Did you know that the dollar store
charging cable you bought and use on your devices just might be choking your tech
to death? Did you know that recently there has been a huge influx of weaponized
cables that can harm you as well as your device?
This is what is called Supply Chain Poisoning and it is kind of a big deal.
Cables are being sold right now with hidden
malicious modifications that damage your devices and even steal data from your
device and/or computer while you are charging it. Criminals have even found
ways to embed small wireless transmitters right inside those skinny little
Here are a few ways to protect yourself and your tech:
Buy only OEM cables from reputable dealers*
Charge your phone in a wall outlet – not connected to your computers’ USB port
Buy a USB protection adapter that blocks the data pins
Inspect any new cables for noticeable tampering
*Reputable dealers include stores like the Apple Store, Samsung’s online store, and Telco stores. Places like Amazon, WalMart, or your local Dollar Stores are not reputable dealers.
I know that OEM cables can be pricey
but they are worth it. Don’t be caught with your cheap cable not only charging
your phone… but also charging your credit card or stealing your identity!
We all love our voice-activated helpers… on our phones or in our homes… but did you know that they record everything you say? Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant devices all have ways for you to opt out of recording and human transcription… but you have to actually opt out on your own. Do it!
I am sure that by now you have read at least one article full of revelations and apologies from literally all of the major smart assistant makers on how they handle the audio snippets that their devices record. Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri, and Microsoft Cortana were all using third-party contractors to transcribe all of the recorded audio from the devices. However, the backlash over the lack of transparency kick started quite a lot of new customer controls.
If you haven’t done so before, now is the time to take stock of how you have things set up on whatever platform you have chosen to use. Each service has its own mix of options and controls. So, here is how to stop Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana from recording and keeping your voice data… and once you are done, tell a friend or two to do the same.
To opt-out on Siri : Settings > Privacy > Analytics & Improvements > Improve Siri & Dictation and toggle the switch off.
If you previously has this enabled, you will need to delete all the audio Apple has collected from you. To do that, go to Settings > Siri & Search > Siri & Dictation History > Delete Siri & Dictation History to wipe everything clean.
Amazon was the first smart assistant company to centralize and expand its user controls for voice recording retention, but it mainly due to massive public backlash.
You can review the voice recordings Amazon has stored for your account by going to Settings > Alexa Privacy in the Alexa app or through Amazon’s website. There you can delete entries one by one, by date range, by device, or everything. You can also delete recordings by device on the Manage Your Content and Devices page. You can delete voice recordings directly through the smart assistant device by saying things such as “Alexa, delete what I just said,” or “Alexa, delete everything I said today”… but you will need to turn on that feature. To turn that on in the Alexa app or Amazon’s website go to Settings > Alexa Privacy > Review Voice History.
To opt out of sending your Alexa recordings to Amazon, go to your Alexa Account in the Alexa app then Alexa Privacy > Manage how your data improves Alexa and turn off Help Develop New Features and Use Messages to Improve Transcriptions.
Google offers a number of ways to stop audio retention or to delete your recordings. This page lays out the different ways you can choose from to delete or opt out in a desktop browser, on Android, or on iOS. To delete recording on desktop, open your Google account and choose Data & personalization in the left navigation panel. There, under Activity controls, choose Web & App Activity and then Manage Activity. Here you can scroll through the list of entries—those with an audio icon next to them include a recording and you can delete individual items one at a time. Or on this same page click the More menu in the upper right, choose Delete activity by and under Delete by date select All time. Then at the bottom choose Delete.
To opt out of letting Google collect recordings in the first place open your Google account and choose Data & personalization in the left navigation panel. There, under Activity controls, choose Web & App Activity and then make sure the box next to Include voice and audio recordings is unchecked.
To manage or delete your audio recordings of interactions with Cortana, make sure you’re logged into your Microsoft account and then go to Microsoft’s Privacy Dashboard.
Regardless of which platform you use keep in mind that these expanded controls, while positive and necessary, don’t change the fundamental concept of smart assistants. These services run on devices that contain a microphone, and can be woken up to “hear” things you’re saying and process them on a random faraway server. As with any internet-enabled technology—but particularly one that involves a potentially live mic—there are always going to be privacy considerations no matter how much control you have.
If these devices are a helpful and delightful force in your life, that’s fine! Just take steps to protect your privacy.
2020 is just around the corner and now is the time to
prepare all of your tech, your business, your marketing, and yourself for the coming
year. Here are a few helpful tips in all 4 areas.
