Browse our tech tips for helpful information.
When shopping online, taking a few extra steps to ensure your information is secure will make your holidays more merry than scary. Consider the following five tips to keep your personal information safe when shopping this holiday season.
- Shop online using websites you trust. Shopping online is a great way to get your holiday list taken care of; however, make sure you shop using legitimate websites. If you do a quick Google search for a special gift, try to navigate to a website you’re familiar with or that you’ve used before. If you don’t know the vendor, do a separate Google search about the business. Look for social media accounts, customer reviews, a Better Business Bureau rating, etc. Make sure you research any new websites before inputting your personal information.
- Don’t purchase while using public WiFi. It can be tempting to connect to the free WiFi at a shop, hotel, restaurant, airport or public place. But be cautious when sending personal information (such as credit card numbers) over your smartphone or device while on a public wireless network because it may not be secure. To make sure your information is protected:
- Only use encrypted websites while on public WiFi. Encrypted websites protect the information you send to and from that site. Look for a secure lock icon near the browser bar at the top of the page, or that the URL begins with https:// - the S is key as it indicates secure.
- Use a secure wireless network, so all the information you send on that network is protected.
- Avoid phishing scams in your inbox. With the holiday season comes an uptick in emails from stores offering special savings and discounts. It’s also a prime season for scammers to try and sneak into your inbox. Be wary of emails that come from stores you don’t regularly shop at or special coupons that are sent to your inbox from an unknown source. As a reminder, don’t open any files, click on links, or download programs from a sender you don’t know as it could expose your system to a virus or spyware that captures your passwords or other information.
- Supply limited information when checking out. Keep a close hold on your personal information. When shopping online, pay using a card instead of giving out your account and routing information. Consider using a designated credit card for online purchases so you can safeguard that one account. Don’t give out your Social Security number without asking why they need it and how it will be protected. You can also ask if you can use a different form of identification.
- Create strong passwords. Use strong and unique passwords for your different accounts. This ensures that if one account becomes compromised, the rest of your accounts can’t also be accessed. Try to think of a phrase or word that is memorable to you. Then replace some letters with different characters and symbols to create a unique password. For example, blackfootrocks is the phrase. Now, add some variation to the letters: Bl@ckf00tRock$. Using numbers, capital letters and symbols the password is now strong and unique. You can also try using a password tool to manage your online accounts.
Here are four things to consider when buying a tablet to help you choose the best device.
1. How will you use it?
Are you wanting something small and portable to use for browsing and streaming? Are you looking to replace your PC or laptop? Tablets are mobile devices that you can use to perform many functions.
- Download apps for your favorite stores and services
- Manage your business
- Read e-books
- Play games
- Connect on social media
- Listen to music
- Take and store photos and videos
- Stream TV or movies
- Surf the internet
- Check your email
- Online banking
Some functions may take up more space than others, which is important to know when choosing the amount of storage space on your tablet.
2. How much storage space do you need?
A common starting point for tablet storage space is 16GB. This is enough space to store a bit of everything, from music to apps and photos. If you want to store more, you’ll want to consider additional storage space. If your tablet will be used for functions that require downloaded software, you’ll want to consider more space, as well. Or you can consider cloud-based storage which is a great option to store larger files if you have limited storage space on your device.
3. How will you connect to the internet?
A WiFi-enabled tablet is the most common way to connect to the internet, but what happens when there is no WiFi access available? If you need access to the internet on the go where you aren’t sure of WiFi access, you may consider a connected tablet that is enabled with a data plan or cellular connection. Like your smartphone, connected tablets work with cellular carriers and require a data plan.
4. What brand is best?
There are many brands of tablets to consider. It all depends on which functions you plan to use the most. Some brands may be best known for specific functions. Or, there may be a brand that’s compatible with devices already in your home. Price may also be a factor, so find some within your budget range to compare using the criteria above.
WiFi technology enables you to access the internet via a wireless signal on any WiFi-enabled device. To use WiFi at home, you simply need an internet connection and the right equipment.
Check out our educational video to learn how WiFi works and what you need to convert your home internet connection to a WiFi signal. Plus, learn what can cause interference and impact your signal strength.
Need help optimizing your WiFi? Contact us today at 541-5000!
Everything to know about streaming on your smart TV.
Streaming services have become increasingly popular as more consumers choose to cut the cord from cable service, due to price and convenience. Streaming TV is much less expensive than traditional cable service. Plus, streaming services can conveniently be used from anywhere, on any device.
If you are new to streaming TV, here’s a quick overview. Streaming TV is when you stream on-demand content (such as movies and TV shows) over your home internet connection on your TV. You can stream content using a variety of devices, including a smart TV, a gaming console system, or a streaming media player such as Apple TV or Roku that connects via HDMI.
