Consumer advice: WhatsApp? Well, malicious spyware attack, perhaps

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If you use WhatsApp and received a notice to update your software, don’t ignore it. Facebook has confirmed that malicious hackers were able to install spyware on Android Smartphones and Apple iPhones. Now Facebook is urging its 1.5 billion users to immediately update their software to the latest version of the app where the breach has supposedly been fixed.

According to reports, WhatsApp security breach showed signs of coming from a government using surveillance technology developed by a private company. This is concerning because the company surveillance software could be installed remotely on a user’s phone by calling them over the internet on VOIP (voice over internet protocol). This spyware reportedly takes over the functions of mobile phone operating systems.

WhatsApp has reported that it has notified the U.S. Department of Justice to help with an investigation.

In addition, earlier this month, WhatsApp identified and fixed a vulnerability that could enable a hacker to add spyware to devices. What’s more, the advice to change your password or use two-factor authentication would not have protected the users against this WhatsApp flaw.

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WAR ON ROBOCALLS UPDATE: Here’s an eye-opening statistic: The state of Idaho has about 1.7 million people and our state alone logged about 250 million robocalls last year. According to the math, that means each person received 147 calls. Since not everyone has a phone, it’s no wonder we’re getting inundated with these annoying calls.

The internet has made it incredibly cheap and easy to place thousands of calls in an instant. Many readers have complained that simply ignoring unknown calls isn’t always a good option since they may be waiting for a healthcare provider to call them and might not have that number in their contact list. Missing these calls can be frustrating because now they have to wait for a call back.

Unfortunately, waiting around for big telecom and regulators to solve the robocall problem is not a good option. Also, criminals can’t be legislated since by definition they are law breakers, which means legislators are no help when it comes to combating robocallers. So what’s the answer? A variety of apps and phone services that can help you block and filter these annoying calls.

Most of the major cellphone and landline carriers offer some form of spam-fighting technology, so call them and get signed up. There are some Apps available that offer robocall relief. A few examples are Hiya, Nomorobo, RoboKiller, YouMail, TNS and Truecaller. While none of these solutions is 100 percent effective, some studies have reported that they can offer up to 66 percent relief. That means if you’re getting 30 calls a day, they might filter out 20.

Get on or get back on the Do Not Call List. If it has been a few years since you signed up, it’s a good idea to sign up again.

Finally, if you aren’t able to ignore a suspicious call and it turns out to be a robocaller, hang up as quickly as you can without pressing any buttons.

A cure isn’t possible just yet. A little relief is the best we can hope for.

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AVOIDING TECH SUPPORT SCAMS: Several readers have recently been targeted by tech scam callers. Here are a few tips to stay safe.

If someone calls you unsolicited, be careful. Never give control of your computer to a third party who has called you. It’s likely they’ll install malware on your computer to steal your personal information.

Never give anyone your passwords. Remember, no legitimate company will ask you for your passwords over the phone. Never click on any link you weren’t expecting. Finally, if you haven’t signed up for the Do Not Call registry, you need to, and if you aren’t sure, sign up again. You can go online to www.donotcall.gov to register.

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POP-UP BANK ADS: A Hayden reader said he received several pop-up ads on his computer. The pop-ups say they’re from his bank and there is a problem with a recent deposit. Of course, the pop-up just said this is from “your bank” (not the actual bank name) and listed an amount of $642,000 to get the reader to click on the link. He didn’t take the bait; he just wanted to warn other readers about this pop-up.

Be careful out there. This is a phishing scam designed to get you to click on the link. Ignore it.

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Remember: I’m on your side.

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If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. Please include your name and a phone number or email. I’m a full-time copywriter working with businesses on market messaging, a columnist and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.

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