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Monday 12 December 2016

How to Spot Fake Reviews on Amazon

If you want to avoid getting scammed on Amazon and other sites, you might think the reviews section is your best friend. After all, if there’s a problem with the product other customers would point it out.

But that’s not always true, because lots of reviews are fake. Scummy companies have been known to hire fake reviewers to praise products and boost sales, meaning you never know for certain that a review can be trusted.

Having said that, there are tools that help spot such nonsense, and you can learn to recognise fake reviews with time.

Scan Amazon Links For Fake Reviews Automatically

If you’re browsing Amazon or Yelp, and suspect the reviews you’re seeing are fake, there’s a quick way to support your suspicion: FakeSpot. This site analyses the comments and works out whether the reviews are likely to be fake.

To get started, copy the URL form any Amazon page you think has suspicious review. The site will scan the reviews and give you an adjusted rating, with reviews that are likely fake removed.

FakeSpot scans the language used in every review, and also checks the profile of every reviewer, then uses a number of factors to decide whether a given review is likely to be fake or not.

For example, excessively positive language is considered a red flag. While many people are willing to compliment a good product in a review, they rarely pile on positive adjectives the way fake reviewers will. Similarly, if reviewers seem to only ever post positive reviews, and to post reviews of the same company’s products, there’s a good chance the reviews are fake. It’s also considered suspicious for a bunch of positive reviews to show up on the same day.

None of these rules are hard and fast. Sometimes real people will do these things, and sometimes fake reviewers won’t. But FakeSpot’s statistical analysis tries to spot trends and give you an idea of how likely the reviews below a given product are fake. If this site doesn’t suspect anything is wrong with the reviews, there’s a good chance you’ve got nothing to worry about.

How to Spot Fakes Yourself

What if you’re seeing fake reviews, or comments, on sites other than Amazon or Yelp? Or just don’t want to depend on a website? Then, my friend, you need to develop an internal BS detector.

The things that FakeSpot takes into account—excessively positive language, multiple reviews published on the same day—are great initial things to look at. Then you need to consider a few more things.

  • Check the dates on the reviews. Did a bunch of positive reviews flood the product seemingly at once? If so, you’re probably looking at fake comments.

  • Consider the language choices. Fake reviewers frequently aren’t native English speakers. For this reason, you might notice some weird language choices in fake reviews. For example: a supposedly US-based reviewer might refer to something as costing “1300 USD,” even though an actual American would never specify “USD” while writing a review.

  • Click the reviewer’s profile. You can typically do this by clicking the user’s name. Does a given review seem to only ever leave positive reviews, with glowing language? Do they tend to focus on products from little-known companies? That’s very suspicious, and might be a sign that you’re looking at a fake reviewer.

  • Do some Googling. If the site you’re looking at provides a first and last name for a reviewer, go ahead and look the person up. Do the results match with an actual human person, with a Facebook or Twitter account? If so, do they talk to other humans, or just kinda exist?

  • Check the avatar. Many fake reviewers pull photos from blogs or other people’s social media profiles to appear like an actual person. Run a reverse image search to find the original source of the image. Frequently you’ll find out you’re looking at a stock photo, a photo grabbed from someone else’s blog, or even a clip from a movie.

These aren’t the only ways to spot a fake, of course, and fake reviewers are going to become more sophisticated over time. Just approach reviews with a healthy sense of scepticism, instead of assuming everything is coming from a well-intentioned consumer like yourself.

Do you have any online security questions? Get in touch and we'll do our best to help 🍀 

Friday 2 December 2016

Six Things You Should Do After Plugging In Your New Router

Most people don’t replace their routers that often, and there are so many important settings, it’s easy to overlook a few and forget how your old one was set up. Here are the first five things you need to do right after powering up your new router.

A few minutes of tweaking and configuration right after unboxing your new router can save you headaches down the road. A Wi-Fi router, left improperly configured and with poor security, can leave your network unstable and vulnerable to malicious users. This guide should help you establish a solid baseline level of security.

Although we’ve included screenshots showing different settings in different router interfaces, every router is different—please refer to the documentation for your specific router to locate all the settings we refer to throughout this tutorial.

Update the Firmware

Your router’s firmware is a set of operating instructions and tools stored on its memory chip that controls everything from the Wi-Fi radios to the firewall.

Although firmware updates are generally infrequent, and router firmware is designed to be stable, there are two reasons to check for updates immediately after getting a new router. First, you don’t know how long your router was sitting on the shelf, and a new update may have been (and most likely was) released.

