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What’s the Most Secure Way to Handle OS Upgrades?

Your computer’s operating system may or may not be designed with security in mind, but without ongoing software updates, your computer is vulnerable. How do operating systems handle sending out these updates and which approaches are the most secure?

Why Do We Need Software Updates?

There are three key reasons software updates are important.

  • New Features: OS developers provide new features all the time. We want them. Gone are the days when you buy a new box to get the new code. Now you get the goods via software updates.
  • Security Patches: It’s impossible to know all of the vulnerabilities in a program before releasing it into the wild. Updates containing security patches bolster the defenses of the code running on our devices. You can mitigate much of your risk by running the latest versions of software.
  • Ongoing Support: These days we declare a device alive or dead not based on whether it still works, but rather if it still receives updates. A device that no longer receives updates is one that will gradually lose access to newer apps, successfully loads fewer websites, and becomes increasingly vulnerable to exploitation.

There are two ways to distribute these updates. One approach is a centralized model, where a single company manages all of the updates that go to your device, regardless of which brand or model you use.

In a decentralized model, the components that go into your OS come from many sources. There is a degree of separation between the developers and those who package all those various parts together for users.

Both approaches have their pros and cons. Proprietary desktop OSes such as Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS, and Google Chrome OS all take a centralized approach. GNU/Linux has a decentralized model.

How Microsoft Windows Distributes OS Updates

Windows 10 on a Dell convertible laptop
Image Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft distributes OS updates to anyone with a Windows PC. These updates go out based on what version of Windows you run.

For most of Windows’ history, switching to a new version of the OS was expensive. This encouraged many people to continue using older versions. With Windows 10, the situation is different. Microsoft provided Windows 10 for free initially and has said that rather than release another major upgrade, the company will now focus on iterating the desktop through software updates.

Microsoft has traditionally supported popular versions of Windows well after the release of one or two successive releases. Windows 7, for example, still received updates half a decade after the release of Windows 10.

Windows Update automatically downloads updates

How to Manage Windows Update in Windows 10

How to Manage Windows Update in Windows 10

For control freaks, Windows Update is a nightmare. It works in the background, and keeps your system safe and running smoothly. We show you how it works and what you can customize.
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and forces users to install them. This can be frustrating, but it keeps computers up to date. Just make sure you create regular backups. While unlikely, system updates can botch your installation of Windows (or any other OS for that matter).

Security Assessment

Microsoft is transparent about how long Windows releases will receive support. This helps users make informed decisions about their hardware purchases. Forced updates also keep users patched and up-to-date, protecting more of us from exploits.

Still, a large number of Windows users aren’t using Windows 10. Some are using versions that are severely out of date, making the Windows landscape as a whole a vulnerable and easy target.

How Apple macOS Distributes OS Updates

macOS on an Apple MacBook

Apple provides OS updates directly to users via a dedicated Software Update tool. Unlike Windows, macOS does not automatically update your OS, but you can turn that feature on. Manual updates give you time to backup your data before getting new software.

Apple doesn’t explicitly state how long it will support each version of macOS. Generally, the three most recent releases will receive security patches. With new versions arriving every year

macOS Catalina Update: 6 Key Steps to Preparing Your Mac

macOS Catalina Update: 6 Key Steps to Preparing Your Mac

Before you install the latest macOS update and move to Catalina, here’s what you should do to ensure a successful upgrade.
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, that means you can expect roughly three years of support.

Unfortunately, the end of life for older releases can arrive at any time without any heads up or official announcement. Apple’s security updates page shows what updates have arrived but not how long they will keep coming.

This doesn’t tell the whole story. Generally speaking, there’s little reason not to upgrade to the latest version of macOS. Changes tend to be more iterative compared to the revolutionary changes that took place between Windows 7 to 8 and Windows 8 to 10. Upgrades were relatively cheap in the past, and now they’re free.

Since macOS is only available on Apple hardware, the company can explicitly list which devices it will support. Unfortunately, if your MacBook or iMac is not on the list, you’re out of luck. You must now replace macOS with Windows or Linux to have an OS with ongoing updates, even if your hardware is technically perfectly capable of running the latest version of macOS.

