T-Mobile’s popular data plan gets a price bump

The T-Mobile One Plus unlimited plan is $80 per month, up $5 from the previous $75 monthly fee. According to the Verge, One Plus is considered to be T-Mobile’s “good” unlimited data plan, bundling unlimited HD video streaming without any throttling, unlimited mobile hot spot usage, free in-flight WiFi from Gogo, and faster international data than the carrier’s other plans.

The price increase marks the end of a promotional period. However, if you’ve already signed up for this plan at the $75 rate, you will be able to keep your lower cost.

At $80, the T-Mobile One Plus unlimited plan matches Verizon’s unlimited plan both in price and in perks. AT&T holds the most expensive unlimited plan, at $90 a month for similar features.

Instagram bug outrages users

According to the Verge, angry Instagram users have been taking to social media over running into difficulties logging into their accounts, blaming the company for deleting them without explanation or warning. In the midst of its users’ fury, Instagram had the chance to speak out and explain the situation.

“We’re aware of a bug that is causing some users to be logged out their accounts,” a spokesperson from Instagram said. “We’re working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.”

The accounts that are currently malfunctioning appear to be disabled, so it’s no wonder users were panicked. If someone with a working account were to try to visit one of the affected accounts, they would see a “Sorry, this page isn’t available” message. Furthermore, there doesn’t seem to be any pattern or similarities between the accounts affected – some are business related while others are personal.

According to The Verge, “In every case we’ve seen documented online, users were unable to recover their accounts and received no notice on why theirs were disabled. Some users claim that Instagram prompted them to enter their phone numbers to verify their accounts, though they never received a confirmation SMS and had their accounts disabled anyway.”

If you’ve been having troubles like this with your Instagram account, worry not. The problem should be resolved soon, and your account has not been deleted.

Millions of Americans have slow internet and no options

A report based on Federal Communications Commission data has recently revealed that over 10.6 million American households have no access to wired Internet service with speeds of at least 25Mbps, while 46.1 million households live in areas where only one ISP offers services with these speeds. In other words, more than 56 million homes in the United States have no choice when it comes to high-speed broadband over wired connections.

“Even when counting access to fixed wireless connections,” reported Ars Technica, “there are still nearly 50 million households with one 25Mbps provider or none at all.”

The data, from June of 2016, says that of 118 million US households, about 54.5 million have access to at least two wired providers which offer 25 Mbps, and only 6.9 million had access to at least three. 31.1 million households have exactly one wireline provider offering speeds of at least 10Mbps, and another 6.9 million households have zero providers offering such speeds over wired connections. For those interested in a smaller 3Mbps download speed, 19.3 million households had access to one wireline ISP and 4.9 million households had no access at all. The highly desirable 100Mbps wired Internet level sees 26.4 million households with no access, while another 67.4 million had access to one provider.

The data does not include satellite service, which is usually available across the United States.

Beware of this CopyCat malware infecting Android

According to CNET, researchers from Check Point have found that more than fourteen million Android devices around the world have been infected by a new strain of malware called CopyCat. It roots into phones, hijacks apps, and is generating millions of dollars in fraudulent ad revenue. Most of CopyCat’s victims are in Asia, but more than 280,000 of the infected phones are in the United States.

Google, who had been tracking the malware for a couple years now, updated Play Protect to block CopyCat. CheckPoint claims there is no evidence of CopyCat being distributed through Google Play – instead users are getting hit through third-party app downloads and phishing attacks.

“Play Protect secures users from the family, and any apps that may have been infected with CopyCat were not distributed via Play,” Google said in a statement.

The way CopyCat works is by pretending to be a popular app on third-party stores.

“Once downloaded, [the CopyCat app] collects data about the infected device and downloads rootkits to help root the phone, essentially cutting off its security system.” CNET explained. “From there, CopyCat can download fake apps, as well as hijack your device’s Zygote — the launcher for every app on your phone.”

