

Meerkat. In 2015 live video was a budding enterprise and we saw the launch of Meerkat and Periscope. But as they say, “There can be only one.” Periscope has since been acquired by Twitter and lives on. Meerkat, on the other hand, was declared dead last fall. Meerkat’s parent company, Live On Air, said they learned from the experience and have developed the Houseparty group video chat app. In the meantime, live video is now widely available through Periscope, Facebook, and Instagram.

Pokémon Go. Pokémon Go was launched around the time of the Great Clown Scare of 2016. It was an overnight sensation. But a few months later, Pokémon Go dropped almost totally out of my newsfeeds, social media news stories and blog posts. But is Pokémon Go dead? Not by a long shot. Squirtles, Zubats, Psyducks and their ilk may make a splash again this summer as the company plans a big update. Meanwhile, Pokémon Go remains popular with certain folks but is no longer considered a “viral among the masses” app.



Peeple. Back in the fall of 2015, John brought Peeple to our attention.  Advertised as “Yelp for People,” there was a lot of backlash at the concept, pre-launch. As a result, post-launch Peeple was declared “boring” because the creators actually took people’s feedback into consideration and ended up with a watered down version of the app. While Peeple is still in existence, it hasn’t quite lived up to the hype.

Prisma. Like Peeple, Prisma is still an active app, but I think it’s become more of a niche thing than a “used among the masses” thing. Something else that I found interesting: Other apps like Microsoft Pix are starting to replicate the artistic photo effects of Prisma, meaning there’s more competition in the market. Again, I don’t necessarily think Prisma is dead or dying, it just seems to have plateaued.

And finally, something that used to be a thing but is no more — MySpaceBack in 2007, I was on MySpace for a hot second before getting freaked out by the whole thing and deleting it (only to have my friends convince me to get Facebook the next year). MySpace had a good run and has exchanged hands a couple times over the past couple decades (technically it does still exist). Perhaps the coolest thing I’ve seen in the post-MySpace news is that Tom, the dude everyone had to be friends with, was able to retire very early and spends his days traveling around the world taking photos (source).



Our Top 5 Tech Thursday Videos

We’ve been doing Tech Thursday videos for a few years now, and if you’ve been watching them, you’ve probably noticed how they’ve evolved as time has gone by. If not, we have a few examples below from our “Top 5 Tech Thursday Videos.” Most notable is probably the fact that we used to pre-film and spend time editing our videos down to 3-4 minutes. Now, we hop on Facebook Live with a topic and few key points, and away we go!

The below list is semi-subjective, mixed with videos with the most views AND those that we believe were the most helpful in general. In creating this post, it was a lot of fun to go through our Tech Thursday video archives and be reminded of our earlier days (especially the videos where we were both silly and informative).



Without further ado, here are our pics for the top 5 Tech Thursday videos:

The classic: “OGP”  

This video is set to the tune of “O.P.P.” by Naughty By Nature, with original lyrics written by Nicole about open graph protocol. The lyrics are also published in the YouTube description and are worth reading because they are very informative (Kassie is a visual learner, so if you’re like her having a chance to read through the lyrics is pretty helpful).

A Good Question: How to Find Blogs to Read

Another oldie is from a question we’ve gotten quite a bit is “Where do you find blogs to read?” If you’re looking for content to share on social media or looking for inspiration on your website, one of the best places to look is other blogs. In this video, we share where to start in the search for blogs (that are actually relevant to what you’re looking for).



From the Business Side of Things: Company Retreats 101

Earlier this year, we had our annual Breaking Even company retreat, and decided to share some tips on what ‘company retreats’ mean for smaller businesses (we also wrote a whole other blog post about it here).

Some Personal Development: Crushing Limiting Beliefs

What made this video so great is that it’s a little off our path of marketing and tech, but still relevant. In marketing and growing business, our own thoughts and beliefs (whether at the front of our brains or more subconscious) can have a huge impact on your success.

Getting Organized and Productive: Systems 101

One of our monthly themes this past year was Systems (i.e. what they are and how to create them in different areas of your life). In this 101 video, we summarize some of the things you’ll want to keep in mind if you’re thinking about creating your own systems for things.

All of our old videos are uploaded on our YouTube channel, so if you want to check those out definitely head over there!

