Verizon Forcing Email Decision; We Recommend You Exit

Verizon is dripping out the announcement that it will migrate its email business to AOL, which the communications giant acquired in 2015. It’s a rolling process that will take place over the next several months, and everyone will get specific instructions based on your account. Your clock will start ticking when you get an email notification from Verizon, and you’ll have the choice of: 1.) migrating to AOL and keeping your Verizon email address or 2.) exiting to an email provider such as Outlook or Gmail. When you get your email, you’ll have a short time to make your decision. If you don’t choose one option, you’ll lose access to your “” account. Here’s why you should take the second option.

Keep in mind that you can make the switch from Verizon now and retain access to your Verizon contacts and messages for six months. If you don’t decide, Verizon will close out your email accounts. If you have copiers, scanners, servers and other equipment that rely on email addresses to function, those devices will stop working after you choose your options or your time runs out.

We think Verizon is leading a move by utility companies – phone and cable carriers – to get out of the email business because it’s too complicated and time-consuming to provide as a free service. Just to get this out of the way, Verizon’s first option, switching to AOL, is less complicated right now. You’ll be able to keep your existing addresses, with “,” but you can keep your addresses and log in through AOL’s system from now on. That might be a temporary solution because you can keep all your contacts.

But we don’t like it for the long term. While you may think that you’re getting a lot of spam now through your Verizon filters, we think that will increase with AOL. Spam is more than a nuisance; it’s a way for hackers to get into your system. Although you can catch most hacking attempts with common sense, hackers know that if they throw enough spam at you, one of them will get past even the most vigilant user. We don’t think security is a major concern. AOL tightened up its security after it was hacked in 2014, before Verizon bought it.

However, we think the “utility company” extensions will disappear as those companies get out of the email business. That means you’ll need to make a switch at some point, and it makes sense to do it now, before you add more contacts. Switching now may make particularly good sense for copier and scanning companies and other similar service providers that use email addresses. We’ve had some Verizon email addresses for some services, and we’re moving away because those addresses will disappear at some point.

We recommend switching to an email provider that will be in the business for the long term, such as Outlook or Gmail. You should be able to keep that address for as long as you like. Besides not having to worry about losing the email address, you’ll gain much more flexibility in shopping for a new ISP. We know it’s a hassle to move all your contacts and messages and tell people your new address. It’s also a pain when people don’t update their own contact lists or when autofill puts in an old address. For all those reasons, you might as well start to move away from Verizon/AOL, as well as from any other utility.

The two email services that come to mind are Outlook and Gmail. In listing the option to move away, Verizon tells you to follow the instructions from your new provider. You could also get your own domain and have that hosted through Outlook or another email service provider. You can keep your domain for as long as you like, and because you’ll be hosting it and calling the shots, you can do away with the advertising that seems to be more prevalent and more annoying.

Regardless of which new provider you choose, you’ll need to establish your new email address and set up your mailbox – or mailboxes – before you close out your old one. Then, you can follow the steps to transfer addresses and messages and set up your rules for how you manage messages.

We can help you in two ways:

  1. Choose an email provider: Outlook and Gmail are two that come to mind, but there are many others, and each one has its own strengths and weaknesses, depending on what you need. We can review the ways you access email, such as a computer, phone or tablet, and whether you need integration and/or collaboration tools.
  2. Set up your new account and transfer all the data: This is extremely critical. Although your new service will have instructions and although you’ll be able to find help through online forums, it’s not always easy to get right settings for your new account and then transfer your contacts and messages. It’s also not easy to back up all of contacts and messages. If you don’t have an accessible back-up and you make a mistake in the transfer process, you could need to jump through hoops to get it all done – at the least – or lose everything – your worst-case scenario.

If you have a “” email address, call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us as soon as you get a notice to discuss your options (keep your address, keep your address temporarily or switch immediately to a new email service). If you have an April 13 deadline approaching, and you need to have a plan in order now. If you didn’t get an email, you will, and you’ll need to be prepared to make important decisions quickly. It wouldn’t hurt to start planning now. You can spend hours and hours of frustration solving this issue, or you call us to handle your transition without stress.