CheckPoint estimates that nearly 4.9 million fakes apps have been installed on the infected devices, displaying around 100 million ads. The hackers responsible have generated an estimated $1.5 million in two months.

Have you ever heard of smishing?

Smishing, a portmanteau of ‘SMS’ and ‘phishing’, is the latest scam you need to be aware of. Scam artists are leaving emails behind and moving to text messages instead. According to USA Today, Cyber security experts believe this new tactic is arising because many people are wary of fraudulent emails and tend to be more trusting of text messages.

Instead of an email like in a traditional phishing scam, the victims will receive a receive a text message that claims to be from their bank, ISP, a store they frequent, or another kind of organization. USA Today has published examples of a few typical smishing messages:

  • “IRS Notice: Tax Return File Overdue! Click here to enter your information to prevent being prosecuted.”
  • “Beautiful weekend coming. Wanna go out? Sophie gave me your number. Check out my profile here.”

Some of these texts feel very authentic, so smishing can be tricky to spot. Like with phone scams and regular phishing attempts, it’s best to remember that legitimate organizations such as banks or government entities are never going to ask you for personal details (like credit card information or PINs) via text. If you get a message like this, the best thing to do is delete it immediately.

AT&T Prepaid Plans undergo a makeover

According to BGR, anyone looking for a cheap, easy, SIM-only plan on the vast AT&T network might find some great options with the carrier’s new prepaid plans.

As noticed by Fierce Telecom, AT&T’s GoPhone prepaid offerings have been rebranded to AT&T PrePaid. There is also the introduction of a new offering; $35/1GB per month. It includes unlimited talk and text in the United States on top of the 1GB of data at 128kbps of speed. If you’re not a heavy data user, this is a good option, as it is easily AT&T’s cheapest plan.

The next available plan is $45/6GB, with free roaming in the United States and Canada. 6GB is usually enough data for the average user, and the roaming perk is a rare perk in most prepaid plans. Most unlimited data plans start at $70 a month, so if you think you can keep yourself under 6GB, this plan could save you money.

Not all of the plans are great. BGR recommends steering clear of the $60/Unlimited data rate. “It’s far from unlimited: your speeds are capped at 3Mbps, and there’s a soft cap of 22GB of data per month, after which you may be subject to throttling. For that much per month, the postpaid unlimited plans from Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint offer way better service for very little extra,” BGR explains.

If you’re interested in these plans, they’re all listed on the carrier’s website under the original GoPhone title.

Microsoft set to lay off thousands of employees

Microsoft will lay off thousands of employees across the globe as part of its plan to change the company’s sales organization. According to TechCrunch, Microsoft will merge parts of its enterprise customer business with its small-and-medium-enterprise business unit.

According to a comment Microsoft made to GeekWire, “Microsoft is implementing changes to better serve our customers and partners.”

The goal is to focus more on the growing cloud computing business side of things, including Microsoft’s rapidly expanding Azure business. As of the fiscal quarter that ended in March, Azure’s run rate reached $15.2 billion. In the same time period, its intelligent cloud group roped in $6.8 billion.

This is significant revenue for Microsoft, and there is no question on why it would choose to focus more of its attention on this aspect its business. However, it is undisclosed as to whether the layoffs in other departments will be followed by openings for cloud-related positions.

As of March 31, Microsoft employed 121,567 worldwide.

Managing your personal network

Keeping expenses down while maintaining the speeds and data you need can be a delicate balance. Here are some tips for managing your own personal network to ensure you’re getting what you need without breaking the bank.

1: Assess what you’re paying for!

You need to make sure you understand exactly what you are paying each month and what you’re getting for those payments. Are you paying full price? Are you paying for services you don’t need? Are you paying for services you don’t even realize you have access to? Are you signed up for a minimum-term contract with penalties for breaking it? If you don’t understand, call customer service and have them explain it to you!

All this information is important not only for your own records, but because if you know exactly what you’re paying for, you’ll know exactly how to bargain for better prices. Ensure that you review your account information, billing information and contract so you have a thorough understanding of where your money is going.

