Lots about security – and one other thing…

By | October 1, 2013
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Lots about security this time – and one other thing…

How Google (and others) are making accounts more secure

When banks first started doing online banking, lots of people worried about how safe it would be – understandably enough.  But the banks put a lot of work into making it as safe as possible and now millions of people use it.

But it’s not just online banking that the bad guys might go for.  They also try to hack people’s online email accounts, like Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail.  Then they can send their spam from your email address.

That’s why it’s a good idea to have a decent password.  For example not “TimPass” but “h17BPCC” – that’s not my real password but it would be a pretty hard one to guess yet it would be easy for me to remember because each letter stands for something – in this case h for Helpful Books, 17 the house number where I grew up, BPCC is the first letters of the various places I’ve lived.

But even so, the bad guys might manage to guess your password by trying lots of possibilities.  Or somehow spy on your computer while you type it in.  So Google (and the others) are coming up with various other ways to check it’s really you.  For a start, if you log in on your computer, that makes it more likely it’s you.  But they’ve also started using mobile phones to help.

For a while you’ve been able to tell them your mobile number and another email address, if you have it, so that if someone hacks into your Google email and changes your password, you can contact Google, with your alternative email address and your mobile number in a clever way to prove it’s you, so they can reset the password so you can get access again.

But they’ve also come up with a system where if someone logs in and they aren’t sure it’s you (for example if you live in Cumbria and someone logs in from Plymouth), they send you a text checking it really is you.  If it is, fine, you don’t need to do anything, but if not, you know someone’s hacking in and you can tell Google to change your password to keep the bad guy out.

It’s clever stuff – and makes things much more secure.  So if you find Google asking you for a mobile number, now you know why.  And if you have a mobile, I’d recommend letting them have the number, just to make things more secure.  (And if you change it, don’t forget to let them know the new number!)

A crafty and rather nasty bank scam

While we’re talking about security, a reader recently told me about a new bank scam.  It’s not really to do with computers, but I thought it was important enough to let everyone know – here’s what Robert said:

I’ve just been told of a crafty bank scam. The bank rings you and asks you to ring them on the telephone number on the back of your debit card the one that says Card helpline so that they can sort out some problems but it isn’t the bank at all. Then because the people who are running the scam haven’t put the phone down they pretend when you ring the help line number that you are connected to the bank they ask you to verify your account number etc.from that  they can access your account.

Thanks Robert – it’s a very clever one.  As you’re ringing the number on your card, you might well think it’s genuine.  But since they haven’t put the phone down, it still goes through to them.

If you get this one and aren’t sure, the best thing is to either use a different phone to ring the bank (eg mobile vs land line) or to check that they have put the phone down on the other end by first ringing a friend.  If you get through to the friend, then the people who called you have put the phone down and it’s safe to ring the bank number.  If you try to ring the friend and the “bank” answer, then you know it’s a scam!


I can finally announce the launch date for the new books I’ve mentioned.  I’ll be releasing the full information about them at 10am on Thursday 3rd October.  (They’ll be available to order at the same time.)

As I say, there’ll be full information then but I can let you know that there’ll be a special free gift for the first people to react – and as a newsletter reader you’re getting first chance at this!  The gift is something I’ve never done before, so I’m quite excited by it – you’ll understand on Thursday.

Alastair even helped with it!  See, he’s only 3 and I’m already using him as child labour.  I suspect he’ll want paying in packs of mature cheddar (large, of course)…