[TIPS] Buying a Computer Monitor

A computer monitor is often kept for many years, even longer than the computer to which it was originally connected. So when it’s finally time to replace your monitor, you may find that that new rules apply to its purchase that were unheard of when you bought it. Here are some of those new rules, without getting too geeky or extravagant…

Time For a New Monitor?

Technology changes rapidly, but when it comes to computer screens, some rules never change. To start with, shop for a monitor in person, and plan to get the biggest monitor your space and wallet permit. Technical specs are often meaningless compared to hands-on experience with a monitor. For example, the screen may be too reflective, or the connectors may be difficult to reach, or the adjustable stand may be difficult to adjust.

When shopping for a computer monitor, size is usually the first consideration. Personally, I would not consider a screen size less than 24 inches. Screens in the 24 to 26 inch range are affordable, and will serve well for most home and office tasks (email, web browsing, composing documents, online video). If you are into photography, graphic arts, or serious gaming like second life, you’ll want a monitor that’s 27 or more inches. Just remember that screen sizes are measured on the diagonal, just like televisions.

  Your next consideration is screen resolution. A monitor’s resolution is the number of pixels in its display matrix. You’ll see terms like 720p, 1080p, HD (High Definition), FHD (Full HD), QHD (Quad HD), UHD (Ultra HD), and 4K. These all refer to the number of pixels on the screen, and ultimately how crisp and clear the screen image will be. My recommendation is to avoid anything that’s less than “Full HD” which is a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, equivalent to modern 1080p HDTVs. Quad HD (2560 x 1440) is a step above, and 4K or Ultra HD is top of the line, with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels.There is a sharp price jump between 24-inch full-HD and 27-inch 4K monitors; the former should cost $150 or less, while the latter is probably in the $500 range. (Here’s an ASUS 24-inch Full HD monitor for just $126 at Amazon, and an LG 27-inch 4K Monitor on sale for $398.) If you watch lots of movies or play sophisticated games, the bigger and costlier monitor makes sense. Or, you could put that money into a big 4K television set, and stream your PC display to it.

A curved screen may be helpful on monitors 32 inches or larger. A curved screen puts the vertical edges nearer to your eyes, reducing the amount of refocusing they must do when looking from the center of the screen to one of the edges. Curved screens also reduce the amount of head-turning you must do to view every part of the screen. And they don’t have to be super-expensive. This Samsung 32-inch HD Curved Monitor is on sale for just $258.

More Monitor Buzzwords

The vast majority of consumer monitors sold today use LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) technology. Even in so-called LED (Light Emitting Diode) displays, the LED is a back light behind the LCD panel. LED monitors are helpful when the brightness of the display is critical or room lighting is variable. The most expensive monitors may boast OLED (Organic LED) tech, in which each pixel provides its own illumination.

Another buzzword you may encounter is IPS (in-plane switching). IPS monitors offer deeper blacks and more accurate color rendering than LCD or LED monitors. They also have wider viewing angles, so the picture looks the same, even if you’re not directly in front of it. This ViewSonic 27-inch IPS 1080p Frameless LED Monitor is a good example.

The ideal aspect ratio of a general-purpose monitor is 16:9, or approximately 1.77:1. That’s the native aspect ratio of most movies, so if your monitor matches it you won’t see any stretching or compression of images. If the aspect ratio is not stated explicitly, divide the horizontal display pixels by the vertical display pixels, e. g. 1,920/1,080 = 1.77.

The refresh rate of a monitor is, loosely speaking, the number of times per second that the entire display area is updated. For old-fashioned, bulky Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitors, the minimum acceptable refresh rate was 60 Hz, or 60 times per second. Today’s flat-panel LCD monitors use a slightly different metric called the “frame rate,” expressed in frames (images) per second or fps. Most LCD displays are locked at 60 fps, which is adequate for comfortable, flicker-free viewing at resolutions up to 1,920 x 1,080. But 120 fps will make 4K content much more enjoyable. The trade-off is that a faster refresh rate makes hardware work harder and possibly fail sooner.

