Weekly Tech News Roundup 10/4/2017

US Privacy bill sparks shady VPN operators into action, ACCC puts ISPs on notice then goes on to warn about dodgy internet popups.

It is all about dodgy dealings this week starting with the panic surrounding the recent scrapping of Internet Privacy Laws.

With the Trump Administration recently scrapping internet privacy laws that allow ISPs to sell subscriber data to third parties, US citizens have been up in arms over the change and scrambling to secure their connection to the internet by using Virtual Private Networks.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a service that creates and encrypted channel between two points making it impossible if not incredibly hard for third parties to eavesdrop on an internet connection.
Problem is that when you start using a VPN, you are effectively signing over all your online data to a service that you now implicitly trust to act in your best interest. As “luck” would have it, the internet is not the squeaky clean place we expect it to be and there are people out there looking to make a quick buck with honesty slipping way down the list of priorities. The latest to come across my newsfeed is the bewildering case of MySafeVPN (which is now closed up) covered in this post.

In the post I provide a couple of recommendations for your consideration as they have been operating for a long time and have a reputation for being trustworthy.

ACCC promises to take ISPs to task over misrepresented speeds.

It is a story that is all too common these days. I get so many calls from listeners and customers that say that the internet service they are paying for is not meeting expectations based on advertised performance.

The Federal Government has allocated AUD$7 million to the ACCC to investigate consumer complaints of ISP services falling short of expectations and to set up a monitoring program where around 4000 subscribers participating in the program will install devices on their network to keep tabs on internet speeds. This data will be collated and then published online for consumers to weigh up the price and performance trade off when selecting an ISP.

In my mind, this is a great step forward that removes some of the uncertainty of performance but I am still concerned that 4000 monitors will not be enough for the whole nation as local conditions can play a big part in real world performance. I would personally like to see 4000 monitoring devices in each state with the ability to break down performance by suburb or town.

Still, it is a positive step for the subscriber to actually quantify the service they are paying for.

Look out for dodgy popups – ACCC

In other news, the ACCC has issued a warning to people about internet popups alerting users to viruses or computer issues while on the internet. These unsolicited popups are a ruse that aims to trick users into installing software that is at best ineffective and at worst downright malicious.

Unfortunately, I get a few of these calls every week when someone is browsing the internet and suddenly they are faced with a warning about a possible security threat or virus may be on their computer. The popup also directs the user to call a “Windows Support” helpdesk that claims to be able to resolve the issue. This is complete bunk.

This is an outright scam and often leads to very bad experiences with identity theft, viruses, ransomware, fake support contracts and all matter of misadventure.

On average, 300 reports a month totalling more than $41000 have been recorded by Scamwatch Australia and the most common target in Australia is adults over the age of 45.

The popups seem to freeze your computer and the close buttons for the popup windows are often disabled causing users to panic.

In most cases, simply restarting your computer resolves the issue and taking note of where you were when the popup and avoiding that site again may reduce the risk of the popup returning.