Security Assessment

Manual updates give you time to back up your data, but many people choose to never install updates, leaving them more vulnerable to exploits. Apple also doesn’t tell us when a given OS release will reach the end of its support period.

On the flip side, Apple generally supports a given computer model for many years. Just make sure you consistently upgrade to the latest OS. You can check out Apple’s list of obsolete products.

How Google Chrome OS Distributes OS Updates

Google Chrome OS on a Samsung convertible laptop

On a Chromebook, updates are quiet and automatic. It doesn’t matter which device you buy, if your model is supported, you will receive each update in a matter of days. Google manages most of the software experience, so Chrome OS feels the same regardless of which Chromebook you buy.

Google provides updates on a regular schedule. Maybe OS updates come roughly every six weeks, with security patches and software updates arriving twice as frequently. You have the option to turn off automatic updates if you prefer.

But Google is not transparent about how long each Chromebook or Chromebox will receive support. The company doesn’t actually base support times on operating system version (like Microsoft) or specific devices (like Apple). Instead, Chrome OS support depends on which chipset sits inside your machine. Google promises to support each chipset for six and a half years after launch.

That poses a problem. Most of us do not know what hardware lies underneath our keyboards. We can easily buy a Chromebook using a chipset that’s been around for five years already, without knowing we will only receive one and a half years of support.

Thanks to Chrome OS’s design, the danger of going without software updates is magnified. Since Chrome OS combines the web browser with the rest of the OS, when OS updates stop, your web browser will no longer receive updates. This is not the case on other platforms, where you can update apps separately.

Security Assessment:

Chrome OS strikes a nice balance between keeping users up to date with automatic updates while giving us the freedom to upgrade at our own pace by doing things manually. But the company’s support period is largely obscure and, given Chrome OS’s design, substantially more important.

How GNU/Linux Desktops Distribute OS Updates

Purism Librem 13 privacy laptop
Image Credit: Purism

We usually refer to GNU/Linux simply as Linux, but in this case it’s important to clarify things. Google’s Chrome OS is based on Linux, but how it operates is fundamentally different from other versions of Linux based on GNU software.

There are hundreds of different GNU-based desktops you can download. Most give you a degree of freedom on how you approach software updates. Generally, notifications will arrive automatically, but you must manually download and install the update. You can do so using a simple app or the command line.

How often you receive updates depends on the size of your chosen Linux distribution. You can use a given version of Linux until your machine no longer meets the minimal system requirements, which for a growing number of Linux desktops means a 64-bit processor.

Why Linux Distros Are Ending 32-Bit Versions (And What That Means for You)

Why Linux Distros Are Ending 32-Bit Versions (And What That Means for You)

More and more Linux distros are discontinuing their 32-bit versions. Why are they doing this? And how does it affect you? Here’s all you need to know.
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If you use a more niche version of Linux, you have a greater risk of losing access to updates due to the project ceasing to exist. Under such circumstances, you’re free to switch to another version of Linux and keep on trucking.

Security Assessment

GNU desktops have the longest support life. Your desktop will continue to work for as long as your hardware meets system requirements. And if your preferred Linux distribution does end support, you can just switch to another.

Updates are not automatic, but there are other aspects of the way free software gets distributed that have a larger impact on whether the various parts of your OS are truly up-to-date. Since software is not produced in a central location, new updates and patches may be available for months or years before the people who make your version of Linux get around to packaging and releasing them.

Which Method Is the Most Secure?

In this case, the means is less important than the ends. If you manually update your PC every day or two and keep software up-to-date, then your machine is effectively as secure as one that receives automatic updates.

Making updates automatic primarily prevents machines from going months and years without updates, becoming susceptible to long-fixed vulnerabilities that make not only those machines but, due to botnets

What Is a Botnet and Is Your Computer Part of One?

What Is a Botnet and Is Your Computer Part of One?

Botnets are a major source of malware, ransomware, spam, and more. But what is a botnet? How do they come into existence? Who controls them? And how can we stop them?
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, the rest of us less safe.

