Of all the people I’ve talked to about surprise Windows 10 upgrades, very few were happy with the event even if the upgrade actually ended up in a functional computer (a good percentage don’t). One woman in California was angry enough to sue Microsoft over the unwanted upgrade, and actually prevailed. You’ll notice I didn’t say “won” as Microsoft admitted no wrongdoing on their part and dropped their planned appeal in order to avoid further litigation costs. Truth be told, I’m fairly certain Microsoft could have easily won by throwing their third-string litigation team at this case with microscopic impact on their finances, but perhaps some smart folks got in front of the lawyers to prevent what would surely have been a PR nightmare. Microsoft has been part bully/part implacable juggernaut when it comes to Windows 10 upgrades, and a lot of my clients have been asking why they are pushing so hard.
This is easily answered with one word: Money
But wait, isn’t Microsoft giving away Windows 10 for free? Absolutely, and it’s still available up until the end of July for the same low, low price of zero bucks. But just as your favorite aged relative is fond of saying, “Ain’t no such thing as a free lunch!” What many folks don’t know is that Microsoft is intending for Windows 10 to be their gravy train for the foreseeable future by converting the OS to a subscription model, just like they did with Office, which, by the way, is another big money-maker for them. It’s free for now, but at some point in the near future, the next upgrade won’t be. It will only be available for computers that have paid subscriptions to Windows 10. That’s right, your first “hit” was free, but now that you are hooked, you have to pay to support your “habit”.
That’s not the only hook. Some of you noticed that some of your favorite time-wasters like Freecell are now only available through the Windows Store, another “convenient” feature available in Windows 10. By pushing millions of Windows computers to their new operating system, Microsoft is hoping to create a new source of revenue that is sitting right on your start bar. If it sounds familiar, that’s because Microsoft has taken a page from Apple’s playbook, replicating the incredibly profitable app store model used on iOS devices. The forced Windows 10 upgrades will supply the demand, and the supply is handily built into their new OS.
If you’ve taken to heart any of the security advice or practices that I or many other technology professionals have been dispensing for the past few years, you’ve probably developed a healthy skepticism for any emails that land in your box that are unexpected and contain unfamiliar links. Even more so if your email provider marks the email as spam or a possible phishing attempt.
For example, I recently received an email with the subject “iPhone iPod touch Class Action Settlement” that was immediately marked as spam by Gmail. This email purportedly offered me a part of a class action settlement with Apple. Seeing how many people own iPhones and iPods, it seemed like good phishing bait so I assumed this was yet another scam. It had all the trappings of a well-made con:
- broad target demographic
- based on a recent, actual event
- contained lots of official-sounding text that didn’t read like a 4th grader wrote it
- no overt clues that the sender was an obvious bad agent (non-US domains, inappropriate reply-to addresses, spoofed mail headers, etc.)
It would probably lure people into clicking a link that would either load up their machines with malware, or entice them into giving up some personal information that would later be used in an identity theft attempt. I opened it up with the intent of warning my audience and clients about the potentially well-crafted fraud.
As it turns out, this is a legitimate email that Gmail incorrectly identified as spam, probably because the sender was flagged as a spammer by justifiably suspicious readers like you and me. A little research online reveals this is part of the original case that made headlines back in May of this year. Emboldened by this information, I used Chrome (bolstered by a variety of anti-scripting extensions) to visit the included link, and, lo and behold, it’s a legitimate website. Because of the relative newness of this initiative, there isn’t a lot out on the web about this yet, so unless you are an experienced internet researcher, your searches might have come up with little evidence that this was a legitimate email.
What this means for you:
Most cautious internet citizens might have trusted their email provider’s guidance on this and just deleted this email, potentially missing out on as much as $200 as a settlement award. False positives are an unfortunate side-effect of a proper security protocol, and in this case, even Google didn’t provide enough information to immediately assuage my suspicions, and a few search results actually led to conversations where people immediately labeled it as a scam. Sometimes the internet does not provide instantaneous answers, nor is it always right, and as always, you should always take your search results with a grain of salt, especially if there is money at stake. If your search results turns up a dearth of information, your best course of action is to wait a few days for the internet to catch up (it always does!) and research again, or to contact a tech expert like C2 Technology to get a second opinion.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net