Avoid Ransom Requests with a Unique iCloud Password

There have been reports from people whose Macs have been locked remotely via Find My Mac, with the criminals responsible holding access to the Mac hostage until they receive a ransom in Bitcoin. First, if this happens to you, do not pay the ransom! Any Apple Authorized Service Provider (like MacLife) or Apple Store can unlock your Mac for you if you bring it in and provide proof of purchase. Second, if you ever used your iCloud password on another site, change it immediately, since if that site was hacked, your iCloud account is now vulnerable. Unfortunately, Apple’s two-factor authentication, which is otherwise great, does not currently protect against this problem.

 

How to Print Labels for Your Holiday Cards with Apple’s Contacts App

If mailing your holiday cards (which you printed from Photos, right?) is made harder by having to write addresses on envelopes, you can skip the handwriting step this year with mailing labels. Although many people don’t realize this, it’s easy to print mailing labels on standard label stock using the Contacts app on the Mac. You can even add a personal touch by including a graphic and using a custom color and font choice. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. In Contacts, choose File > New Group to create an empty group into which you can collect your card recipients. Name the group something like Holiday Cards.
  2. Click All Contacts to see your full collection of contacts, and then drag your recipients from the center column to the Holiday Cards group. Note that you have to click and hold briefly before Contacts lets you start dragging a contact; if you drag too soon, Contacts assumes you want to select more contacts. You can drag contacts one at a time or select several at once and drag the entire selection. This doesn’t move contacts out of All Contacts—you’re just adding them to the Holiday Cards group, which functions much like an iTunes playlist.

  3. Once the Holiday Cards group is populated with all your recipients, click its name in the sidebar, and then choose File > Print to open the Print dialog.
  4. To set up your cards, you need to see details in the Print dialog, so at the bottom of the Print dialog, click the Show Details button (if it’s already called Hide Details, you’re all set). You also need to see the special controls for Contacts, so make sure Contacts is chosen from the pop-up menu underneath the page range fields. Then from the Style pop-up menu, choose Mailing Labels.

  5. Beneath the Style pop-up menu, make sure Layout is selected, and then in the Layout view, from the Page pop-up menus, choose the manufacturer of your labels and the number associated with the labels. (Avery 5160 is the most common label type and is readily available at office supply stores and online.)
  6. Click Label to switch to the Label view. From the Addresses pop-up menu, choose the type of address you’re using. Home is likely the most appropriate; if you choose All, Contacts will print both Home and Work addresses if available. You can also choose to print company and country here, and if you print country, you can exclude your own country, which makes it easy to include overseas friends and relatives without printing the country for most people.

  7. Although the defaults are fine, if you want, you can change the color of the label text, select a small image to print next to each contact, and change the font.
  8. It’s time to print, but not on your label stock just yet! Click the Print button to print a draft of your labels on plain paper. You’ll use this draft for two things—checking the addresses for accuracy and verifying that the labels will print properly on the label stock.

    To check if the labels will print correctly, stack a page from the draft on top of a sheet of blank labels, and then hold them up to a bright light or sunlit window. You should be able to see whether the positioning is right—it should be in most cases. If not, make sure you’ve chosen the right label in the Print dialog, and if all else fails, create a custom label with your own margins and gutters to make it work.
  9. Once you’ve fixed addresses for everyone who has moved recently and verified your positioning, you can print for real on your label stock.

That’s it! Most of the work comes in selecting people, making sure their addresses are right, and updating those that have changed—actually printing labels takes only a few minutes. As you stick your labels on envelopes, you can revel in the knowledge that it will go even faster next year!

 

Watch Out for Phishing Attacks Hidden in Your Email

One of the most important things you can do to stay safe on the Internet is to be careful while reading email. That’s because online criminals know that we’re all busy, and we often don’t pay enough attention to what we’re reading or where we’re clicking.

To take advantage of our inattention, these Internet information thieves forge email messages to look like they come from the likes of Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, along with well-known banks, payment services, retailers, and even government agencies. Even more dangerous are messages that appear to come from a trusted individual and include personal details—these messages are often targeted at executives and company managers. Generally speaking, these attacks are called phishing—you can see examples here.

The goal? Get you to click a link in the message and visit a malicious Web site. That site usually continues to masquerade as being run by a company or organization you trust. Its aim is to sucker you into revealing confidential information by asking you to log in, pay for a product or service, or fill out a survey. The site—or an attachment in the email message—might also try to install malware. Although macOS is quite secure, if you approve security prompts, it can still be infected.

Although phishing is a huge problem that costs businesses hundreds of millions of dollars every year, you can easily identify phishing messages by looking for telltale signs:

  • Be suspicious of email messages, particularly from people you don’t know or from well-known companies, that ask you to click a link and do something with an online account.
  • Look closely at email addresses and URLs (hover the pointer over a link to see the underlying URL). Phishing messages don’t use official domains, so instead of paypal.com, the addresses and links might use paypa1.com—close enough to pass a quick glance, but clearly a fake.
  • Watch out for highly emotional or urgent requests. They’re designed to make you act without thinking. Take any such messages with a grain of salt.
  • Channel your inner English teacher and look for poor grammar or odd phrasing, which are red flags for phishing messages. Email from real companies may not be perfect, but it won’t have multiple egregious errors.

So what do you do if you get a message that may be phishing for sensitive information? Most of the time you can just ignore it. If you’re worried that it might be legit, instead of clicking any links in the message, navigate to the site in question manually by typing the organization’s URL into your browser—use a URL that you know to be correct, not the one in the email message. Whatever you do, do not open attachments that you aren’t expecting and never send confidential information via email.

If you think you’ve fallen prey to a phishing attack and given away a password, you’ll want to change passwords on any affected accounts. If you’ve opened any attachments or approved any installs, run anti-malware software to determine whether your Mac has been infected. Contact us if you need help. And remember, regular backups protect you from a multitude of sins.

 

How to Get Back to Siri’s Web Results Quickly

Ask Siri to search the Web and you’ll get five results back from Google (not Bing anymore!). Tap one and it opens in Safari. But what if that page doesn’t contain the information you want? How do you get back to Siri’s results? The easy way is to tap the little Siri button that appears in the top-left of the screen. Or activate Siri again, but instead of speaking, swipe down on the screen until “What can I help you with?” disappears and your recent Siri queries appear with your last search results in view.

How to Avoid Downer Stories in Apple’s “For You” News Suggestions

If the For You section of Apple’s iOS News app overwhelms you with stories that are boring, depressing, or offensive, you can clamp down on it with a new setting in iOS 11. Go to Settings > News and enable Restrict Stories in For You. From then on, most stories in For You will come only from channels you follow. That setting also removes Top Stories, Trending Stories, and Featured Stories, since they rely on publications you may not like. (To follow a publication’s channel, in the News app, tap the publication’s name at the top of a story and then tap its heart icon. Verify your selections in the Following section, accessed by tapping Following at the bottom of the main News screen. Be aware that News may still suggest unwanted topics; you can delete those in Following too.)