Cybersecurity Scorecard

Cybersecurity has dominated our conversation for the past year, and a report from SonicWall, which provides security tools worldwide for networks to email and everything in between, shows where we’re making progress and where new threats lie.

First, the good news. In data gathered in the past year from the SonicWall Global Response Intelligent Defense (GRID) Network, the good guys and the bad guys made advances. The most notable of the advances the company found were:

  • The number of new POS (point of sale – mostly credit and debit cards) malware variants decreased by 88 percent since 2015
  • SSL and TLS encrypted traffic increased 34 percent year-over-year
  • Major exploit kits Angler, Nuclear and Neutrino disappeared
  • Unique malware attack attempts dropped to 7.87 billion from 8.19 billion in 2015

On the other hand:

  • Ransomware attacks grew 167x from 2014 to 2016 to an astounding 638 million attacks during the year
  • SSL/TLS encrypted malware was exploited 72 percent more often in 2016 than in 2015
  • Internet of Things (IoT) devices were compromised to launch record-setting DDoS attacks
  • Despite significant efforts by Google to patch vulnerabilities, Android continued to be exploited by cyber criminals

SonicWall notes that the technology to solve many of the new challenges cyber criminals threw at victims in 2016 already exists.  SSL/TLS traffic can be inspected for encrypted malware by NGFWs (next-generation firewalls), which are hardware- or software-based network security systems that detect and block sophisticated attacks by enforcing security policies at various levels. For any type of new advanced threat like ransomware, it’s important to understand that all network-based solutions should block network traffic until a safe verdict is reached before passing that traffic through to the intended recipient.

In 2017, there are two areas that SonicWall joins us in telling you to be particularly on-guard: ransomware and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Companies in the United Kingdom were 3x more likely to suffer ransomware attacks than in the United States, but don’t breathe easy. The US experienced the highest number of ransomware attacks in 2016 because of large volume of business.  While we as individuals and small businesses depend on companies like SonicWall to provide the tools to detect and stop ransomware, we need to follow strict security procedures – all of which should be well-known to us by now:

  • Install updates for all of your software for operating systems and apps. They contain the security patches and bug fixes that shore up the breaches in your systems.
  • Be extremely careful about the emails you open and the links you click.
  • Back up your data continuously to a system that is either not always online or that uses authentication. This will help ensure that you don’t accidentally revert to an encrypted back up if you’re hit.

The IoT has been massively compromised because of poorly designed security systems by device manufacturers. To protect yourself, SonicWall reminds you to make sure your devices are behind next-generation firewalls that scan for IoT-specific malware and that you segregate IoT devices on a separate zone to make sure they don’t affect the rest of your network if they’re compromised. To that, we add that you immediately change user names and passwords – and that you make those passwords strong. Some 70 percent of IoT breaches worldwide are in the US.

More protection was made available for Android mobile phones and devices, but they still remain vulnerable to overlay attacks. SonicWall recommends that companies using Android devices keep the option to “install applications from unknown sources” unchecked and both options to “verify applications” checked. They also recommend you avoid rooting and that you install anti-virus and other mobile security apps – and that you enable “remote wipe” in case your device is stolen or compromised with ransomware.

If you’re interested in a deeper dive and more technical explanations, we invite you to read SonicWall’s whitepaper on cybersecurity.

We can help you with a cybersecurity audit for your office or home and for all mobile devices. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us for an appointment.

Tales from the SSD

When should you spend more money for an SSD (solid-state drive) hard drive? We’ve talked about speed and about having electronic components instead of mechanical components. Here are two examples of when an SSD makes sense.

One of our clients, an auto body shop, recently bought a new desktop computer, and complained, after a month, that it was running slowly. We checked for viruses and gave the new computer a clean bill of health, but the performance still wasn’t the client had expected.