1.) For Your New Tech
–Setting up a new device
Fully charge your new device before you begin setup or
use. If the device requires an account (Apple ID, Google, Microsoft, Amazon
account, etc.) you should login (or recover) any existing accounts that you
have. If you wish to set up a new account for your device, be sure to document
the email address and password/pin numbers used to create the account. Always
add security questions, or 2-factor authentication, as well as a valid
alternative contact method (email or phone number). Once your device setup has
been completed you should connect your device to your wireless network (if
applicable) and perform any system updates by accessing the settings from your
–Protecting your device
Electronics are expensive, and accidents happen. Invest
in a high-quality case as well as a good screen protector. If you feel you are
very accident prone, consider adding device protection offered by your
–Maintaining your device
To keep your new device running at peak performance take
some time to regularly uninstall unused apps, disable unneeded notifications,
and restart your device regularly. You also need to periodically physically
clean the entire device with a soft non-abrasive cloth. When charging the
device – never leave it on a charger overnight. This will cause damage to the
battery and shorten its lifespan.
2.) For your Business
The start of a new year is an exciting and challenging
time for businesses. It is a great time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t
over the previous twelve months. It is also an excellent time to take stock and
evaluate what your business needs to go forward.
–Is Your Hardware Still Up to The Task?
If your computers and peripherals are over 2 years old it
is well past time for a hardware upgrade. Newer hardware isn’t only safer to
use, it is faster, and is capable of holding more data. Today’s computing
demands asks a lot of our hardware and older hardware simply isn’t up to the task.
Take time to review your IT demands to ensure there are no bottlenecks in your
–Is Your Backup Reliable and Working?
Every business needs reliable backups for their data. It doesn’t
matter if you simply transfer files manually to an external hard drive or USB
storage device, copy documents over to a local server, or save all of your
media to the cloud, you need to have a system in place that is performed on a
regular basis. You don’t want to find out that your backups haven’t been going
on when you need them the most.
–Is Your Compliance Up to Date?
Nearly every business has compliance and regulations
standards that it must adhere to if it is to keep its position in the
marketplace. These may be industry specific (such as medical or automotive
certifications), or regional protections (such as data protection regulations).
Compliance regulations tend to change regularly. Make sure that yours are
3.) For Your Business Marketing
–Is your website ready for 2020?
Website trends are constantly changing and your site
needs to change with them. Much like your hardware, if your website’s look and
feel hasn’t been updated in the past 2 years it is well overdue for a facelift.
Web technology, consumer expectations, search engine optimization rules, and
more change dramatically from month to month. If you don’t keep up you will be
left behind by your competitors that do.
–Social Media Channels
Is social media part of your marketing strategy? If it isn’t,
it sure should be! You need to be where your potential customers are and they are
all over social media. Take the time to put together an engaging strategy for
2020 that includes posting on a very regular basis.
Do your marketing materials still reflect the right
message for your brand? When was the last time they had a re-design of their
overall look and feel? All of the materials about your business that your
prospective customers see need to stay on top of current visual trends in order
to be noticed.
4.) For Yourself
A new year can be a bit daunting but never forget that
you need to take time to work on yourself as well. We aren’t talking about New
Year’s resolutions that everyone forgets about come February. I mean the small things
every single day that make your day better, your life better, and the lives of
those around you better. Keep the playful kid inside of you alive and enojoy
every day that you can. Life is short. Enjoy!
… and Happy New Year!
May 2020 bring the everyone peace and happiness they deserve.
Scammers are taking advantage of a Firefox bug that
causes your browser to lock up and display the following message:
“Please stop and do not close the PC … The registry key of your computer is locked. Why did we block your computer? The Windows registry key is illegal. The Windows desktop is using pirated software. The Window desktop sends viruses over the Internet. This Windows desktop is hacked. We block this computer for your safety.”
It then tells you to call a toll-free number.
Don’t call the number!
Never ever call any number like this.
Simply force-quit your browser and go about your day.
Mozilla says it’s actively working on a fix but as of
right now there isn’t one.
Robocalls are currently the number 1 consumer
complaint to the FCC. In the month of June alone Americans received over
4.4 billion robocalls. The FCC, all of the major phone carriers, along with
other industry professionals specializing in robocall blocking technology have
been working diligently on solutions to these increasingly annoying and
dangerous scam calls. Their most recent tool in the battle? SHAKEN/STIR.
