Spam

Ringless Spam (Voicemail)

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Maybe I am way too optimistic, but I refuse to believe that something as personally intrusive as ringless voicemail could ever be allowed for use by telemarketers. In case you haven't heard about this news story, there is a marketing firm called "All About the Message LLC" that is petitioning the FCC to allow the "ringless voicemail" cellular technology to be used by telemarketers. So what is ringless voicemail? Ringless voicemail is a feature that is built into most cell carrier's systems to allow someone (someone who knows your cell phone number) to leave you a voicemail without ever ringing your cell phone. An unsolicited message you can do absolutely nothing about...just like email spam. Except, its actually worse. With email you can setup filters and rules and block email senders, but since ringless voicemail is essentially a back door built into the cell carrier's systems we the end user have ZERO control over it.

So how would this work? If the FCC were to allow marketing groups (cough spammers) to use this technology to leave consumers messages they could essentially robo-dial your cell phone and leave you a large number of pre-recorded messages as voicemails without ever ringing your cell phone. You would just pick up your cell phone and suddenly you would have new voicemails. Lets take this one step further. Let's say you have debt collectors after you (or worse, you have a debt collection company that keeps calling you thinking you are someone else). That debt collection company could essentially fill up your voicemail with messages using an automated system essentially hijacking your voicemail and making it useless. So if you were to get, you know an actual important phone call and not be able to pick up the phone, the caller couldn't leave a message because your voicemail inbox is full.

Then there is the data side of the issue. These voicemails require data. So if you are NOT on wifi and you have to listen to or view and delete a bunch of these spam voicemails you are going to be chewing up your cellular data. Remember this is data that YOU are paying for, the sketchy companies leaving you all of these unwanted messages are doing this for free. I bring this up because one of the arguments that these telemarketing groups are using to push for this is freedom of speech. They are claiming that if they aren't allowed to do this it would be a violation of free speech. Maybe these guys don't missed the "free" part of the freedom of speech term. If they want to offer to pay my monthly cell phone bill for the privilege of having direct and unrestricted access to my voicemail inbox then I say let them make that offer. I'm sure quite a few people would love to take them up on that. But they want YOU to pay for them to have that access. Voicemail requires a cellular service and data, so it isn't free. So I can't see how they can argue freedom of speech. We aren't silencing them, they can speak all they want. They just can't do it without our permission. That would be like saying we are required to allow a total stranger into our house because he or she has something they want to say and we can't take away their freedom of speech. As US citizens we also have a right to privacy and allowing companies access to our voicemails would trounce all over it.

As with everything, there is another side to this story. The proponents to ringless voicemail say that it would reduce phone calls from telemarketers at dinner and it would give consumers who want targeted messages from companies a more direct and less disruptive way of receiving those messages. That does make at least some sense. After all, a ringing phone is very disruptive. But these companies have already shown they lack self control and respect (at least enough of them to give telemarketers a really bad name). If you give marketing companies uncontrolled access to our voicemail systems the will take advantage of it, all while we continue to pay for the data that enables that access.

So what's next? The FCC gave companies and individuals until today (Friday June 2 2017) to give them feedback on this proposal by All About the Message LLC. The Mac Observer has a short article that explains how to send a message to the FCC so you can give them your opinion about this proposal.

I love my smartphone, but if the FCC allows companies to spam my voicemail unchecked then I will be tossing my smartphone in the nearest pond and never looking back. Honestly, I can see something like this spurring a whole new industry or device. A connected smart device that is everything BUT a phone. A connected handheld tablet with a cellular data plan but no phone service. With Skype, audio only FaceTime and iMessage on an iPhone you really don't need a full cell phone anymore. So be careful FCC, you may unintentionally kill off an entire industry if you aren't careful.

Don't Fall For a Convincing Apple Phishing Email

I just received what looks like an email from Apple telling me that there is some kind of billing error with my account. If you get an email like this one DELETE IT IMMEDIATELY!

A snapshot of the phishing attempt email I received

A snapshot of the phishing attempt email I received

So how am I so sure this is not a legitimate email from Apple? The main tell here is that there is a link in the email and the email is asking you to click that link to give them additional information. Any legitimate company that has any experience in professional email communications knows that you don't provide links to secure websites from which you are wanting financial or personal information from the person recieving the email. Instead, you direct the person to navigate to their online account themselves. If you hover over the "My Apple Login" button in the email you will see that it exposes a web link that is definitely NOT to a secure Apple website.