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What Is a Social Media Handle?

If you’re not a frequent social media user, you might find some of its terms confusing. One of these being “social media handle”.

In this article we take a look at social media handles, explaining what they are, how to pick one, and how websites use them.

What Is a Social Media Handle?

A social media handle has nothing to do with grasping something.

Rather, a social media handle is a public username that represents people on social media sites. The public distinction is important, as usernames exist on other sites where they don’t serve the same purpose.

For example, when you sign into your bank’s website, you have to provide your username and password to log in. But this username isn’t a handle, since it’s not used as a public identifier. Nobody needs to know your banking username except you.

Where Does the Term “Handle” Come From?

Your next question after hearing this might be “what is a handle?” As it turns out, “handle” didn’t originate online.

The term was used by CB (Citizens Band) radio users before the internet was around. These folks identified themselves by nicknames, which were eventually called “handles.”

Once the internet brought message boards and other forms of discussion to the masses, people started using “handle” to refer to their usernames.

Where Are Social Handles Used?

As you’d expect, handles are most common on social media websites.

Because these websites have millions of users, many of them with similar or identical names, social media handles allow everyone to have a unique identity on the service. Thus, when you create an account on a social media site, it checks to make sure your chosen handle isn’t already taken.

Let’s examine some of the most popular social media websites to see how they implement handles.

What Is a Twitter Handle?

The term “handle” is closely associated with Twitter, as the service has called its usernames handles for some time.

When you create an account with Twitter, you set up a unique handle for yourself. In addition, you can add your first and last name, which is different from your handle. You can see in the below tweet that my social media handle is @stegnersaurus, but my name is Ben Stegner:

This allows you to provide more information to others. You might have a preferred handle that has nothing to do with your name, so adding your name lets people find you more easily.

Twitter is built around sending short messages called “tweets.” If you want to mention another user in your tweet, you can include their handle using the @ symbol. For example, MakeUseOf’s handle on Twitter is @MakeUseOf. Below is an example of a tweet that includes it:

The act of including someone’s social media handle in a tweet is called “tagging.” By default, being tagged sends that person a notification. You can also click on the @handle to view that user’s profile.

Check out our guide to Twitter

How to Use Twitter

How to Use Twitter

Twitter can be overwhelming at first, but we’re here to help you make sense of it. Here’s a complete guide to using Twitter and understanding how it works.
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if you’d like more help getting started with it.

What Is an Instagram Handle?

Instagram uses handles in a similar manner to Twitter. Everyone has a handle that identifies them on the service. If you want to tag someone in a post or a comment, include their handle with an @ symbol before it.

Like Twitter, this notifies the person you tagged and lets people click on their name to visit their page. You’ll notice the person’s handle appears at the top of everything they post, making it easy to spot.

What Is a Facebook Handle?

Facebook is a little different when it comes to usernames. The site doesn’t use @handles like Twitter and Instagram do. This is primarily because Facebook is designed for more personal connections than Twitter and Instagram, so it uses your real name when you sign up.

If you want to tag someone in a Facebook post or comment, you can still type the @ symbol followed by their name. This notifies them that you’ve mentioned them and lets people click their name to see their profile. The only difference is that it uses their real name instead of a username, and doesn’t show the @ sign.

Facebook Tagging Example

However, Facebook does have a username feature. Its main purpose is to provide a unique URL that goes right to your page.

You’ll see this on business cards and in company advertisements. A business will often have its Twitter @handle next to the Twitter logo, then put /acme.corp next to the Facebook logo. This lets you know you can go to to visit them.

You can check your own username by logging into Facebook, clicking the small arrow in the top-right corner, and choosing Settings.

From the left side of this page, choose General, and you’ll see a Username field where you can change your username. By default, Facebook sets this to your first and last name separated by a period, which works fine.

Facebook Set Username

If you don’t have one set, it’s a good idea to pick one. Otherwise, your profile URL will consist of random numbers, which aren’t easy to remember.

How to Pick a Social Media Handle

Social media handles are quite important for brands and online influencers who want to maintain a consistent presence across the web. While they aren’t as vital for an average user, you can still follow a few general guidelines to create a solid handle.