2: Have a clear understanding of your needs!

It’s very important to separate the relevant from the irrelevant. Sometimes you see a deal that sounds too good to pass up, but you need to remember that a deal is only a deal if it’s something you’re actually going to use! Do you only use your smart phone and watch Netflix? Then why are you paying for a home phone/cable bundle? Even if you’re paying a reduced price, if you’re not using the product, it’s not worth your money.

3: Be timely and accurate!

Phone and internet providers want your business as long as you’re paying for it. As soon as you’re not making timely payments, your business is no longer a priority. Write down your payment dates and pay them in full, on time, every month. If you’re always paying and you’re always on time, you have leverage because the company wants to keep you as a customer! You can use that to bargain down prices.

4: Don’t be afraid to haggle!

So now you’ve assessed your payments, you’ve trimmed the fat and gotten rid of the things you don’t need and you’ve paid your bills in full and on time. The company wants your business! Now is the time to haggle.

Don’t accept the posted price. If you don’t ask, you don’t get! If you can’t get a deal from the person you’re talking to, escalate the call and ask for the retention department. Come prepared with alternative options and services if they try to call your bluff – with the amount of competition, you can squeeze even the large companies to give you a discount.

Finally, remember to be polite and professional. Sometimes, discounts are discretionary – which means an employee can decide whether or not to offer them to a customer. If you’re rude and aggressive, you’re much less likely to be offered the discount.

Energy companies are major target for hackers in 2016

Findings from a Deloitte LLP report show that in 2016, three out of four natural gas and oil companies were victims of at least one cyber attack, marking an increasing trend in the energy industry.

Why gas and oil? According to The Financial Post, “Technology advances, such as Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s recent control of operations in Argentina from an operating center in Canada, offer new openings for hackers, the authors wrote. At the same time, older equipment retrofitted for cybersecurity, including the pumps known as nodding donkeys, make it tougher to defend against sophisticated attacks.”

Inadequate tech and security measures seem to be a big problem across the industry. For example, the report found that less than half of drillers use any monitoring tools on their upstream operations networks. And of that minority, only fourteen percent have fully operational security monitoring centers.

Deloitte senior partner Paul Zonneveld told The Financial Post that when the authors of the report visited various oil fields, it “was like walking into the 1980s, with shared passwords and passwords written down on paper.”

Cyber attacks have been impacting the energy industry since 2011, when the “Night Dragon” attack stole exploration and bidding data from major companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and BP Plc. This is not a new problem – but it is getting increasingly worse.  However, the report suggested that a lot of the companies feel like they would be unlikely targets, and so do not take the proper precautions.

The Financial Post writes that the “cost of cyber crime is estimated to average about $15 million in the industry right now, major assaults can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and risk deaths and environmental damage.”

It’s 2017 and email is still running our lives

There are lots of services and companies out there that are trying to revolutionize the way we communicate. Despite the increasing number of options, recent studies show that, at least in the U.S., email isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s taking more of our time than ever.

According to Entrepreneur, a new survey conducted by email-marketing software company ReachMail suggests that 54 percent of people report that they have more email to deal with than they did three years ago. Only 14 percent claim to receive less.

ReachMail surveyed 1,000 Americans who use email for work daily. What they found is that these people are not just seeing an increase of email use during work hours, but also outside the office. Only a quarter of respondents said they have never sent a work-related email after 6 p.m, and interestingly enough, the survey revealed that men were more likely than women to do this. Sixty-two percent of men and 46 percent of women surveyed admitted to sending a work email after 9 p.m.

Seventy five percent of respondents check their work email on weekends, while 61 percent check during vacation and other days off. Why do we do this to ourselves? Especially amongst younger employees, ReachMail suggest that receiving email after-hours makes them feel more important in their role. Fifty-five percent of Millennials suggested this, compared to 31 percent of Gen Xers and 18 percent of Baby Boomers.