"Footboussens" is definitely NOT Apple.com.

"Footboussens" is definitely NOT Apple.com.

Please pass this along to anyone you know that may not think twice before clicking the link in an email like this. You may just save them a ton of heartache and money...

Oh, and just for the record...iCloud calendar spammers and email spammers suck!

How to stop iCloud Calendar Spam

UPDATE Dec 11, 2016: Apple has updated the calendar app to allow users to report calendar items as spam, which will remove said spam from your calendar and alert Apple with details about the spammer. MacStories has a great article that goes into more details about these brand new features.

Feel free to read my original article below, but with Apple's new fix the temporary fix detailed below is no longer needed...

I had a first this week...I received my first ever iCloud calendar invite spam. What the hell is that you say?

Just what we need, spam in our calendars... 

Just what we need, spam in our calendars... 

Needless to say, I didn't create a calendar item to remind me to go buy Oakley or Ray-Ban sunglasses over the next couple of days. No, I was the victim of calendar spam. It's essentially email spam, but a lot more devious. You see, these spammers have figured out a weakness in Apple's iCloud calendar settings. By default when you are sent an invitation to your iCloud account it is automatically added to your calendar. For someone that isn't used to dealing with corporate calendar systems this is actually a really nice feature because you don't have to understand or even care about what a calendar invite is. That is until you get spammed.

So here is how it works. Somehow some spammer out on the internet has found a bunch of iCloud email addresses. They then send out calendar invites to those iCloud addresses. Not emails mind you, just calendar invites. Because the default settings on the iCloud calendar automatically accepts all calendar invites and adds them to your calendar, this event and any alerts associated with the event just show up on your calendar. If you do anything to the calendar item (accept or decline) you are essentially telling that spammer that they found an active account...so don't do anything. Leave the invite where it is and make a very simple change to your iCloud calendar settings. Here is how you do it:

  1. Go to icloud.com and login to your iCloud account
  2. Navigate to the Calendar App
  3. Click in the settings (gear icon) in the lower left of the screen
  4. Select "Preference" from the menu
  5. Select the "Advanced" tab
  6. Under the "Invitations" section select the "Email to" options (see the screenshot below)
By selecting the "Email to" option you are turning off the ability for calendar invites to be automatically added to your calendar...now you get to choose. 

By selecting the "Email to" option you are turning off the ability for calendar invites to be automatically added to your calendar...now you get to choose. 

To be clear, by making this change to your iCloud calendar settings you are keeping this sort of thing from happening in the future. This doesn't get rid of your current calendar spam. I would suggest just leaving the spam event as-is so you don't alert the spammer on the other end that you are a valid and active iCloud account. With the changes you have just made, all future calendar invites you receive will come in the form of an email now. This does two things. It will give you the option to accept the invite (which adds it to your calendar) or ignore it (and it won't get added to your calendar). The other thing it does is it now exposes any calendar invites you receive to Apple's spam filters which will most likely block these types of invites.

So enjoy your spam free iCloud calendar and let me know if you are in the market for some sunglasses...

Update...a few days after I originally wrote this post an article from The Sweet Setup showed up in my RSS feed and it highlighted a method covered over on tom's guide about how to safetly delete a spam invite. So now, not only can you prevent this from hapenning in the future you can also nuke the spam you already have (and this method doens't alert the spammer that you have done it). Here is how to do it:

  1. Go into the Calendars app and select the "Calendars" button (which is at the bottom of the screen on iOS and at the top left on the Mac)
  2. Select "Edit" (to add a calendar on the Mac select "File" from the menu and then "New Calendar")
  3. Select "Add Calendar"
  4. Name the new calendar something fun like "Spam Sucks", not because you need to but because it might make you feel better
  5. Go into the spam invitiation (or invitations if you are cursed enough to have multiple) and tap "Calendar" above the "Invitation From" section of the invite.
  6. Select the new "Spam Sucks" calendar you just created
  7. Go back to the "Calendars" button in Step 1
  8. Select the "i" next to the "Spam Sucks" calendar
  9. Select "Delete Calendar" at the bottom of page
  10. Confirm that you want to delete the calendar by selecting "Delete Calendar"

Now pat yourself on the back because killing spam is hard work! Hopefully Apple will get on this and fix this loophole that spammers have started to take advantage of, because 10 steps to get rid of calendar spam is 10 steps too many.

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