Computers and monitors often have multiple video I/O ports. Common port types are Display Port, HDMI, DVI, and VGA. A new monitor’s video input port must match the video output port on your computer, of course. Display Port is best for high-end resolutions, but the HDMI standard is the simplest and fastest connection widely incorporated in monitors and computers today. Avoid VGA, which is an older technology. Don’t let ports you’ll never use influence your monitor purchase.

Strings, Sealing Wax, and Other Fancy Stuff

If you run Windows 10, you may want a touchscreen monitor. But don’t get one if you normally sit at full arm’s length from the screen, or further. It’s just too awkward to use a touchscreen at great distance.

The monitor stand should be adjustable to the height and viewing angle that you prefer. Pay attention to have easily the stand can be adjusted, and how firmly it supports the monitor.

Higher-priced monitors may be packed with extras like speakers, front-panel display control buttons, or even all the components of a desktop PC. Buy what you need, not what’s on sale. The fewer things inside of a monitor, the fewer things that can cause overheating and early death.

Finally, read warranties carefully; a five-year warranty doesn’t help if it excludes dead pixels that develop after one year. Don’t buy third-party warranty extensions. They’re pushed so hard by sellers because they are extremely profitable, and they’re extremely profitable because hardly anyone ever qualifies for a replacement under their terms.

Personally, I’ve not found brand to be an important factor in computer monitors. Some people are loyal to ASUS, LG, Samsung, or other well-known brands, but I’ve had no-name monitors that have served me well. Pay attention to the specs I’ve mentioned above, and check consumer forums for experience with specific models before buying, and you’ll do fine.

Thanks Bob R for your input on this subject you rock!


Gacha creators frustrated by Second Life Oversight

(Image courtesy PocketGacha.)

Second Life, with a much bigger economy than that of OpenSim, also has a much bigger problem with copyright infringement than OpenSim.

For instance, copybotters have long been using specialized third party viewers to duplicate creators’ content and offer them for sale, lowering demand for the legitimate versions of the items and demoralizing creators.

More recently, content thieves have been exploiting a glitch to create illegal copies of products are reselling them.

These dupers may have cost creators and original owners thousands of dollars over the past two years, Oobleck Allagash, founder and creator of PocketGacha in Second Life, told Hypergrid Business.

This is a particularly vexing problem for the extremely popular Gacha ecosystem.

Gachas are vending machines that give customers random items, some more rare and valuable than others. Customers who get items they don’t want can trade them or sell them, creating a hot resale market and increasing the appeal of the Gatcha system.

“The best I can muster for a speculative look at this would be that tens of thousands of real life dollars were lost over the past two years,” he said. “That would be a significant blow to sales by creators, many of whom are one-person cottage industry artists whose livelihoods depend on every sale.”

Allagash recently discovered that items from his company were being resold without permission on the Second Life Marketplace. He discovered this by checking the back-end records for PocketGacha, a HUD-based system for merchants that tracks players and sales.

“It is an exploit that involves the person crashing a sim and duplicating a transfer item in unlimited amounts,” he said. “It duplicates perfectly with all the original aspects intact and the creator name the same.”

PocketGacha helps users to “buy on the fly” as they demo products and avoid lag issues in a crowded sim. Without PocketGacha, users would need to first gather demo items, go home, try them on, make a list and then go to find the items at the event to buy the ones they like.

For the past few years, Second Life has been lax in addressing the problem, said Allagash. The company has been reluctant to remove dupers from the ecosystem, and instead remove only the affected Gacha, but the duper remains in the ecosystem, and continues to re-post the removed Gacha.

“Many of these dupers have multiple DMCA take-downs of single sets yet continue as users and sellers without being banned or removed from the game,” he said.

That is beginning to change.

On Wednesday, Second Life banned one well known duper, an act Allagash applauds.

“We are very happy that in light of it taking time to patch all of the exploits Linden Lab is now taking steps to properly remove violators and a develop a stop gap to protect creator content,” he said.