  • A tried and true handle is your first name and last name. Something like @MarkJohnson isn’t fancy, but it is easy to remember.
  • If you don’t want to use your real name, nicknames are good fits for handles.
  • A shorter username is better. The longer it is, the harder it is to type and remember. There’s also a greater chance for typos.
  • Numbers can make your handle harder to remember, and might make you look unoriginal. It’s a good idea to avoid numbers unless they’re connected to you, such as a jersey number for a sport.
  • Want to spruce up your handle? Try adding terms like “The Real” or “I Am” before your username. “TheRealAlexHodges” has a fun air about it.
  • If the service allows capital letters in usernames (Instagram is all lowercase), use them to make your username easy to read. “GregWhiteBlogs” is clearer than “gregwhiteblogs”.

Namechk is a great resource for checking the availability of social media handles. You can type in the username you’re interested in and see the sites where it’s already taken.

Have Fun Picking Your Social Media Handles

In this article we’ve looked at what a social media handle is, how the biggest social media websites use it, and offered up some tips for creating your own. If you haven’t created a public username yet, creating one will make it easier for people to find you on the web.

To learn more about this topic, check out the social media slang terms you should know

25 Social Media Slang Terms You Need to Know

25 Social Media Slang Terms You Need to Know

Social media has a language all of its own. And in this article, we explain the meaning of our favorite social media slang terms.
Read More


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Unfriended or Unfollowed? How to Handle Rejection on Social Media

Social media is a place where people make new friends. But for some, it’s also the place where people leave old friends.

Being unfriended or unfollowed by someone feels horrible. And while most social media platforms won’t inform you when someone leaves you, you might find out anyway when you notice no recent activity from them. They just dumped you like that—without any goodbyes, broken up on social media.

Here are some things you can do when you face social media rejection.

Confirm If They Really Unfollowed You

Before you feel bad, make sure they indeed unfollowed or unfriended you.

On Instagram, you can visit their profile and click on their Following count. If your account appears in their list, they are still following you.

On Facebook, visit their profile. If it shows “Friends” then you’re still friends with them. If they have unfriended you, you’ll see an “Add friend” button instead.

Checking if you’re unfollowed on Facebook

What Is Unfollow and Follow on Facebook? (And When to Use It)

What Is Unfollow and Follow on Facebook? (And When to Use It)

Here’s everything you need to know about Facebook followers, and following and unfollowing people on Facebook.
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is a bit trickier. There is no direct way to know that. If they are still on your friends list and are active on Facebook but aren’t interacting with your posts, there’s a chance they have unfollowed you—but there’s no way to be sure.

Analyze Why They Might Have Unfollowed You

Do you make crude comments on posts? Do you share too much information

9 Things You Should Never Share on Social Media

9 Things You Should Never Share on Social Media

Be careful what you share on social media because you never know when something could come back and ruin your life. Even the most innocent posts could be used against you.
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on the public platform? You might be posting too many selfies that nobody cares about.

You need to analyze your own behavior—or ask a close friend for the honest truth—to figure out what might be irking your social media friends and causing them to unfollow you.

If there’s nothing you can find, perhaps the reason is as simple as you not paying their posts enough attention, such as not commenting on their baby pics or their vacation photos. In that case, the problem isn’t you and you shouldn’t feel too bad about it.

Be Direct and Ask Why They Unfollowed You

If they were someone important to you and you noticed that they have unfriended you without giving any explanation, try to talk to them.

Ask them if you have done something that might have hurt them. Sometimes, the sensitivities of people don’t match. What you posted as a joke might have sounded offensive to someone else.

If you know them personally or their friendship is important to you, it’s best to discuss things and sort the matters.

Did You Two Have an Argument?

If someone unfollowed you because of an argument you had with them, discuss the matter and sort the problem out. However, don’t bring up the fact that they unfollowed you and don’t ask them to re-follow you. Discuss the issue at hand, come to a resolution, and if they appreciate your gesture of maturity, they will re-follow you when they are ready.