Do you need a streaming device if you have a smart TV? Smart TVs are intended to stream content. They have a built-in internet connection and an interface that displays apps for different streaming services that are free or require a monthly subscription. You can browse through the interface directly on your TV screen via your remote. ￼
What are streaming services? There are numerous video streaming services, but two of the most common that you’ve likely heard of are Netflix and Hulu. With these subscription-based services, you pay a set monthly fee and gain access to their library of shows and movies, which you can then watch instantly on your TV.
Which streaming service is right for you? It really depends on the type of programming you’re looking for. Netflix has a large library of blockbuster movies and popular TV shows by season. Hulu has movies and TV shows, but also includes current TV programming, uploading episodes the day after they air on TV. Both providers also create original content that can only be found on their service. There are numerous options for streaming live TV or renting popular movies on-demand, as well. Do some research to determine which is right for you. Most services also offer a free trial period, so you can test them out to really find what you like.
Is it safe to stream content on your smart TV? Yes, it is safe to stream content on your TV. Most smart TVs include a web browser as a preinstalled app. To be safe, follow the same rules when browsing the web on your smart TV that you do with your smart phone. Avoid anything that requires sensitive information, such as online banking or shopping with a credit card. In addition, make sure you use unique passwords for all your online accounts, so you are protected if one account becomes compromised.
Do you know how to spot fake news? Here a few tips for your online browsing to help weed out fake stories.
What is fake news? Unfortunately, fake news has become an everyday occurrence on the internet. Fake news consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes that is spread online, often via social media.
How do you determine trustworthiness online? Here are three tips to assess whether a story is fake.
- Read more than the headline before clicking. Fake news stories often have catchy or salacious headlines. This is intentional because they want you to click it! Before clicking, it’s your job to be a little skeptical. Consider the photos. Are they authentic or are they just click bait? Look closely at the link. Many fake news websites mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the web address, so review the link carefully to ensure you’re on a legitimate website.
- Consider the source and author. Do you know the source or website reporting the news? Do you recognize the author? Are they a credible source? Do a quick Google search and see if you can determine if they have a reputation for accuracy.
- Consult a fact checking website. Also, check out other reports for the same news. Are any other sources you trust reporting the news story? If no major credible news sources are reporting the same story, it may indicate it is false.
As part of a New Year and a new you, consider spending a little time managing your digital life. Here are a few ideas to clean up your devices and online presence.
1: Cleanup your computer. Spend a few minutes cleaning up your computer by uncluttering your desktop, emptying the Recycle Bin and getting rid of unused programs. Plus, make sure your firewall, anti-virus, programs and systems are current. Do you need protection for your devices? Blackfoot can help!
2: Unsubscribe from unread emails. How many emails do you receive that you immediately delete? The next time you receive an unwanted message, take a few moments to unsubscribe and opt out of receiving future updates. This will keep your Inbox relevant with updates that matter to you. Tip: The Unsubscribe option is usually found in the header or footer of subscription-style emails.
3: Organize your online files. Go through your online files and organize them into folders. Consider how to categorize your files (by year, month, event, etc.) so you can stay organized. Make an inventory of your online and digital subscriptions to track your renewals and passwords. Also, for all of your passwords, consider an online tool to safely store and manage your passwords. Online password tools also include options to check the security of your password. Consider assessing your passwords and updating any that don’t meet secure requirements.
4: Backup your files. Do you regularly backup your documents, contacts and photos to an alternate location? The alternate location could be online (in the cloud) or to an external hard drive. Consider setting a regular backup plan today so you never lose your files. Need help with data backup? Blackfoot can help!
If you add new devices to your home, here are a few things to consider:
- Out with the old. Make sure to backup important files, images and contacts before switching devices. Whether you decide to recycle or sell your old devices, make sure you wipe the hard drive clean. Simply deleting files isn’t enough. In addition, clean up your list of devices and remove any old connections.
- In with the new. Take time to setup anti-virus, firewall protection and other security applications on your new devices. If you’re hooking up a new Smart TV, manage the connection settings so it’s not always on and consuming bandwidth even when you’re not streaming. Also, for new devices, make sure you submit any timely warranty paperwork.
Need help determining if you have the bandwidth for all of your devices? Contact us at 541-5000.
How do you focus in today’s always-on world? Staying connected may prove to be a distraction. How do you stay productive? Find a few tips below!
- Use Your Alarm. Did you know that 15 minutes of uninterrupted work time is equivalent to 45 minutes of interrupted productivity? Try setting a 15 minute timer and give yourself uninterrupted time to complete a task.
- Do Not Disturb. When you are studying, turn on the Do Not Disturb feature on your mobile device. This provides a quieter atmosphere for learning and keeps you concentrated on the topic at hand.