As we talked, we learned that the computer was being taxed by the shop’s data needs. The client accesses a huge database that’s used to create estimates for repairs. The process is highly detailed, and the shop’s customers can be highly impatient.

We explored his options, which came down to two: buy a newer, more powerful desktop computer or install an SSD and tweak the settings for better performance. Our client chose the latter solution, and when we turned on the system, the screen came up much faster than it had when the computer was just out of the box. The faster speed has increased the shop’s estimating productivity exponentially, and our client considers it a successful upgrade.

Another client’s mishap led to the discovery that he had an SSD, and that saved his data and apps. He had just brought in his desktop computer for some tweaks a few days earlier, but we never opened up the unit. As he was carrying it up a flight of outdoor metal stairs to get to his second-floor office, he dropped it.

He brought it back, and to our surprise it booted up. When we looked inside, we found a lot of broken components – and we did found a solid-state drive. This was good fortune. Had it been a mechanical hard drive, the fall likely would have damaged it beyond recovery, and all of the data and apps stored on it would have been lost. All of the other broken pieces were repairable, and our client was very happy.

Today, we are selling more desktop computers with SSDs because more clients are finding they can earn a faster ROI, such as our auto body shop. We don’t expect that computers will be dropped or damaged in some other way, but you can always insure your data and apps remain accessible by backing up your hard drive – a separate issue. Having the SSD was a bonus in this case.

If you’re thinking about a new desktop computer, we can help you with a cost-benefit analysis to see which type of hard drive best serves your productivity needs and your budget. We can also help with ROI projections. Just give us a call – 973-433-6676 – or send us an email to talk about it.

Your Next Mobile Phone is All About the Apps

If you’re in the market for a new mobile phone, it won’t be a Windows phone. With Windows 10 as the operating system for less than 1 percent of the mobile market, Microsoft is killing its mobile phone. It’s all about the apps – more specifically about app developers.

With Android and Apple accounting for more than 99 percent of the worldwide mobile market, app developers have put all of their efforts into those systems. Apple generally gets the nod to get an app first, but selling an app to Android can be equally enriching for developers.

Both Apple and Samsung are expected to release new phones this year, the iPhone 8 and Galaxy S8, respectively. Samsung needs a replacement for its ill-fated 7 series, and Apple needs new energy for its 8 series. Whichever manufacturer and OS you choose, you’ll find plenty of features and power – and an abundance of apps.

The apps are critical because we use our phones for just about everything but talking. We shop, find restaurants, use navigation to find the best route to places we’ve gone to for years, research healthcare options, watch TV and movies, read newspapers…

We’re not only untethered from a desktop computer or television, we can do or watch anything on our phones as long as we have internet access. Why, we don’t even need to reach into our wallets for charge cards to make some purchases. Apple, Google, financial institutions and merchants all have secure apps that help protect your credit card information through series of transfers between the merchant and your account. This is one of those few instances in which convenience can be more secure.

According to the website Statista, there were some 2.2 million apps available from the Apple Store as of this past January, and there were a similar number available from Google Play last year. Microsoft, by comparison, had 669,000 apps available from its Windows Store. While gaming apps are in decline, which some parents may find hard to believe, Smashing Magazine reports the biggest growth is coming in customization apps, such as launchers, icons, wallpaper and lock-screen apps. The next growth area is newspapers and magazines.

Other categories for app growth include:

  • Productivity tools
  • Lifestyle and shopping solutions
  • Messengers and social apps

The trend toward mobile apps shows no signs of letting up. With slightly less than half the world’s population owning smartphones, you know there’s an upside waiting to be tapped. A growing number of major companies in the world see mobile devices as a catalyst to transforming their businesses, and the value of mobile apps is expected to more-than-triple by 2020. With mobile apps and Bluetooth integrating with our cars and homes as well as just about every aspect of our lives, apps will fuel the growth of mobile devices, and more users will demand more apps.