Don’t Stalk Them

If you start stalking the person that unfriended you, you will only hurt yourself more. It’s best to move on and not dwell on the reasons why they unfriended you.

And the reasons aren’t always about you. Maybe your friend reached their friends limit and removed a handful of old acquaintances to make space for new acquaintances. You might have been one of those people they didn’t know so well.

Stalking them will consume your time and increase your obsession. If you cannot gently confront them, just let them go.

Continue Being Nice to Them

If this is a person you know outside social media, continue being nice to them. If their behavior towards you hasn’t changed, don’t ask them why they unfriended you.

It could be anything. Maybe they didn’t want you to know about something they’re trying to hide from their family or colleagues.

If their online friendship meant a lot to you, you can bring up the topic but in a friendly way. Don’t be angry at them or it might jeopardize your real life relations as well.

Consider Doing a Social Media Detox

If you are obsessing far too much over being unfriended, take a break from social media and make some friends in the real world.

Stop checking your account frequently. Or temporarily deactivate your account for some time. If you find yourself checking the app again and again, uninstall it from your phone. You need a break to gain some perspective.

Try to make some friends in the real world. Join some fun classes and soon you won’t be dependent on social media friends as much. Learn more about how to do a social media detox the right way

How to Do a Social Media Detox (and Why You Should Right Away)

How to Do a Social Media Detox (and Why You Should Right Away)

A social media detox might sound like a punishment; but if it does, there’s a really good chance you need one. Here are the signs you need a detox and how to do it.
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Don’t Dwell on It

Sure, it burns to think that someone doesn’t like you. After all, you’re just minding your own business on social media and suddenly you notice you that you have one fewer follower than before.

Before you start feeling bad, did you really like them? If not, you’re just feeling bad that they didn’t like you either. If you weren’t close to that person, try not to dwell on that thought too much.

People become social media friends and then they stop being friends. It’s part of the normal ebb and flow of digital socialization.

Take Social Media Rejection With a Pinch of Salt

Being unceremoniously defriended by a social media friend is painful. If you’re going to lose hope over a small experience, you might lose trust in friendships.

However, this is not how all friendships are going to be. Some people start from being social media friends and they meet and become close friends in real life. Don’t let a small bad experience bring you down. Go ahead and add some new friends.

It’s not very difficult to find new friends on the internet

6 Tools to Find Awesome People with Similar Interests

6 Tools to Find Awesome People with Similar Interests

Connecting with new people can help you get more out of life. Take the plunge and start making new friends who share your interests
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. It could be an old classmate or a colleague at the office. You can also join social media pages and groups and mingle with others there.

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How to handle Windows 10 updates

Confused about how updates work in Windows 10? Join the club. Over the years, Microsoft has transformed what was once a straightforward procedure into an ever-changing, often complicated process that varies according to whether you have Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro or an enterprise or education edition — and that varies according to the specific version number of the operating system. As a result, there have been lots of misperceptions about how Windows Update works in Windows 10, and how to best use it.

With this article, we hope to make things clearer for you. We’ve delved deep into Windows 10 Update and come up with answers to users’ most pressing questions: whether you have to accept all updates, whether you can uninstall existing updates, and how to reduce the bandwidth some updates use. We’ve also included some extras, like how to stop all updates if you want.

win10 update settings 1903 IDG

You can check for new updates in Settings. (Click image to enlarge it.)

We have updated this article for the current Windows 10 release, the May 2019 Update (also called version 1903). With that version of Windows 10, Microsoft has given all Windows 10 users the ability to put off major updates, something that Windows 10 Home users couldn’t do before. Users of the April 2018 Update (version 1803) and the October 2018 Update (version 1809) now have those capabilities as well, although they may work a little differently than in the May 2019 Update. And as we’ll explain, there are some “gotchas” and caveats along the way.

Read on for details.

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Quickly Handle Mail With the Outlook Mail App Swipe Actions

outlook logo

If you do email on your phone, swipe actions can help you spin through your inbox much quicker. Here’s how to use them in Outlook and how to change them if the defaults don’t work for you.