Second, although not as common as problems on consumer operating systems like Windows, there are exploits and vulnerabilities that crop up in router firmware, so it’s always good to have the latest (and most secure) firmware available. It also means you have access to the most up-to-date features of the router.

Change the Default Login Password

Just about every router ships with a default username and password you use to manage the router. These defaults aren’t even well kept secrets—a simple Google search will tell you the username and password for just about any router out there. Usually they’re something ridiculously simple, like “admin/admin”.

So, if you don’t want it to be stupid easy for passers-by to break into your network, you should change your administrator password…before someone changes it for you.

Change the Wi-Fi Network Name (SSID)

Your Wi-Fi’s network name, or SSID, can reveal a lot about the router. For example, it might be called “Linksys”, which lets outsiders know the manufacturer of your router—making it easier for them to fetch the default login, or check for vulnerabilities on that model.

Change the SSID to something different from the default, but without any identifying information in it. This means no SSIDs like “Flat2b” or “12HighStreet”. Something easy to remember but unspecific to you is ideal—like “Cookie Monster” or “Spaceman”. Any combination of words will do,. really.

Set a Secure Wi-Fi Password with Quality Encryption

For years, router manufacturers shipped routers with poorly configured Wi-Fi and/or default passwords enabled. Now, they’re finally starting to ship routers with the highest level of Wi-Fi encryption enabled and a randomised password set (so even if new users don’t know what they’re doing or fail to look up a list like this one, they’re still protected).

Not every manufacturer has individualised setups for each router they ship, however, which means it’s your responsibility to make sure your router has properly configured Wi-Fi with a secure password and the best encryption.

When you go to change your Wi-Fi network’s password, you’ll typically have options available like WEP, WPA, and WPA2. Select WPA2 (or, to future proof this advice, whatever better encryption comes along). We recommend using WPA2. You can read about Wi-Fi encryption and why it matters here, but the short of it is that anything below WPA2 is easier to crack. WEP is so trivial to crack a child with the right (and widely available) tool could do it.

As far as passwords are concerned, when you’re using strong encryption like WPA2 that supports up to 63 characters, it’s far better to use a passphrase than a password. Forget simple passwords like thedog20, blackcat, or any of the trivial passwords that Wi-Fi standards used to restrict us to. Passphrases are easier to remember and are harder to crack. Instead of “thedog20”, use “My Dog Is Twenty Years Old”.

While we’re on the topic of securing your Wi-Fi: if you have a newer router, chances are you have a guest network. If you choose to enable it, the same rules apply for selecting good encryption and a strong password. We also recommend you check out our dedicated article about securing guest networks and how they may not be as secure as you think.

Disable Remote Access

If you need remote access for some reason, it’s a pretty handy feature. For 99.9% of home users, however, there’s very little reason they would need to remotely administer their router from afar, and leaving remote access on simply opens up a point of vulnerability that hackers can take advantage of. Since the router not only functions as the network management brain of your home network but also the firewall, once a malicious user has gained remote control, they can open the firewall and gain complete access to your home network.

Again, like better Wi-Fi security, manufacturers are finally taking default security seriously, so you might be pleasantly surprised to find that the remote access/management features are disabled. Still, trust but verify. Look in the advanced settings of your router and confirm that any remote access tools are turned off.

Disable WPS and UPnP

Finally—compared to the previous examples of security measures you should take—we have a more arcane one: disabling Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) and (Universal Plug and Play) UPnP. While both services are intended to make our lives easier, they both have various security flaws and exploits. WPS allows you to press a button on your router or use a PIN to pair your new devices to your router (instead of manually searching for the Wi-Fi network name and entering the password) but there are flaws in WPS that aren’t worth the convenience. If your router supports disabling WPS, it should be easily found in your router’s menus.

In addition to disabling WPS, you should also disable UPnP. The UPnP system is, in fairness, way more useful than the WPS system—it automates the process of opening ports in your firewall for applications like Skype and Plex media server—but like WPS it has security flaws that can allow malicious parties access to your router. You should check through settings on your router to disable it and then brush up on how to manually forward ports on your router so, should you run into any issues like your Plex server’s remote access isn’t working right with UPnP turned off, you can fix it right away.

By simply updating your firmware, changing default logins for the router and Wi-Fi access, and locking down remote access, your 10 minutes of effort ensure that your router is now radically more secure than when it came out of the box.

Do you have any networking or Wi-Fi questions? Get in touch and we'll do our best to help 🍀