And yes, we still take recommendations for Tech Thursday videos, so if there’s something you want to learn more about related to tech, business, marketing, social media, etc, drop us a line or write us a message on Facebook to send in your video topic! (That’s also where you’ll find us live every Thursday at 12 p.m.).



What I Learned Making An Online Course

I made and launched an online course very very recently. It took me about two months to do it.

Lesson 1: Have a very small agenda for each video.

Who knew it would take seven minutes to explain the ins and outs of Facebook- specifically the fact you need a personal Facebook account to make a Facebook page and how to navigate between them?

Not me, that’s for sure!

When I planned thirty videos and two ‘bonus videos’ I had no idea that a “small concept”  takes a long time to explain when you really dig deep into the topic and keep in mind audience members who have no background in the area.

Try to have one small point per video. If you are ambitious (Ex: five reasons why you need to drink more water every day), prepare to be very succinct on each point. You will probably ramble a bit, because you are nervous and kind of excited. Another option is to follow an exact script, if you can avoid sounding robotic. There are free online teleprompters you can use to help you get through what you need to say and help you with pacing.



Lesson 2: Do a few first.

It’s really tempting to set everything up and just get them DONE (er, “over with”). But do one or two videos and re-watch, looking for things like 1) if the camera angle cuts off the top of your head, 2) the room seems echo-y, 3) your audio is picking up your computer mic and not the nice one you have plugged in. Two out of three of these things happened to me. You’ll only notice these things if you make yourself watch the two videos you just made and make adjustments. It will feel like extra to do this but trust me, you’ll save yourself time, effort, and heartache later.

Lesson 3: The resolution is here.

You will film at a certain resolution but at full screen on some devices (ex: my giant 20 inch monitor), it will still be blurry. Remember you can always reduce your resolution (likely for file sizes) after filming but you can’t make it bigger after the fact. Compare the filming resolution of whatever software you are using with the online learning software you plan to use, then just be ok with it.  (More on picking your online course distribution software here.)

Lesson 4: Filming is grueling.

According to basic math, filming 30 2-5 minute videos will take you 30 videos times 5 minutes, maybe an additional ten minutes for snack breaks. Unfortunately, filming doesn’t follow the rules of basic math.

I filmed ALL DAY starting at 8 am and finishing at 6 pm. If you buy this course, you’ll notice the daylight changing as I go on.

Basic math doesn’t realize you will be interrupted by phone calls, people stopping in, your dog barking, your weird heating system clicking as it kicks on… and any number of other things. Plan for a full day of filming and start early if you are planning on using natural light (much easier than wrangling the perfect artificial setup). I actually almost lost my voice because I spent the whole day talking, despite only seeing one other person the entire day.



Lesson 5: Get a little help from your friends.

If you think people are going to be clamoring for your online course, think again. I’m saying this as someone who has a ‘platform’ set up for distribution- you have to do a little outreach.

I emailed a few business groups I’ve done work with to let them know about my course and offer their friends/members a discount code to purchase. This means 1) Other people besides me will be saying this is good, building credibility and 2) I can measure which relationships ‘work’ by seeing which coupons are most redeemed. I’ve even considered granting a limited number of people access for reviews, feedback, etc.

Lesson 6: Your first course is going to feel rough.

I am saying this as someone who just invested a significant amount of time and effort knowing this is will not be the best thing I ever produce.

But here’s the thing; the only way you can get better at something is to practice. Plus you’ve just spent five hours editing yourself on video (adding some title/ending slides, adjusting volumes, etc.), so you may not be feeling enthusiastic about it at this point. Ask a friend or coworker to review and catch anything you may have missed…and just release the darn thing. If you get too precious about it, you’ll never get the feedback you need for future videos. Plus, your friend will probably tell you it’s fine and not understand why you haven’t put it out there already!

My best advice? Just jump into your online course experience! Most of us have not grown up acting, video editing, or teaching so it’ll feel strange and exciting to try to show what you know to people who don’t know you. But I have a feeling the best part of what I’ll learn from making this first online course will come a few months from now and prepare me for my next project. Onward and upward!

This online course- Internet Marketing for Artists– is live now and ready for participants. If you or someone you know is an artist and want to increase your business presence on the internet, this course is for you!



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