- Airplane Mode: By turning on Airplane Mode on your mobile device, you will reduce distractions while studying with the added benefit of reducing the amount of bandwidth your home network will use. This frees up your network for your family to stream movies or listen to music. Please note: Turning on the Airplane Mode feature “turns off” the ability for your mobile device to connect to the internet and cell service. Make sure you turn off Airplane Mode when you’re finished.
How can you improve your home WiFi experience? There are numerous reasons you could be experiencing a lag or slowdown in your home internet. Here are a few things to try to help you get a better WiFi signal.
1: Assess your router location. The goal is to place your router where it can cover the largest area of your home. Remember, the closer a device is to your wireless router, the stronger the signal will be. It’s also better to place your router higher up. Make sure it isn’t tucked away or blocked, so it can effectively broadcast your WiFi signal. TIP: In a larger house, you may experience a weak connection in areas where your wireless network can’t reach. Consider adding a wireless network extender to pick up the signal and increase the WiFi coverage in your home.
2: Adjust your antenna placement. Most routers have one to three antennas. Re-positioning the antennas can make a difference. Just like a TV, your WiFi signal will match the way you point the antennas.
3: Reduce any network interference. Other networks or electronic devices can interfere with your wireless signal. Cordless phones, Bluetooth devices and even microwaves can cause interference. Make sure your router isn’t near something that will impact the signal.
Phishing scams are designed to rip-off a user’s personal information – such as login, password or account numbers – and then ultimately use that information to steal your money or identity.
Phishing scams may come in the form of fraudulent emails, text messages or copycat websites. Scammers may spoof a valid company or a familiar person, with the intent to give you a false sense of security. Once you input your personal information, the scammer can gain access to your online accounts.
This type of scamming may also be used to infect a computer with ransomware. See our Tech Tip: 5 Tips to Protect You From Ransomware
What can you do?
- Be cautious when clicking. When opening emails, look at the sender to ensure it’s someone you know. When visiting websites, be weary of links that you click on. (TIP: A sensational headline is often click-bait and may be a phishing scam.)
- Follow up via phone. If you receive an email from a company you do business with that is asking for personal or financial information, take a minute to pick up the phone and call to verify its legitimacy. Make sure you look up the phone number instead of dialing any provided in the email!
- Use unique passwords. Do you use the same password for all of your accounts? Over half of internet users utilize the same password for all of their online profiles, which makes phishing an effective tactic for cyber criminals to access multiple private accounts. See our Tech Tip: What Makes a Strong Password?
- Keep your device security up-to-date. Maintain a strong firewall and current antivirus software. Click to learn more about anti-virus and firewall protection from Blackfoot.
- Backup your files regularly! To protect yourself against ransomware or viruses, back up your important files to an alternative location on a regular basis. Click to learn more about personal data backup from Blackfoot.
- Report phishing scams. The Federal Trade Commission is constantly working to protect consumers from scams. If you’re the victim of a scam, please report it at: FTC.gov/complaint
Robotic callers (robocalls) are not only annoying, but can be dangerous if they trap you in a scam. Unfortunately, it’s become all too easy for illegitimate phone scammers to auto-dial hundreds or thousands of people at the same time. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), robocalls are on the rise because internet-enabled phones make it cheap and easy for scammers to make illegal calls from anywhere in the world.
How does a robocall work? Check out this infographic from the FTC >
Why are they calling you? If you are receiving multiple calls from the same number and no one leaves a message (or they hang up after a few seconds), your number is likely being dialed by a robocaller. Often times, these scammers are trying to confirm whether someone is accessible on the phone line. Once they verify your phone number is active, your number may be added to the scammer’s database.
You may also be contacted by an automated voice that is trying to notify you of an important notice. According to the FCC, common phone scams include fake notices regarding the IRS; student debt, loans and credit; charitable causes; extended car warranties; free trial offers; investment opportunities; and real estate or timeshares. The scammer’s ultimate goal is to gain your personal information and trick you out of money.
What can you do? First, avoid answering calls from unknown numbers. If it is someone important calling, they can leave a message and you can instantly return their call. Or, if you need to answer the call, make sure you ask who is calling before identifying yourself.
Second, Blackfoot offers a free Robocall Blocker service to prevent calls that originate from computerized auto-dialers, which automatically blocks known spammers, fraudulent callers and other nuisance dialers from reaching your home phone. Contact our Customer Care Team to add this free service!
Adding different devices can affect your home internet experience. Think of your home internet connection like a road. If you are the only car on the road, you can travel at a consistent speed. Add a few more cars and they may slow you down a bit. The same goes for adding devices to your internet connection. More devices or users will slow your connection. To assess the ideal internet experience for your usage and learn more about Blackfoot’s Broadband offerings, visit Blackfoot.com/MoreAtHome.
What is ransomware? Ransomware is an advanced type of malware that infects your computer, gains control of your files and restricts your access until you pay a ransom to have your files restored. Here are five tips to keep you safe from a ransomware attack.