The company said in post last month that they are continually creating new tools and discovering new techniques to solve this problem and have put in place techniques and methods that are bearing fruits. They also said their move to the cloud would allow introducing new products that would help stop the bad guys.

But while errors and glitches that allow copy of transfer items can occur, Linden Lab should, after two years, have come up with a method to identify and remove the bad actors from the grid, according to Allagash.

“Linden Lab has the ability to investigate the dupers and see within minutes irregularities with listings on Marketplace which have impossible quantities loaded for sale,” he said. “In addition, while an IP ban might not completely work, each person is required to have billing information and there are ways to regulate things with these obvious culprits.”

Being too aggressive about removing these sellers may hurt the bottom line, both in terms of resources spent addressing the problem, and in the form of lost revenues.

Linden Lab collects a five percent commission on all products sold in the Marketplace.

The behavior is also unwelcome and those doing it also hurt their creativity, another creator who has been in Second Life since 2003, Lupus Furyo, told Hypergrid Business.

“Second Life creators, just like any other, infuse their spirit in their digital creations, and it’s impossible to steal their work by just copying and selling their stuff,” he said. “That’s exactly what many people engaged in such activity never got right. One does not learn anything by following that kind of path in their life whether virtual or real”.

Meanwhile, High Fidelity has already rolled out Digital Asset Registry, a blockchain-based system that lets virtual world users attach digital certificates to their creations using digital fingerprints to secure item origins and unique ownership.

Item ownership will remain on the items regardless of where the items are distributed in the virtual world. There will also be a new cryptocurrency-based High Fidelity Coin that users can use to purchase products from the marketplace Avatar Island, and which can be traded on cryptocurrency exchanges.

Users can also offer their items for sale to other users on the Avatar Island.

Shop and Hop is Open! 60 Merchants, 60 Gifts, 3 Regions and Too Many Deals to Count!

Shop and Hop is Open! 60 Merchants, 60 Gifts, 3 Regions and Too Many Deals to Count!

The holiday hustle is in full effect – as we make mad dashes to finish up all of our holiday prep work and get ready for the influx of family, friends, and merriment – we also enjoy a little retail therapy!


We’re happy to celebrate the season with an epic shopping extravaganza! Sixty of Second Life’s Merchants with some of the most popular brands in Second Life have set up shop across three Regions  –  Golden, Gilded and Halcyon – each providing a FREE gift and some major discounts on their top-selling items! From now through January 1st, 2018 – drop by our Shop & Hop event inworld and take advantage of these incredible steals.

Several of our Merchants have extended their sales to their Marketplace stores – so be sure to check there as well for some additional deals and steals!

Shop & Hop Participating Merchants:

!APHORISM! / !Rebel Hope Designs / .{PSYCHO:Byts}. / .TeaBunny. / [ JUSTICE ] / [ west end ] / /*KC|Couture* / *YS&YS* / #adored / ~Tableau Vivant~ / ADRIATIC line / alaskametro<3 / alme. / amara beauty / Apple May / AZ Emporium / bella moda / Blueberry / by Crash / Cae / Canimal / Cheeky Pea / ChiC buildings – surrounds – prefabs – decor props and poses / CONSTRUCT / Contraption / Dictatorshop / Dynamic Evolutions / e l i a v a h ~ / E.V.E / Envious / etham / eXxEsS Hair / Fancy Decor / Grimes Central Design (GCD MESH) / Heart Trees Flowers Plants / hello dave / Hucci / ISON / Lapointe Bastchild / Lemon Chilliz / Lune Bleue / MadPea / Maven Homes / Maxi Gossamer / MOCO HOMES Emporium / Musa / Nani / Never Totally Dead … / New CHEZ MOI Furnitures / NOX. & Third Eye. / PATRON / Petit Chat / Potomac Signature Homes / ROC / Sweet Thing / The Forge & EZ / The Mesh Shop / Vanity Hair / www.studio-skye.com / zed designz / Zibska

Merchants Participating on the Marketplace Shop & Hop:

!APHORISM! / !Rebel Hope Designs / .TeaBunny. / [ JUSTICE ] / *KC|Couture* / *YS &YS* – YourSkin & YourShape / #adored / ADRIATIC line / alaskametro<3 / alme. / amara beauty & Zoul Creations / AZ Emporium /Bella Moda / by Crash / Cae / Canimal / Cheeky Pea / CHEZ MOI FURNITURES / ChiC buildings / CONSTRUCT / Dictatorshop / Dynamic Evolution Industries / E.V.E / Envious / Grimes Central Design / Heart Trees Flowers Plants / Hello Dave / Hucci / ISON / Lemon Chilliz / Lune~Bleue / MadPea / Maven Homes / Maxi Gossamer / MOCO HOMES Emporium / Never Totally Dead… / Petit Chat / Potomac Signature Homes /ROC / Studio Skye / Sweet Thing. / The Mesh Shop / Vanity Hair / Zibska / [ west end ] / ::ZED:: Designz for Men

Here Are 9 Good Reasons To Backup

It’s a great question… why should you bother to make backups? It’s especially understandable if you’ve never experienced any sort of data loss. But I’ve got a list of NINE reasons, some of which may surprise you. Read on for that list, and ANSWERS to some of the best questions I’ve received about backups…

Do I Really Need to Back Up My Files?

I’m passionate about making sure that important files — programs, documents, emails, contacts, music, photos, and financial records — are NEVER lost due to a data disaster.

My goal was (and is) to teach people how to make backups easily, inexpensively, and automatically.

And I’m excited because I believe that my plain English explanations and instructions will guide both advanced users and even the most non-technical readers to success with backups, and trigger a “Wow, that was easier than I thought!” response when they’re done.

Over the past years, I’ve received some really great questions about backups from Second life goers and customers alike so  I’m going to answer some of those questions here, but first, let’s get into my list of reasons why you need to make backups.

1) Hard drives don’t last forever. Studies on hard drive life expectancy show that 28% of hard drives will fail in the first four years, due to factory defects, random failures, and parts that wear out. Failures due to factory defects tend to happen in the first 18 months of service. How old is your hard drive, and how lucky do you feel?

2) Viruses, power surges, and natural disasters happen. — Ransomware is spreading like wildfire online. It will lock all your files, and permanently delete them if you don’t pay a hefty ransom within a few days. Power surges can scramble data or zap files. Fires, floods and F5 tornadoes can tear the stuffing right out of your shiny gadget.

3) Stuff gets lost or stolen. — Even the most reliable hardware and top-notch virus protection won’t help if your laptop, tablet or smartphone falls into unfriendly hands. Only a backup will save your bacon.

4) Mobile gadgets break or get wet. — Have you ever dropped your mobile phone in a dirty slush puddle, or treated it to a wash/spin/dry joyride? I have. Have you ever dropped your laptop, watched it fall in slow motion, hoping that it will survive the fall? Been there, too.

5) Passwords get lost. — You followed the advice of the experts to use unique, secure passwords for your computer and your online accounts. But then you forgot… was it “23456llbean” or “llbean23456”? Damn it!

6) Accounts are compromised or frozen. — Your password was “PASSWORD” and you’re surprised you got hacked? Sometimes for no discernible reason, people get locked out of their Gmail, Yahoo, Second Life, Facebook or other online accounts. Was it a software glitch, a denial of service attack, or did a hacker gain access to your account? You may never know. And without a backup, you may never again see your saved emails, contacts or files.

7) Data breaches are becoming commonplace. — Every week, it seems there’s another high-profile data breach, resulting in millions of usernames, passwords and other critical data becoming public. Yahoo, Target, Chase Bank, American Express, Home Depot, Apple, Sony, Equifax… who’s next, and how will it affect you?

8) Human error. — None of us are immune to the occasional finger fumble, brain freeze, or senior moment. Files or folders may be accidentally deleted, and sometimes you don’t notice until it’s too late.

9) Incorrect assumptions. — I’ve learned that some people just assume that their computer is automatically making backups. If you didn’t do something to make it happen, it’s not happening. And many users who have some sort of backup routine are not backing up the right files, or all the ones that need protection.

