What You Should Know About Gmail and Google Calendar Malicious Spam Invites

Carsten Koall, Getty Images
Carsten Koall, Getty Images

With an estimated 1.5 billion users, Google’s Gmail service is so widely used that any misuse of its features can have far-reaching consequences. As Forbes contributor Davey Winder points out, one feature in particular--Google's Calendar function--could conceivably lead to spam invites.

Google Calendar, which is accessible via Gmail, notifies users of scheduled appointments that are either manually inserted or created from an email invitation. The problem, Winder explains, is in Calendar allowing anyone to schedule a meeting with a user without email notification and Gmail allowing those events to be automatically added to Calendar. Because Gmail users assume the invites must be legitimate, they might click on a pop-up notification about a fraudulent event, or a link within a fraudulent event, that leads to a malicious attack site. In extreme cases, the links can lead to portals where bank or credit card information is solicited.

In an example used by Black Hills Information Security, which discovered the flaw, a Calendar user might receive a notice about an “all-hands” meeting starting in a few minutes along with a link to information that will be discussed at the meeting. Feeling a sense of urgency, a user may not examine the reminder too closely, click the link, and be transferred to a site with malicious software.

Though the vulnerability has been known and publicized for years, Google is only recently taking steps to address it, announcing via a help forum post that they’re working to reduce the potential for spam or malicious links to be passed along through the service.

Until then, it’s best for users to be more diligent when it comes to interacting with the Calendar function. Under the Settings > Event Configuration settings, “Automatically add invitations” should be disabled; the option for showing invitations users have responded to should be enabled. It’s also advisable never to follow any link from a Calendar email from an address or entity you don’t recognize.

[h/t Forbes]

Stuck in a Never-Ending Group Chat? Here's How to Stop It

grinvalds/iStock via Getty Images
grinvalds/iStock via Getty Images

The more contacts on your phone, the more likely you will be periodically pulled into the dreaded group chat—a meandering, pestering chain of communication on apps like Facebook or WhatsApp that keeps your cell in a constant state of alert. While some group chats start out informative, they can quickly devolve in utter banality. (One warning sign: a funny nickname for the chat.) How can one free themselves from this chorus and get on with their lives?

David Nield at Gizmodo recently broke down the steps you can take to pull yourself free, though it depends on which chat app you’re using. If it’s WhatsApp, for example, you can go to Settings, Account, Privacy, Groups, and then set who can add you to a group chat. That way, only people in your inner circle can loop you in. If someone who isn't on your approved list adds you to a chat, you'll get a direct message inviting you to join, which you can accept or ignore. If you’re already in group chat hell, WhatsApp will allow you to mute notifications by tapping on the Menu button and selecting Mute Notifications.

Facebook Messenger doesn’t allow you to pre-emptively opt out, but you can exit existing group chats by tapping “i” inside the thread and selecting “Leave Group” in Android or tapping the chat thread and clicking “Leave Group” in iOS.

The same is true of Apple’s iMessenger—you can’t insulate yourself from chats. Once it starts, though, you can leave by tapping the top of the conversation, selecting “i,” and selecting either Hide Alerts (which mutes the chat) or Leave This Conversation. If people in the chat are using SMS, the messages will still come through, however. They have to be either muted or removed from your phone and life entirely.

For tips on how to deal with group chat pain on Twitter and other platforms, head over to Gizmodo.

[h/t Gizmodo]

Veterans Can Now Access Their Health Records Through Apple’s Health App

SeventyFour/iStock via Getty Images
SeventyFour/iStock via Getty Images

Apple’s iOS Health app is great for more than just checking how many steps you took during a lengthy walk in the park—it also stores health records from Johns Hopkins, Quest Diagnostics, Allscripts, and more than 400 other healthcare organizations.

Now, Fortune reports that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has joined that list, making it easier than ever for military veterans who receive healthcare through the Veterans Health Administration to access all of their health records, including medications, immunizations, lab results, and other information. In the press release, Apple explains that the app will automatically update the records, so all veterans need to do is log into their providers’s patient portals through the Health app for a “single, integrated snapshot of their health profile whenever they want, quickly, and privately.”

apple VA health app screenshot
Apple

Though the official announcement coincides nicely with Veterans Day on Monday, the change itself has been in the works for several months—the VA released the new feature to certain patients over the summer.

According to its website, the Veterans Health Administration is the largest integrated healthcare system in the country, servicing more than 9 million patients across 1255 healthcare facilities. With such an expansive network, any successful attempt to streamline processes and improve the flow of information—especially when it comes to sensitive, personal data—has the potential to be a major game-changer for veterans.

apple VA health app screenshot
Apple

“Helping veterans gain a better understanding of their health is our chance to show our gratitude for their service,” Apple COO Jeff Williams said in the press release. “By working with the VA to offer Health Records on iPhone, we hope to help those who served have greater peace of mind that their healthcare is in good hands.”

Wondering what you can do to help veterans? Here are 11 honorable ideas.

[h/t Fortune]

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