We happen to like Apple phones and tablets because we believe they work better with Outlook for email and calendars and because we believe its proprietary OS offers better security. But we are impressed with the creativity that Android’s open software spawns. For most users, either OS will run apps equally well. Your choice may simply come down to the cost of the device and the best plan you can find from a wireless carrier or provider. We can help you whittle down the daunting number of considerations in mobile device selection – and we can help you set up your device to integrate with other systems, including storage options. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your mobile device needs or with any questions you have about using your apps more efficiently.

Nomorobo = No More Robo Calls? We Hope It Adds Up

If you’re tired of robo calls and caught in the web of spoofed telephone numbers, Nomorobo might be the app for you. It is for us. It’s one product to help you manage your telephone.

For most of us, robocalls are a major annoyance. Even when you don’t pick up the phone, they ring and ring until your answering machine picks it up, and then you need to follow whatever instructions your answering machines provide to get rid the message.

For many others, however, robocalls are an expensive trap. Scammers posing as IRS agents steal millions every year, despite regular warnings from the real IRS that its agents will never contact you by phone if you owe them money. They send a letter first, and they tell people that if they have questions about whether they owe taxes, they should call the IRS toll-free phone number.

At one time, you could register your phone number with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to block robocalls and telemarketers representing companies with which you did not have a relationship. But VOIP (voice over internet protocol) technology made it cheap and easy for scammers operating outside the US to make long-distance calls that look like domestic calls. Essentially, the same technology that gives you a free Google Voice number gives scammers and thieves the ability to reach you under false pretense. How ridiculous can it get? You can get a call from a device identified as your own phone.

As phone carriers and the FCC went ‘round and ‘round in pointing fingers and passing along suggestions for the “other side,” the logjam broke when the FCC allowed the phone companies to block robocalls. One of the industry’s concerns was that it would block legitimate phone numbers, including those used by emergency-notification organizations.

Here’s where Nomorobo stepped in to fill the breach. It won a $25,000 cash prize from the Federal Trade Commission in 2013 for figuring how to stop robo calls. The system reroutes calls to your phone number to a service that checks the incoming phone number against a database that whitelists the good guys and blacklists the bad guys. Once you sign up for Nomorobo, you need to wait until the second ring to pick up the phone. Nomorobo uses the first ring to check the incoming number against its database. If you don’t get a second ring, then you know a robo call was blocked.

In a perfect world, good calls, such as those from emergency-related organizations get through. Of course, the world is not perfect, but it is “trainable.” If you experience any problems, such as a school closing or a call from a hospital, you can report it at under “A Valid Number That Was Blocked Incorrectly” and correct the database. The service won’t block charity calls, but it can block political calls. You can enable or disable this feature by clicking “Edit” next to your number.

Nomorobo is free for landlines, and it supports most carriers. It has an iOS app that costs $1.99 per month, and it plans to have an Android app soon. The company has an online help desk that covers most questions users would have about using its system or deleting it.

Nomorobo has plenty of company in the robo-blocking space, and you might find one you like better. One place to start your search is the CTIA website product listings. CTIA represents many wireless telecom companies in the US. If you have any questions about selecting a call blocker or installing on a landline or mobile device, we’re here to help. Just call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us.

How About an App to Navigate Airports?

Trying to cover the distance between gates for connecting flights can be a huge – if not insurmountable – problem for flyers. After catching our breath in Atlanta, I’d like an app that can tell me where my connecting flight is, how I get to that gate and how long it should take me once I finally get off the airplane.

Until somebody develops a universal app just for that, an increasing number of airports have their own apps, which include maps (helpful if you’re connecting to another flight or just beginning your visit at a destination). As part of your trip planning, see if the airports you’ll use have apps and download them ahead of time. That will make them quicker to access, especially if you need to scramble. You may be able to download information ahead of time that you can use offline to more easily find your way to baggage claim areas, ground transportation and rental car areas.

If you’re planning to travel during spring break or this summer, or if you’re a regular business traveler, there’s no shortage of apps that are useful or entertaining. Most are available from both the Apple Store or Google Play.

