Patrick Marshall answers your personal technology questions each week.
Q: Early this morning, I received a call that our caller ID listed as “Comcast Cable Protection Plan.” The caller identified himself as Matthew and said that he was with the Comcast Protection Plan, and that they were receiving signals from our home network that suggested we had serious problems. I told him that we’d not seen any problems on our end, and he said that is often the case. He began by asking if we’d made any changes recently in our computers, or cellphones, or if we’d downloaded anything recently.
I suspected a phishing scam, and told him so, and he said if I was concerned about that, I could just hang up. So I did.
Did I do the right thing?
— Reiley Kidd, Seattle
A: Yes, I’d say you did the right thing. I would never trust an incoming call from someone claiming to be a service provider who has “detected a problem.”
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Comcast Communications Director Andy Colley warns that scammers are posing as being from the Comcast Cable Protection Plan. “Comcast will never ask customers for password information over the phone, chat or email, nor will we ask for billing or payment information through email,” says Colley. He advises users to get more information at https://www.xfinity.com/support/articles/phishing-scams.
The bottom line: If you aren’t having any problems with your service, don’t trust a caller who says you are.
Q: Somehow I think I hit something that popped up on my Windows 10 by accident. Now, when I try to open another window, all I get is “Maps Now” wanting to direct me to a location of my choosing. Problem is I want to choose my own activity and not go anywhere for now! The only way I can get Google search up again is to exit the screen and start over.
— Jim Coote
A: Maps Now is a browser extension that carries advertising. It is what some call “malware,” though it reportedly doesn’t damage your computer or files.
Check your web browser extensions to see if Maps Now is installed and, if it is, uninstall it there. If you don’t see it, you can find instructions for manually uninstalling Maps Now here: http://www.free-uninstall.org/how-to-uninstall-remove-your-maps-now/.
Q: I read your January column about how to speed up internet connections by connecting your computer directly to a modem instead of a router. I was always under the impression that bypassing the router to connect to a modem creates a huge security risk. Because of this, I connect my desktop computer directly to the router with an Ethernet cable. Am I making a mistake in believing this offers much better security for my desktop?
— Richard Anderson
A: Most cable modems are also routers. The difference between a modem and a router is that the former connects to an internet service and the latter manages a network. These days, most cable modems include networking capabilities, including Wi-Fi connections as well as Ethernet ports.
The key thing is that you want to ensure that somewhere between your computer and the cable is a firewall that manages connections from the internet to your network. That is a part of routers and of combined modem/routers. Devices, however, differ in the degree of control they offer users over configuring the firewall and monitoring traffic.