Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Physical Protection Against Ransomware

By now I am sure we all realize that besides infecting your main hard drive(s), that Ransomware also will find and infect your backups. Most of us use USB drives or Network Shares for backups. But if you are backing up infected files what good are they?

Best practice is to physically disconnect your backup drive(s) while not in use. You can always just disconnect your USB drives.

My solution is the KF-255-BK from KingWin. It's a rack that installs in your computer - in which you can insert a 2.5", 3.5" Hard Drive or SSD. Best of all it's a hot swap device with an on/off switch. Insert a drive - run your back up then turn the drive off with one button and remove the drive. If your system is infected - your backups are safe. It's also easy to use old unused drives as redundant backups for your data - and easy to encrypt the drive (BitLocker or other) and toss in the trunk of my car for an off-site backup.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Kick Up your Spectrum Phone

Many of us have Spectrum (formerly Time Warner) phones included with our Cable TV plans, but practically no one uses any of the great features.

You can block unwanted calls, setup distinctive ringing, get notified when you have new voicemail (yes - you have voice mail), use call forwarding, speed dialing and even more.

Just log in to your spectrum account - click on MyPhone and look for settings and the fun begins.

  • Accept Selected Callers
  • Block Anonymous Calls
  • Block Outbound Caller ID
  • Block Unwanted Callers
  • Call Waiting Options
  • Call Waiting to Voicemail
  • Forward All Calls
  • Forward Calls after No Answer
  • Forward Select Calls
  • Nomorobo
  • Phone2Go App 
  • Receive Voicemail via text or email
  • Simultaneous Rings
  • Speed Dial
  • Three-Way Calling Options
  • VIP Ring
  • View your Voicemail online
My favorite is VIP calling and Nomorobo. VIP calling allows you to specify that when calls come from specified numbers you will hear two short rings instead of the normal ring. Also, you will hear a special call waiting tone when a VIP calls.  My other favorite is Nomorobo and I covered that in another post.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Reliable VoIP Phone for a One Time Cost of Under $30

Configuring a VoIP phone system in your home or office is one of the most useful projects you can do. Best of all, it will cost you a one-time total fee of about $26 for a reliable, clear phone line with free long distance and other features such as voicemail and voicemail to text. I’ve used this setup for months and have had no issues whatsoever. Truly a set and forget it technology - great for a primary phone, a second line or dedicated phone for your business or kids.

This is not for the technically timid, but it's not that difficult to set up.

You’ll need a Google Voice Line (free), an account on Simon Telephonics ($5.99 for life) and an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) (around $20).
Grandstream ATA Box

Getting a Google Voice (GV) line is pretty easy - just create a Google Account, log on and head over to and create your account. You’ll have a chance to pick an area code and your own number. This is your chance to pick a memorable phone number. For example, 315-4A-LAWYER - most interesting phonetical phone numbers are taken, but it’s worth it to give this some thought before getting your number.

Now that you have your GV line, it’s time to convert it to a standard SIP connection. Head over to Simon Telephonics, click on the Google Voice Gateway, sign in using your Google account, pay your $5.99 and your SIP credentials will appear. These are good for life.

Next, you need to obtain an Analog Telephone Adapter. We used a Grandstream HandyTone HT-286 (no longer made), but the newer HT-701 is available on eBay for around $20. Basically, it’s the same thing. You can use any ATA, but we used the Grandstream and also Cisco SPA122 and have had very good results.

Connect the ATA to your router using a cable, plug in any old analog phone and of course, it’ll need power. You’ll need to determine the IP of the ATA. With the Grandstream unit just press “***” then “02” and it will announce the IP to you.

Get on your web browser on the same network as the ATA and enter the IP and you will be greeted by the Grandstream control panel (default login is “admin”). All you need to do is enter your SIP Server and Outbound Proxy. Just enter in both fields, Your SIP User ID, and Authentication ID is simply GV1AAA-NNNN  where  AAA is your area code and NNNN is the last 4 digits of your phone number. Save it and re-power the ATA and you should have a dial tone on your analog phone. (See screen capture below)

You should be able to receive calls and also dial out. When dialing out you must always use 1 with the area code then the number. Often pressing the # key at the end makes the outgoing calls faster.

I created a label "NOT FOR 911 CALLS" along with a label for local police and fire on our phone.

If your house or office is wired for analog phones, just plug the ATA box into any phone outlet and all the phone outlets in your building will be live.

If you played around with VoIP in the "old days" you noticed poor quality, dropped calls and other crap. Well, those days are gone. As long as you have a good internet connection, it will work great and calls will be crystal clear.

Poke around your GV settings on your Google account and you can turn on voice mail, create your own outgoing message and set GV up so any voice messages are converted to text and emailed to you.

All types of possibilities with thanks to Simon Telephonics and Google Voice. You can even skip the ATA box and analog phones and use an actual IP phone Asterisk, FreeSWITCH, or any SIP PBX.

It's easy to misconfigure something along the way, so if at first, you do not succeed, recheck everything.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Stop Robocalls and Telemarketers Cold

I ran across a service called NoMoreRobo. It stops robocalls, telemarketers - it works perfectly and costs nothing.

The concept is simple. It “watches” all calls coming into your phone provider and when it notices thousands originating from the same caller NoMoreRobo concludes it’s a robocall or telemarketer and the call is blocked.

It works with most voice over IP phones including Spectrum, Verizon Fios, AT&T, Vonage, and others.

If you have a Spectrum landline, it’s easy to activate. Just log onto your Spectrum account, click on “MyPhone”, and under settings click on “Peace & Quiet” - click on the “Nomorobo” section and enable the service.

Once it's all working (took me 2 minutes) your phone will ring just once everytime NoMoreRobo blocks a call.