Handling Emergencies

The multitude of websites that let you find and book the best flights can be your best friend if you run into problems because of weather or delays that prevent you from making a connecting flight. If you’re flying routes served by multiple carriers, those apps can help you better identify your options, but they may not give you the immediate information you need. You may want to think about a premium app or premium version of a free app if you regularly run into the need to make changes on the fly.

Some apps you might want to look at include Kayak, GateGuru and TripIt. All offer you the ability to input your itinerary, which helps you know where you need to be and when, and all push out alerts with information about security wait times, flight and gate changes and similar information. As part of its premium service, TripIt can give you alternative flights when you run into trouble with weather delays or problems that can prevent you from making a flight.

Kayak syncs with your Apple Watch, which can be a welcome feature when you’re trying to get to a gate as quickly as possible.

App in the Air is a “personal flight assistant” that uses SMS texts to push information on flight changes, eliminating the need for an internet connection.

Whether you use one of these apps or your airline’s apps, use an app if you need to change a flight quickly instead of going to a desk and standing on a line. The app enables you to tap into the airline’s reservation system quickly to change a flight, select seats (if possible) and get your boarding passes.

While you may need to juggle apps, they can help you get a better outcome, and they’re faster if you have them installed and configured before you need them.

Getting There

Most likely, you’ll have used Google Maps or Waze to find the best route to the airport, and you – or rather one of your passengers – may have consulted the airline’s website or one of the many flight-tracker apps to make sure your flight is on schedule. If you’re coming from your home and need to park your car, there’s an Apple app, Airport Parking Reservations, that lets you compare and select off-site parking lots for some 150 airports in the US and Canada. And, of course, it lets you know about available discounts. There are many apps for parking reservations and discounts, but this one specializes in airports.

Getting Through Checkpoints

Once you have the car parked or if you’re on your ride to the airport, there are apps to check you in, get you through security and find a good place to hang out until boarding time. And if your phone is charged, you don’t need any paper.

If your airline doesn’t have an app to check you in, GateGuru, TripIt and Kayak are three of many apps that can help you check in and/or get to security.  They all give you security waiting times and airport maps to help you find your gate and amenities along the way. They’re all free for iOS and Android devices.

Going through security lines is usually the next challenge after checking in, and you can choose a variety of apps to help you or least give you information to help navigate the process. The TSA has its own app, My TSA, which gives you real-time info about wait times and updated information about what you can carry on a plane, etc. Its biggest advantage may be the info on which airports and airlines support TSA PreCheck® and how to sign-up.

For international travel, you can combine it with Mobile Passport. Officially authorized by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), it lets US and Canadian passport holders skip the customs and border protection lines at US airports. Simply fill out your profile and answer four of the CBP’s questions. Once they receive your data, you can go straight to the “Mobile Passport Control” express lane at 20 US airports and the Port Everglades cruise port in Florida. It’s a free app for iOS and Android, and while you won’t need it on your way out of the country, it can speed up the process when you return.

 Inside the Terminals

The apps we discussed earlier, TripIt, Kayak and GateGuru all provide info on flights and gates, amenities along the way and maps. Kayak now boasts maps with turn-by-turn directions, and it has a companion app that lets you see if better seats are available for your flight.

A growing number of airports worldwide now have their own apps, too, which give you information about amenities on the way to your gate – or to baggage claim – and maps.

One app that goes above and beyond just telling about restaurants and lounges is AirGrub, which is only available in a limited number of airports. It’s an Uber-type app that uses your flight info to help you locate participating restaurants near your gate. When you provide your flight info, you can view menus and arrange to have food delivered to the gate area before you board – all paid for through the app.

Of all the apps that center around airports, my favorite is, which lets you listen to air traffic controllers in real time. It gives me a real feel for what’s going on with landings and takeoffs and helps me figure out how much time I’ll need to spend in the airport based on flight conditions.

If you have any questions about configuring travel apps or any apps for your mobile device, call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us for help. Especially when you travel, your app should be a resource – not a source of frustration.