• Inform
    Inform Stay informed and learn about all the important stuff to keep your digital and connected life easier and safer.
  • Info
    Info Stay informed and learn about all the important stuff to keep your digital and connected life easier and safer.

Google search – Part 1: The Basics

The world’s most popular search engine has a few tricks up its sleeve that is well worth trying out. Over the next few posts we will look at some of the most useful (and fun) search tricks.

We will not be going into too much detail. The idea is to introduce a feature and then encourage you to go explore. This introduction post will look at Search settings.

Sign in

Google allows users to sign into Google search with a Google account. While not required, there are advantages to signing into your Google account. It allows Google search to remember your search preferences across sessions and even across your different computers, phones and tablets. Google also offers a lot more than just Internet searches. Signing into Google search will allow access to all these services. It is very easy to sign up for a new Google account if you do not have one. A link is provided at the end of this post.

Search Settings

Search settings allow you to change how results are found and displayed. The most valuable setting is SafeSearch filters – turn on SafeSearch to filter sexually explicit content from your search results. There is also an option to lock SafeSearch that will provide even better protection across all your devices.

Another very useful setting is Where results open. Most people would want to open more than just one search result. This is usually done by right clicking and choosing to open it in a new window or tab, or by holding the Ctrl key and clicking (this should work in most browsers). With the Where results open option set to Open each selected result in a new browser window, you now just click on a result and it opens in a new window or tab.

The Google search settings icon is not available on the Google Search start page; you first have to search for something. It can then be accessed by clicking on the gear icon on the search results page and then selecting Search settings.

Google Search Settings

Accessing Google search settings

Other Google services

As mentioned earlier, Google offers many additional services. The most popular services include Gmail, Maps, Calendar, Drive, Google+ , YouTube and Play. Access these services from the top menu bar on Google’s home page. For some of these services, you will need to be signed into your Google account (like Gmail, Calendar and Drive).

Additional resources

The following Google pages provide additional information:
Sign up for a Google account
Basic search help
Google search settings overview
Lock SafeSearch

Is it spam or a scam?

…or maybe it is legit, but how can you tell? Below you’ll find some basic rules and easy checks to make sure you are not caught by an email scam.

Note that as scammers are getting better at their game it is usually not a single thing that identifies a scam but a combination of checks that fail. This is how spam filters also work to generate a spam score for each email.

The rules

Before a scammer can “catch” someone, the victim has to do more than just open an email. You are safe unless you reply, follow a link or open an attachment. Scammers keep coming up with more creative ways to get their victims to take one of these actions, but you will be safe if you follow these simple rules:

  1. Never send personal information via email
  2. Never follow unsafe links
  3. Never open unsafe attachments

But what is an unsafe link or attachment? Start by assuming all emails with links or attachments are unsafe and then do the following checks:

The checks

Were you expecting it?

If you were expecting the email it is not a scam unless a lot of other people might also have been expecting such a mail. Scammers exploit the fact that people may expect the following emails:

  • Email from your Tax office during tax season
  • Email from your bank
  • Email from courier
  • Social media email e.g Facebook friend request
  • Fax send to email

This list is just some examples. Scammers send millions of these emails at a time, hoping that just a few recipients would have been expecting such an email. Even a very seasoned scambuster could be fooled when he open a new bank account an then receive a email from that bank about a new bank account that needs to be verified.

Check who sent it

Spam From Detail

Check the actual email address listed as the sender. Most email programs will only show the name of the sender and you have to tell the program to show the email address.

GMail’s web mail, for example, has a details link that will show the email address of the sender. Some programs will show you the send when you hover over the sender’ name.

If the sender’s email address is not what you’d expect, you are most likely dealing with a scam. The example image shows the sender address to be .com.br, which is an address from Brazil. If you receive an email from your bank but the sender’s email address does not end in .com.au it is a scam.

Unfortunately it is easy for a scammer to change the sender’s address. So, while a dodgy sender address is a sure sign of a scam, the opposite is not always true and you’d best keep reading on…

Check the links

SpamLink

You cannot always trust a link in an email. A link has 2 parts: the bit you see and a web address that tells your email program what to do when you click the link. The link text that you see could be anything, like www.techscene.com.au or http://www.techscene.com.au or Click here to activate your account or even Click here to unsubscribe. You cannot tell what will happen when you click a link by looking at the link text. To see the address (or URL) of the link you can hover your mouse over the link and it will show the address. This image shows a scam email with a link to unsubscribe. The true address is revealed by hovering over the link. In this case it is a web address ending with .pl, the top level domain for Poland and clearly not to be trusted.

 

Check the attachment

If you were expecting an attachment from someone then it is most like safe. There is still a slim change that the sender’s computer could have a malware or virus infection. Having a good and up to date anti virus together with an up to date operating system (especially Windows) will save you here.

Image and video attachments are generally safe but keep in mind that some things cannot easily be unseen.

Document can also be unsafe so make sure the email is safe before opening documents. Examples of document files include: .pdf, .doc, .docx, .docm, .xls, .xlsx, .xlsm

There is a long list of files that can contain malware or virusses. The most common are .zip, .exe and .com. Do not open these unless you are 100% sure it is save.

Additional resources

www.scamwatch.gov.au – How scams work
www.scamwatch.gov.au – How to protect yourself

Welcome

We've divided our services into 3 sections: Inform, Support and Create. This Tech Scene blog is the hart of our Inform section.

We hope our target audience will be people who'd describe themselves as less technical. Our articles will aim to inform you how to stay safe online and get the most out of technology.

From time to time we'll also include "how-to" tutorials to make your computing life easier, and we will endeavour to explain them in an understandable manner.