What is SHAKEN/STIR?
Ok, this is quite a name – SHAKEN/STIR stands for
Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs and the Secure
Telephone Identity Revisited.
Basically SHAKEN/STIR verifies calls that are coming to
your phone and tracks where the call is originating, identifying potential
scammers. The system will use a small symbol or logo to let you know that
the person calling you is, indeed, authentic. While call verification won’t
block annoying robocalls from reaching your phone, it does give you more
information about the caller before you answer the call.
How does that help?
Robocallers have mainly turned to “neighborhood spoofing”
(or replicating a number within your area code that looks familiar to you) so
there’s a much better chance of you picking up the phone. However, once you
pick up the phone, they know your line is active and, therefore, you are likely
to get more calls. SHAKEN/STIR gives you the ability to quickly figure out
whether the call is coming from a real person or a robocaller.
When will roll out and where?
The FCC expects providers to have the SHAKEN/STIR standard
implemented by the end of 2019. The FCC has mandated all of the major phone
carriers uphold this new standard – not only verify the calls within their
network but also the calls coming from other networks.
Upon launch, SHAKEN/STIR will only work in the U.S. Even
though a lot of robocall scams do come from outside the country, most illegal
telemarketing originates from the United States.
Keep in mind that SHAKEN/STIR requires modern phone
systems (such as 4G) to work, so older landlines will not have the new protections.
You may already be noticing the rollout of SHAKEN/STIR
and as the year comes to a close you will see more and more. Do you think that
SHAKEN/STIR will help or not?
Some days, you cannot pick up the phone without running
into yet another fraudster demanding money. Maybe it’s not a bad idea to
just avoid unknown callers. The con artists keep calling hot spots, after all,
where people keep answering the phone. Americans were blasted by 3.36
billion robocalls in April — up 6.5% from a record set in March, according to
the YouMail Robocall Index, a provider of voicemail and call blocking
services. It amounted to about 1,297 robocalls every second.
Most of those calls were from debt collectors, according
to YouMail. But robocalls are being sent by fraudsters to make it look like the
call is coming directly from the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI, your
electric company, a bank or Microsoft.
Some firm use “neighborhood spoofing”
technology to make it seem like calls were from local area codes, even using
the first three numbers of the recipient’s own phone number to encourage people
to answer robocalls, according to the FCC.
The robocall revolt is building.
Democratic lawmakers in Washington have introduced
various bills to stop robocalls, automated calls that use a computerized system
to deliver recorded messages to cell phones and landlines. One bill, called the
Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, would strengthen the Telephone Consumer Protection
Act and help the Federal Communications Commission more take action against
“Robocalls are a great annoyance for American
families, especially American seniors,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell,
D-Mich., in opening remarks at a robocalls hearing before the Digital Commerce
and Consumer Protection subcommittee. “One-third of calls are now
unwanted robocalls,” she said.
Unwanted calls — including illegal robocalls used by
criminals pretending to be from the IRS and elsewhere, spoofed calls and
telemarketing — are a major source of complaints for regulators. The Federal
Trade Commission estimated that fraud from unwanted calls costs consumers about
$9.5 billion annually. In fiscal 2017, the FTC received more than 4.5 million
complaints regarding robocalls and nearly another 2.6 million complaints about
Consumers can report unwanted calls at
Here’s what to watch out for now:
1.) FAKE CALL FROM A “NEIGHBOR”
You’re always inclined to pick up the phone when you can
see the call is from your own area code even if you don’t recognize the entire
number. But scammers increasingly know how to manipulate caller identification
information to make it seem that the call is from a local area code — even
though the con artists might be operating in another state or overseas. “Scammers
use such spoofing to increase the likelihood that consumers pick up the phone
and to increase the consumer’s trust in the call,” according to a warning
from the Federal Communications Commission.
2.) FAKE UTILITY BILL COLLECTOR
Fraudsters aren’t just calling to demand money for unpaid
tax bills. Some scams have morphed into attempts to con people into handing
over money for fake utility bills, too.
The phony utility collection calls are rampant across the
country, but typically don’t start out with a robocall. It starts out with a
real person and they call and say, “We’re going to shut off your lights in two
hours unless you pay this money.” Then the robocalls begin.