To swipe an email in Outlook, put your finger on the email and move it right (“swipe right”) or left (“swipe left”). By default, swiping right deletes an email (move it to the Deleted Items folder) and swiping left moves an email to your Archive folder. This might be enough for you, in which case, thanks for reading this very short article, and we hope it was useful.

If, however, you want to change the default swipe actions—or turn them off entirely—read on. There are several different swipe actions you can choose from in Outlook:

  • Delete: Moves the email to the Deleted Items folder.
  • Archive: Moves the mail to the Archive folder.
  • Mark as Read: Marks the email as read, but doesn’t do anything else.
  • Move to Folder: Shows a list of your mailbox folders so you can move the email.
  • Flag: Adds a to-do flag to the email.
  • Schedule: Hides the email until a time you specify.
  • Read & Archive: Marks the email as read and then moves it to the Archive folder.
  • None: This effectively turns off the swipe action.

You can apply any of these actions to the swipe left or swipe right action, and even apply the same action to both left and right swipes. This is ideal if swiping isn’t your thing, and you want to change both left and right swipe to “None.”

To change the swipe actions, tap the hamburger menu in the top left of the app.

The hamburger icon in the Outlook mail app

At the bottom left tap the “Settings” cog.

The Settings cog

In the Mail section near the top, tap “Swipe options.”

The "Swipe options" setting

This displays the current swipe actions. We’re going to change the “Swipe Right” action by tapping the big “CHANGE” option on the right-hand side.

The default swipe actions, and the Change option

This brings up the swipe options. At the top, it tells you whether you’re changing the “Swipe Right” or “Swipe Left” option, and highlights the current swipe action you’ve got set up. We’re going to change our action to “Schedule” by tapping on it.

The swipe options showing the current action and all possible actions

This will close that panel and take you back to the Swipe options, where you can see that the action has changed to “Schedule.”

When we go back to the Inbox and swipe right, the Schedule action is shown.

The Schedule action being applied to an email in the Inbox

That’s all there is to it. You can change your swipe actions at any time. If you’re worried that you might move or delete an email without realizing it, Outlook gives you the option to Undo a move action for five seconds after you’ve swiped. (This will display after you’ve deleted a mail as well because deleting an email moves it to the Deleted Items folder.)

The Undo option that's shown after you move a mail

A couple of handy hints:

  • The Archive action, which is the default left swipe action, doesn’t mark your email as read. That’s great if you want to move your unread mail to the archive for later reading, but if you want to mark it as read and then move it, you’ll need to change the swipe left action to “Read & Archive.”
  • The Schedule option only works in the Inbox. We love this feature because it hides your mail until a time of your choosing, which is great for quickly removing things from your immediate view without losing track of it. Scheduling is an excellent example of letting the technology do the boring stuff (remembering to deal with a mail at a later date), so you can do the interesting stuff (something other than reminding yourself to deal with an email next week).

Generally speaking, the Outlook client and web app have got a lot more power and functionality than the mobile app, as you’d expect. But swiping actions, especially when you’re using a tablet or touch-screen monitor, are one of the things we’d definitely like to see in the next iteration of the Outlook client and web app.

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How to Handle a Copyright Infringement Notice From Your ISP

Until recently, I’d never actually met anyone that had received a copyright infringement letter for downloading films on the internet. Their Internet Service Provider contacted them directly, informing that they would be taken them to court unless they agree to pay a set fine.

My friend was culpable and not wanting to risk a court appearance as well as a large fine, settled with his ISP and the copyright holder.

Receiving a copyright infringement notice is worrying. What happens if you receive a copyright notice? How does your ISP know about your copyright infringement?

“We Are Writing to Inform You…”

“We are writing to inform you that [your ISP] recently received notification from a copyright owner of a copyright violation that appears to involve [your ISP account]. The work(s) identified by the copyright owner in its complaint are listed below.

We are contacting you because our records indicate that the internet Protocol (IP) address provided to us by the copyright owner was assigned to your service on the date and time identified by the copyright owner.”