Your Backup Questions Answered

I’ve received hundreds of questions about backups  I can’t answer all of them here, but I’ll highlight some of the most interesting and common ones below:

Q: “Which free backup software do you recommend? Also, which paid one do you recommend, as NORTON and ACRONIS are surprisingly problematic?”

A: My current favorite is Macrium Reflect. There’s a free version which is quite good, and a paid version that adds some extra features I like. Windows 7 includes the Backup and Restore feature, but I find it a bit clunky. If you have Windows 10, the File History feature is a really good option. I used Acronis True Image (paid software) for years, but the recent versions have become bloated and buggy. Lots of people tell me they like Easeus Todo Backup and AOMEI Backupper (both free) but I’ve not used either one enough to recommend them.

Q: “What exactly is ‘The Cloud,’ and how safe is it?”

A: Cloud storage or cloud backup refers to files that are stored on an Internet website (sometimes called a server) instead of your computer’s hard drive or other local storage. The term “cloud” is used to create the impression of a giant hard drive in the sky, which provides convenient access to files that reside on the Internet. Examples of cloud storage providers are Google Drive, Dropbox, Mozy and Carbonite.

I maintain that data stored in the cloud is MUCH safer than files stored on a local hard drive. Do you use 256-bit encryption for your sensitive files at home? Do you have a staff of highly-trained professionals constantly monitoring your computer for break-in attempts? How about strong physical security that includes gated perimeter access, 24×7 on-site security guards, and security cameras? Do you have a fire detection and suppression system, backup power, and a disaster recovery plan in the event of hurricane, flood or earthquake? You can bet your cloud storage provider has all that and more in place to safeguard your data. It’s probably much easier for the NSA to hack into your home computer than to get into any one of these cloud servers. Some people point to all the high-profile breaches reported in the news, but it’s important to note that none of those compromised companies were cloud service providers, who focus on data security above all else.

Q: “What is the difference between full system and data backup? What is the difference between what *should* be backed up and what *must* be backed up?”

A: In a nutshell, a full system backup (or image backup) includes everything on your hard drive — the operating system, program files, and your personal files. A data backup usually refers to a backup that only includes personal files such as documents, spreadsheets, music, photos, etc. That’s better than no backup at all, but my recommendation is to make regular image backups, followed up with a series of “incremental backups” that catch any changes since the full image backup.

Q: “If I get hit with ransomware or other malware, will that also affect the backups on my external hard drive, thus making recovery impossible?”

A: Yes, that can happen. That’s why I recommend backing up your backup. One way is to have two external drives, which you swap out weekly or monthly. That’s unfortunately a manual process, but I will discuss this in future post.

I Object!

I’ve heard lots of reasons for not doing backups. The most common one is “I’ll do nothing and HOPE for the best.” But there’s a problem with that. (Actually 9 problems, see above.) HOPE is the strategy of the fearful, the uninformed, and the procrastinator. In this case, “doing nothing” is almost certain to lead to disaster. BUT… if you knew you could protect ALL your information on ALL your devices with little or no expense, and make it happen automatically, wouldn’t that be great? Wouldn’t it be awesome to have CONFIDENCE instead of HOPE?

Other people say “Backups are too complicated or time consuming.” That might have been true 10 or 15 years ago. My first backup system used a tape drive that took forever to run, was prone to error, and was hard to set up. After that, I tried making backups on diskettes, CDs and DVDs. That was a hassle, and I never remembered to do it as often as I should have. But today we have “plug and play” devices that will start making automatic backups as soon as you plug them into your computer. Getting started with an online backup service is almost as easy, and both options can be configured to run at night, or when your computer is idle.

Another one I hear often is “Backups are too expensive.” As I mentioned earlier, there are some really good free backup software options, and some clever ways to access gobs of free online storage. Don’t trust your data in the cloud? A 500 gigabyte external hard drive costs less than $45 now. Still too expensive? How about a 128GB USB flash drive for about $15?