1: Keep your antivirus and firewall up to date! To prevent malicious activity on your computer, maintain a strong firewall and keep your antivirus software current.
- What is a firewall? A firewall is a network security device (it can be hardware, software or both) that monitors incoming and outgoing network traffic and determines whether to allow or block specific traffic based on a defined set of security rules. Firewalls provide a barrier between trusted and secure internal networks, and un-trusted outside networks such as the internet. Get firewall protection from Blackfoot for your home devices.
- What is antivirus software? A type of program designed to prevent, detect and destroy computer viruses and malware. A few examples of common antivirus brands include McAfee and Norton. Get fully-supported web security and anti-virus protection from Blackfoot.
2: Enable your pop-up blocker! Pop-ups are a primary tactic used to infect computers. To minimize the chance of accidentally clicking on an infected ad, enable your browser’s pop-up blocker.
- What is a pop-up blocker? Software that prevents pop-up windows from appearing on a webpage. Most internet browsers allow the user to turn the pop-up blocker on or off. Your pop-up blocker is likely already enabled. To double check, a quick Google search will show you the exact steps for your preferred browser.
3: Click carefully! Think twice when opening emails from an unknown sender. Specifically, look to see if you recognize the email address. Cyber criminals often create convincing emails that appear to come from trustworthy sources that hold financial or sensitive data. (Tip: Look for the sender’s company in their email address; such as how messages from Blackfoot come from emails that end in @blackfoot.com.) Scammers are clever and will use relevant subject lines and content in the email. If you don’t know the sender, do not click on any links found in the email. These links often lead to copycat websites which will steal your personal data when you input your username and password.
4: Be cautious when downloading! It’s easy to download anything you want to watch, listen or use. However, there are malicious websites with downloadable content that will infect your computer with malware. So, be vigilant when downloading content. Do you know the website you’re downloading from? Is the website secure? Check for a padlock on your browser window, or that the URL begins with https.
5: Backup your files regularly! You likely have files, photos, contacts and important information that you keep on your computer or device. To avoid losing files to a ransomware attack, we recommend regularly backing up important files to an alternative location, such as another device, a USB or external hard drive, or online file storage (Dropbox is a common solution). Blackfoot’s Tech Home plans include personal data backup for your files to help protect against damage or device failure.
If you need assistance, Blackfoot’s technical support team is available to help at 877-881-1155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is malware? Malware is any malicious software designed specifically to infect and harm the user’s system. A malware attack typically begins by a user:
- Clicking on an infected pop-up advertisement;
- Opening an email attachment from an untrusted source; or
- Unknowingly visiting an infected website.
The malware is then downloaded and installed on the user’s computer without their knowledge. Antivirus software is your best line of defense against malware. If you encounter an on-screen alert, DO NOT click on any of the links or call any of the phone numbers provided on the screen. (See our tech tip on 4 Ways to Escape a Malware Trap!)
What is ransomware? Ransomware is an advanced type of malware that infects your computer, gains control of your files and restricts your access until you pay a ransom to have your files restored. See our Tech Tip: 5 Tips to Protect Yourself from Ransomware.
Once infected, victims will typically receive an on-screen or pop-up alert stating that their system has been locked or that files have been encrypted. The alert may even claim to be from a trustworthy source. Victims are told that unless a ransom is paid, access will not be restored and/or their files will be deleted. The alert typically provides a phone number or a link to continue on to pay the ransom. Again, if you encounter an on-screen alert, DO NOT click on any of the links or call any of the phone numbers provided on the screen.
What is a virus? A virus is a common form of malware where a malicious piece of code infects a program or file in the user’s system. Viruses are designed to spread from computer to computer. Once attached to a file or program, the virus will remain inactive until the user runs the infected program, causing the virus code to be executed. A virus can corrupt or destroy data and infect other computers on the same network.
If you encounter an on-screen alert, DO NOT click on any of the links or call any of the phone numbers provided on the screen. Depending on the malware powering the scam and your internet browser settings, there are a few common escape routes you can try.
1: Close the browser tab or quit the program altogether. When you reboot, make sure you don’t reopen your previous page tabs.
2: Shut down and exit the app using the system management tools. On a Windows PC, use Ctrl+Alt+Delete to get to the Task Manager and quit the program. On a Mac, use Command+Option+Escape to open the Force Quit Applications box and exit the browser.
3: If the malware is interfering with your ability to use the system management tools, shut down your computer. A hard restart usually works best, holding down the power button on your machine until it powers down. Before you restart your computer, disable your internet connection by temporarily turning off your wireless router or unplugging your Ethernet cable. By restarting your system without the internet connection, your browser shouldn’t be able to reload the malicious page.
4: Get immediate assistance from Blackfoot. Contact our 24/7 Tech Support at 877-881-1155 or www.blackfoot.com/support.