A letter containing those words is usually a precursor for a series of negative events. Copyright infringement is a serious crime that ISPs have a duty to investigate. After all, their network is the focal point of the copyright infringement.

Your ISP is tracking your every movement online. They can see the sites you visit, when you visit them, how long you lurk there, and more. Your ISP can also see your download activity, including any peer-to-peer services (torrenting, for instance), which they will link directly to your IP address.

“Please note that we have not provided any of your private information to the copyright holder at this time. [ISP] will not provide your identifying information without a lawful subpoena or other lawful process. However, upon receipt of a lawful subpoena or other lawful process [your ISP] will release your information to the copyright owner.”

Your ISP might not release your details immediately. The vast majority of ISPs release a warning similar to this after receiving a notice of copyright infringement. However, as the infringement warning states, if the ISP receives a lawful request, they have to comply. It is the law.

You cannot simply change your ISP to escape a copyright infringement notification, either. You might get a clean slate with a new ISP. But unless you are changing your address, and in reality, your name, that copyright infringement record will follow you around. As with many things relating to the law, it is difficult to run from your problems.

What Is Copyright Infringement?

When a studio releases a film or a musician releases an album into the public realm, the vast majority of the time, this content features copyright protection. It isn’t just music or films. Photographs, paintings, books, articles, podcasts, and countless other types of content carry copyright.

Copyright is a legal right that protects work, granting the original content creator exclusive rights over the ownership and distribution of the work. Copyright can and does expire. Most major copyright holders extend the copyright of important works to maintain their control over their original content (or over copyright purchased from other creators).

When you receive a copyright infringement notice from your ISP, it will contain the exact copyright allegedly broken on your network.

For instance, a Comcast notice of claim of copyright infringement will feature an email subject line such as “Notice of Action under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).” The email body explains Comcast’s obligation to notify the network user (you) that a copyright owner has found an infringement on your network.

The email will also list the copyright infringing work, usually using the exact file name, the infringing IP address, the infringement type (e.g., P2P, illegal stream, etc.), and the reporting copyright owner.

The following Comcast DMCA notice was sent after the original poster downloaded the original World of Warcraft 1.12 Client using a torrent program:

Of course, it isn’t just Comcast that send DMCA takedown notices. ISPs are compelled by law to send the notice, regardless of their “stance” on pirating. Word to the wise, ISPs stance on pirating isn’t good.

The Google Fiber DMCA copyright infringement varies, depending on the “amount” of copyright infringement. However, the Google Fiber DMCA usually reads “Notice of Unauthorized Use of Copyrights Owned by [insert copyright owner].” Like the Comcast DMCA email, it instructs the network owner as to the copyright infringing work, the IP address, and so on.

google fiber dmca copyright infringement notice

Copyright infringement emails and letters from Verizon, Bell, Rogers, and other U.S.A. ISPs all follow a similar pattern.

AMC Issues DMCA Threats Regarding The Walking Dead

Copyright infringement isn’t always obvious, either. For instance, Season Six of AMC’s The Walking Dead finished on a massive cliff-hanger. Understandably, during the off-season, fan sites began speculating as to the outcome of the cliff-hanger (I’m trying hard not to include any spoilers here!).

However, AMC threated The Walking Dead fan site, The Spoiling Dead with legal action. If during their speculation regarding the cliff hanger they hit upon the correct outcome for the return to Season Seven, “AMC says they will sue us . . . Their stance is that making such a prediction would be considered copyright infringement.”

Game of Thrones IP-Echelon DMCA Notices

Certain titles attract higher levels of pirating. In recent years, Game of Thrones copyright owner, HBO, has sent tens of thousands of copyright infringement notices as fans pirate the latest Game of Thrones series. HBO teamed up with the anti-piracy company, IP-Echelon, to serve and enforce the copyright infringement notices.

However, HBO also took another step to reducing the amount of Game of Thrones pirating taking place. Instead of restricting Game of Thrones to cable-only, it first added each series to its on-demand streaming service

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, followed by allowing an Amazon Prime channel add-on subscription (albeit at a steep price of $14.99 per month). The result was less piracy, more engagement, and potentially a happier audience.