Have a Great Week

ZoHa Islands Staff

Have you ever wanted to pummel a Linden with a Snowball? Here’s your chance!

Holidays have traditions – the gathering of families, the giving of gifts, the food and merriment, and – in our case – the Linden/Resident Snowball Showdown! This is your chance to arm yourself with some sweet snow-slinging artillery, take to the sparkling ice, and attack your friends, fellow Residents, and some Lindens with snowballs galore! But, you had better be prepared to get pummeled in return, because much of the joy of the holidays is giving – even if that means giving someone a snowball sandwich when they are least expecting it. Join us at the Snowball Fight Arena on Friday – December 15th from 11 am to 1 pm (SLT) and prepare to get pummeled!

Take a break from checking off your list, and have some fun at Winter Wonderland !

Settle in with a warm beverage and your favorite blanket, because we have a trove of twinkling winter treats to share.


Holiday delights are some of the best, and your journey begins in the Village of Lights – a quaint little town with spectacular lights, that buzzes with the charm and warmth of the season! Click the red gift packages that you encounter here for some freebies and gifts to enjoy. Once an hour, the Village of Lights pulls out all the stops for a spectacular fireworks show you don’t want to miss and most certainly will want to share with a special someone.

While the scheduled Linden and Resident Snowball Showdown isn’t happening until December 15th – the arena is fully loaded with snow, snowball arsenal and some ‘capture the flag’ type castles for you to get lots of practice and training in! Many an epic snowball showdown (and one pumpkin smash fight!) have graced these fair lands – and this year will prove to be among the most epic! Grab a few friends and family members, and make some memories!

Attention thrill-seekers:this may be just the spot for you! Grab a snowboard and/or snowmobile from the nearby vendors and hit the icy slopes at high speeds! Swish and whoosh as you through the glinting snow tracks. Be sure to hold on tight as you race other Residents to the finish line.

Glide with the grace of a swan across the frozen lake at the Ice Skate Arena – we’ll even provide the skates –  free from nearby vendors. This romantic spot is the perfect place to take your sweetheart for a spin before some hot cocoa and a snuggle at the ferris wheel.

The Linden Department of Public Works did an incredible job on creating breath-taking views all over Winter Wonderland, and you will be hard-pressed to find one better than the romantic view gleaned from atop the Ferris Wheel.  Have your snapshot finger ready, and your special someone at your side because between the lights, sights, and delights of the fireworks show, you are sure to witness some magical moments you’ll want to preserve.

Stay tuned for more wintery fun to come – and watch this blog for info about our upcoming inworld holiday shopping event, and much more.

See you in the snow! (I promise that’s not a snowball bazooka I am hiding behind my back).

Have You Been Phished?


Phishing, the art of getting users to click on malicious links in bogus emails, is the favorite tool of scammers, by far. The reason is, phishing works. Scammers are getting better are slipping their phishes through spam filters and past anti-malware software. Ironically, the successful campaign to raise users’ awareness of online security hazards is making phishing more successful. Read on to learn about the latest phishing developments…

The Latest Phishing Baits

The irony is that increased awareness of phishing techniques has driven scammers to adopt techniques that are more sophisticated, and often more successful. Since January, 2017, a phish email targeting Netflix subscribers has been highly successful. The email tells dismayed users that their Netflix account has been suspended. It says the account can be restored by updating payment information, and provides a link to a page where the user can log in and update said info.

Of course, that link actually takes the user to a fake Netflix login page, and from there into a series of forms that demand ever more sensitive personal information. If you take the bait, your account password (and any other information you provide) is sent directly to Hacker HQ.

Several things stand out about the Netflix phish. First, its creators have gone to great trouble to replicate familiar Netflix pages almost exactly; there’s even a background image on the login screen that promotes recent Netflix’s original content. Second, the phishing site to which users get connected encrypts the HTML of fake pages it sends to victims, making it impossible for anti-malware apps to scan it for suspicious code.

