After we alerted our readers to scammers pretending to be from Microsoft, we heard about scammers pretending to be from AOL. A reader told us she frequently gets emails saying “out of AOL storage space.” This is a common ploy directed at both AOL and Microsoft Outlook users.
Dump those messages, we said, backing up our recommendation with oodles of research. But just as our egos were pumped by her “thank you” note, the same reader gave us her own tip, namely: It’s safer to open an email on your cell phone than on your computer.
The jury is still out on that, but a big help is “two-factor authentication,” using two methods to identify that you are in fact you whenever you log in from a new machine. Banking and other financial apps typically require double identifications; so does PayPal, Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks — but only if you enable that feature. On Facebook you click on “settings,” and then “security.” Other social network settings are either identical or very similar. When you do this, the apps send you a security code that you must use in addition to your password to start the app on a different machine. Since only you get that email or text, only you should know the code.
But it’s still possible to do something dumb. When Joy plugged her phone into a public charger at the airport, for instance, she risked getting her good apps replaced by malicious ones. Seems incredible, but plugging into a public charging station can download software that will collect your phone’s data as well as put in new apps that will track you from then on; this was demonstrated at the “Black Hat Hacker’s Convention” in Las Vegas two years ago. There’s no need to rely on these public charging stations; battery packs that carry three or four full charges for any phone are available almost everywhere now and they’re cheap — around $20 and sometimes less. We carry one that’s a little red cylinder about the size of a roll of pennies.
Filed under: security