Not quite all about security…

By | December 1, 2013
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I’m not sure why, but there’s lots about security, spam, and phone calls pretending to be from someone they’re not this time.

I’m not meaning to be negative – but the more you know about it, the safer you are!

I promise to have a more cheery email for you next time (and at least the 4th thing I’ve covered isn’t about internet nasties!)

Why doesn’t it ask the security question any more?

I first wrote about Verified by Visa and Securecard by Mastercard yonks ago – back in 2007.  (

In a nutshell, it’s a way to have a password that only you and Visa or Mastercard know.  Then if you buy something online, the shop passes you over to the Visa/Mastercard website to put in 3 letters from that password to prove it’s you.  The shop itself never sees the password, so it’s pretty secure and means if someone nicks your credit card they can’t easily use it online.

It’s clever stuff and I’d definitely recommend using it.

But if you’ve already set it up, you might have noticed you aren’t getting asked the questions any more… and wonder if that means it’s not working.

Don’t worry – they can tell what PC you’re using. If you’re using your home PC, it’ll learn it’s your home PC and won’t bother to ask you for the password.  If someone stole your card, they’d have to break in just to use your PC – pretty unlikely (and if they’re going to do that, they could just steal your PC!)

But if you were to use someone else’s PC (or get a new one), it would ask for the password again – and if someone took your card and tried to use it on their PC, they’d be asked for the password and couldn’t use your card.

Reporting fraud (for example dodgy phone calls pretending to be from Microsoft)

Someone asked me the other day if there was anywhere to report one of those fake phone calls, where someone rings up pretending to be Microsoft and trying to get money out of you.

There is an organisation called ActionFraud, who work with the Police.  It’s pretty hard for them to do much as a lot of the organisations making these calls are based overseas – but they’re working on it.

You can report dodgy phone calls (and other fraud) here:

I used to recommend AVG anti-virus – not any more

Back when I first started this newsletter, I used to recommend AVG as anti-virus software for one big reason – it’s free.  And it does the job.  So why (I reasoned) pay for a program instead?

Well, the reasoning still holds, but now I recommend Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) instead.

There are two reasons: First, it gets in the way less when it’s running.  It pops up fewer annoying messages and just gets on with the job of keeping you safe.

Secondly, when you install AVG, it now makes it tricky to get the free version.  It’s still there, just harder to choose – it keeps directing you to the paid version.  Mildly sneaky.

That’s why I recommend MSE.  You can download it here:

Of course, if you already have AVG and are happy with it, that’s fine – you don’t need to change.  It’s making sure you get the free version that’s tricky, so if you’ve already done it, you can stick with it!

3rd Edition of Next Steps book – and a small set-back

I mentioned last time that I’m busily updating two of my most popular books: Next Steps on Your PC and Next Steps on the Internet. I’d hoped to be able to tell you all about them, how to order, what’s changed (lots!) and what it all has to do with a 19th Century editor of a French newspaper… but we’ve hit a slight snag and there’s a little delay.

Not a bad one, though (well, not really bad), so watch out tomorrow at midday – because I’ll be sending you an email with details of how to order a copy and all the details (including the bit about the editor of “Le Figaro”).  So best look out for that email tomorrow (Monday the 2nd) at midday.