A third line of defense for the scammers is that the pages won’t load for IP addresses that belong to Internet security monitoring groups, like Google, or the anti-phishing initiative Phish Tank. This trick keeps the Netflix scam sites off the blacklists of real-time Web monitoring services.

Phishers also evade detection by hacking into well-known, reputable sites and hosting their fake pages there. A fake page delivered from a reputable site will not be flagged by Web reputation services like Google’s Safe Browsing or the Norton SafeWeb service.

And of course, scammers are not interested only in your Netflix account, The same techniques are being used by phishes that purport to be Second Life, big banks, online publications, email services, and social media sites. Paypal, eBay, Facebook and Capital One bank have long been targets of phishers. But more recently there has been a focus by phishers on your Apple ID, Microsoft Outlook and Google Drive credentials. Be especially careful when dealing with online document signing services.

Simple Things You Can Do To Avoid Phishing Traps

Use the phone. Yes, it’s old school, but a quick call to your friend, mortgage broker, attorney, customer service, or the bank’s security department can confirm if an email is legit or not.

Don’t re-use a password on multiple sites. Use a password manager such as RoboForm to generate strong passwords and audit your entire database of passwords for duplicates. If you use the same password everywhere, it takes just one phish to open all of the doors to your digital life.

Confirm the apparent sender really is sending from the right email address (e. g., john@doe.com if you know that’s John’s address). In Gmail, you can do that by opening the email, clicking the down-arrow in the upper right corner, and selecting “Show original” to find the “From:” line. But just because a message comes from someone you know, that doesn’t mean it’s safe to open links in it. Your friend’s email account may have been compromised, spewing malicious emails to all of his or her contacts. (See “use the phone” above.)

Hover over an email link, and its full URL should appear. Does it lead to where it should, based on where the email seems to originate? An alert from Netflix.com should not steer you to a page hosted on some other website. When in doubt, don’t click a link in an email. Instead, go directly to the site via a browser bookmark, or by manually entering the URL.

Beware of email subjects that urge you to take action immediately. Phishers don’t want you to take time to think, or to research their bogus domains. “Panic” or alarm makes people act hastily, so it’s no surprise that the most successful phishing email subject lines include “SECURITY ALERT,” “REVISED VACATION & SICK LEAVE POLICY,” “PASSWORD CHECK REQUIRED IMMEDIATELY,” and the straightforward “URGENT ACTION REQUIRED.” The use of all-caps is deliberate, as it induces the adrenaline rush that comes with being shouted at.

Be careful with shortened URLs. Text messages that contain short URLs are another type of phish that targets mobile devices. Much to my alarm, I cannot find any simple way to preview the full URL represented by a shortened URL such as https://goo.gl/uNEbdN or http://bit.ly/2iT3S5y — it just takes me directly to its target, which may be a phishing trap. (Those examples are both shortcuts to AskBobRankin.com.) (You can do a “long press” on the message, then select “Copy text” and paste the URL into CheckShortURL.com/, but that’s a bit tedious.)

Let’s Review Some Perennial Favorite Holiday Phishing Scams

The fake invoice: invoices are hardly surprising during the busy shopping season, especially if it seems like something you’d buy as a gift. You may be inclined to click to see exactly what you’re being asked to pay, but that click may lead to a malicious download.

Shipping status notifications: a “click here to learn about the delay in your shipment” often works.

Unbelievable bargains, or even believable ones, appeal to greed, which is always unthinkingly in a hurry to be satisfied. “Hurry, only one hour left!” “Last one, on sale for 90% off!” is another good one.

Fake surveys promise some sort of reward for completing them. They start out innocently, asking reasonable questions about your shopping habits. But the questions get more and more personal, leading to requests for your name, address, phone number, and even credit card data (to defray shipping charges). If the questions get personal, it’s time to stop. Let that “reward” go.

Bottom line: Bad guys are getting better at evading all sorts of anti-phishing defenses, and at crafting bait that people will take. Ultimately, the best defense is your own thinking skills and common sense.

Have A Great Week and Be Safe This Holiday Season!

Deuce Marjeta and The Zi Staff