In addition to collection calls, consumers are getting
hit with other utility-related robocalls. About 19 million such utility-scam
calls were made in March relating to a pitch involving “save money — need
your info,” according to YouMail. One scam: A robocall may suggest a
program that can pay your utility bills at a discount if you wire money
elsewhere first, instead of paying your utility directly… which is obviously, a
3.) FAKE IRS BILL
Crooks are now using telephone numbers that are spoofed
to look like they’re from the IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers to trick
taxpayers into paying nonexistent bills, according to the Internal Revenue
Service. Scam artists have programmed their computers to display the TAC
phone number to appear on the taxpayer’s Caller ID. When a taxpayer
questions whether the call is real, the con artist directs the taxpayer to the
IRS.gov site to “confirm” that the call is from a legitimate number
for a local TAC office.
After the taxpayer has “verified” the call
number, the fraudsters resume their demands for money — typically on a prepaid
card or a gift card.
The use of a prepaid card or a gift card enables a
fraudster to practically immediately transfer money from the card purchased by
the consumer onto another card held by the crooks. Think of it like
transferring two or three Starbucks gift cards onto your Starbucks gold rewards
More than 43 million robocalls were made in March alone
relating to IRS-related scams — nearly doubling from February, according to
YouMail’s research. Regardless of how authentic the caller ID might look,
the IRS warns that taxpayers should never fall for unreasonable demands. If
the contact from the IRS is threatening in any way, demanding immediate
payment, and demanding payment by a particular method – it’s not the IRS.
4.) FAKE 0% CREDIT CARD OFFER
Nearly 123 million robocalls were made in March with a
promise to get your credit card rates down to 0%. It was the most frequent scam
robocall in March, according to YouMail’s research. Sometimes, you’ll hear
from “Heather in Account Services” or maybe someone from “Card Member
In some scams, you might be asked for an up-front fee to
get the ball rolling on those lower rates. In another twist, scammers promising
a low rate might ask you to read off your credit card number first to them over
the phone to verify the card.
Don’t pay the fee or hand over your credit card
information to strangers.
Amendments to the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule prohibit
companies that sell relief services like these rate reduction scams on the
phone from charging a fee before they settle or reduce your debt.
A better bet? Call the credit card company directly to
request a reduced rate.
5.) FAKE MONEY-MAKING GUARANTEE
One word can make a questionable investment seem less
suspect — guarantee. But the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA,
warns that impostors have been posing as securities regulators and offering
ironclad investment guarantees in a phony pitch to buy up virtually worthless
shares of stock.
Scammers often send investors “official-looking
documents, complete with logos and seals” as part of the ploy to make
their stock buyback pitch look more legitimate. In some cases, the con
artists want personal information that can be used for ID theft. Or they might
ask for an advance fee to handle the sale of some stock. Once you send the
money, you never see it — or any of the money promised from the stock buyback again.
FINRA has a toll-free number for senior investors who
have concerns about their brokers and investments, as well as questions about
potential scams. The hotline: 844-574-3577. The phone is staffed from 9 a.m. to
5 p.m. ET on weekdays.
Remember, con artists are able to share lists of names
and phone numbers, as well as some financial holdings of potential victims. So
they might be able to sound legitimate. The financial fraudsters are more
than willing to make repeated phone calls, too.
Hang up. Do not engage. Do not respond.
The risk of being scammed goes up when you answer some of
we celebrate eight incredible and wonderful years as your TeCHS we can’t help
but look back at everyone and everything that has helped us, guided us, taught
us, hired us, partnered with us, and shared with us. We truly appreciate
everything our amazing vendors, clients, partners and customers have done for
us – thank you for your referrals and for your business. We truly
appreciate you and we look forward to continue serving your technology needs.
you know that TeCHS used to be called Leader Creative Services? Leader Creative
Services was started and run by Kim alone back in 2003 and only offered graphic
design services. Then we (Kim and Seth) started dating and married… on our
honeymoon we decided to team up in business as well and on June 03, 2011
we decided to change the name of the business to better reflect all of the
technical solutions we will offer all of Ventura County together. Thus TeCHS
and Kim, your TeCHS, are proud Ventura natives with well over 30 years of
combined tech-y knowledge and know how. We strive to keep everyone’s digital
life running smoothly and to keep business and money in our beautiful and
wonderful county! From the home user to local business needs – we provide
affordable, fast, friendly, professional and reliable services for everything
from your toaster to your website!
repair, virus removal, TV wall mounting, tech tutoring, graphic design,
web design, and so much more.
can’t wait to see what the next year will bring!