How to Avoid Copyright Infringement?

Once you receive a copyright infringement letter or email, you are on a list. (Aren’t we all on a list somewhere?) While you might not be able to have your name removed from that list, you can certainly ensure no additional copyright infringements appear alongside your name and IP address.

What measures can you take to make sure that there are no copyright infringements on your home network?

1. Stop All the Downloading (of Illegal Content)

It should go without saying… but stop downloading illegal content through illicit sources. If you are unsure what the copyright status of a file is, it is best not to download. Instead, you can head to the U.S. Copyright Office website and complete a search for whatever the file, film, album, or content is.

My tip is to use a keyword, rather than the exact file name.

The rise of Android-based Kodi boxes and other streaming services further complicate matters. Kodi boxes are sold openly in shops and online, but the streaming apps available on those boxes may well use copyrighted materials. Dan Price explains if it is legal to own and use a Kodi box

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2. Talk to Your Housemates About Copyright Infringement

If you are certain it was not you downloading the latest episode of Game of Thrones, go and chat to your family, housemates, or anyone with access to your internet connection. Hopefully, you can have an honest conversation about the issue of pirating illegal content, as well as the potential repercussions.

(You could show them a few legal download alternatives, too

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3. Check the Letter for Details, Watch Out for Scams

If you meet a wall of silence, head back to the email or letter and check for details. Copyright infringement enforcement letters list the infringing content, including the file name and download method. If you see the file is the latest Kendrick Lamar album, chances are it wasn’t Great Aunt Ethel (but if she did, props to her).

Regardless, the information in the copyright infringement letter or email will help you narrow down who is downloading what on your internet connection. Talk to them about safe downloading, copyright infringement, and alternative sources.

The other thing to consider is if your copyright infringement letter is a scam. Some copyright infringement notices also contain a notice of payment, causing people to panic and pay without considering if the letter is real.

For instance, scammers piggybacking on the HBO Game of Thrones IP-Echelon copyright infringement sent thousands of scam emails including a direct settlement fee of $150 for the alleged copyright infraction.

If you receive an email from IP-Echelon, Lionsgate, Rightscorp, CEG TEK, or any other copyright enforcement firm, don’t rush to pay. Do your research first.

4. Check Your Home Network for Intruders

If it really is no one in your household, even after you give the kids and Great Aunt Ethel the third degree, you should check your home network. Your first stop is your router. Your kids might not be pirating copyrighted material, but what if they gave the internet password to a friend?

How about a neighbor piggybacking on your internet, stealing your bandwidth and triggering the wrath of copyright holders?

Your router will show you any connections. Furthermore, some will even keep a log of recent connections. If there are more devices than you’re aware of, it is time to consider your options.

Use your web browser to access your router interface. The address varies by router, but many companies now print the default router address on the device. My connected device list looks like so:

bt hub home network

I can account for all of those devices. If you cannot, you might have found your copyright infringing culprit. Unfortunately, finding out exactly which neighbor is piggybacking is a bit more difficult (and you might not want to cause a confrontation). In this case, your router will have some form of IP address or MAC address filtering or blocking that you can apply.

5. Virus Scan

The last tip is the good old virus or malware scan. While somewhat unlikely, there is a chance that a Trojan is exposing your hard drive to the internet, resulting in unauthorized file sharing. Unlikely, but possible. There are better things to do with remote access to someone’s computer than use it to download the Jumanji remake.

Use Legal Content Services to Avoid Copyright Infringement

I’m sure there are people out there that have never downloaded a copyright protected file in their entire life. I’m not going to lie: I’m not one of them. But as internet services become better, and cater to a massive range of useful things, the need to lurk potentially dangerous download sites to find obscure Indonesian drum and bass becomes less and less.

Furthermore, protecting yourself has become easier, too. MakeUseOf certainly does not advocate downloading copyrighted material. But a VPN is excellent for protecting your personal online privacy, downloading content or not.

Get three FREE months of ExpressVPN when you subscribe for a year.

Explore more about: BitTorrent, Copyright, Online Privacy, Peer to Peer, Software Piracy.

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