Q: I was recently placed in CenturyLink’s Consumer Internet Protection Program for the second time because of reports of malicious traffic coming from my home network. In both instances I used McAfee Antivirus, Malwarebytes, and finally the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool on all of my connected PCs to identify and fix this problem. In each instance, no malicious software was found. After a lengthy conversation with CenturyLink’s help desk in an attempt to identify what was driving these reports of malicious traffic, they were only able to tell me that some device on my network had a bot virus and that they strongly recommended I get “IT” help to have it removed.
Is it possible that I could still have an infected device, regardless of all the preventive steps I just listed? And if so, how can I tell which one is the culprit? Or could it possibly be the Microsoft connection test causing this issue?
— Scott Hannah
A: I contacted Lumen, which used to be CenturyLink, and got some answers, though I suspect the company’s responses won’t fully reassure customers who don’t know why they’re getting restricted internet access under the program.
First, yes, it’s possible that despite running the software you cite you could still have something that is tripping the wire of Lumen’s Consumer Internet Protection Program. For starters, it’s not just viruses or other malware that can trigger CIPP restrictions. Having content on the computer that violates digital copyright laws may also do so. If you’ve downloaded such content, very possibly without knowing it is copyrighted, that can also be a trigger.
While Lumen promises that it does not scan subscribers’ computers, I asked how CIPP detects malware or other triggering content.
“We rely on trusted third-party notification that our customers’ computers are performing malicious acts on the internet,” said a company spokesperson.
Examples of malicious activity include trying to scan and infect other computers on the web, sending spam from their computers, participating in botnets denial-of-service attacks, and other malicious activity. So while Lumen may not be monitoring your computer’s internet connection, others apparently are.
And yes, it’s also possible that despite your security software another computer on your network may have triggering content, or that your computer or another computer on the network may have been hacked and may have been used to engage in one or more of the triggering activities.
Finally, yes, Lumen says that it is “possible but not likely” that Microsoft 365’s network connectivity test — or other network analytics — might be triggering CIPP restrictions.
So what are you to do? The Lumen spokesperson suggests calling 800-244-1111.
As I said, not really encouraging.
Q: In a recent column, you didn’t mention what I think is the easiest way to move photos from phone (Android or iPhone) to computer (Windows or Apple).
The reader mentioned using Dropbox. Dropbox does automatic uploads of photos (when enabled), so the pictures go to a folder in Dropbox labeled “camera uploads.” No cable needed. Couldn’t be easier.
— Norm Samuelson
A: Yes, that is certainly easy if you don’t want to be selective about what you’re uploading. And, by the way, other cloud services, such as Microsoft OneDrive, also support automatic uploads of photos from your phone to the cloud and, if you like, to your computer.
Q: In a recent column, you mentioned transferring files from phone to laptop by connecting with a USB cable. You probably should clarify that a “data-capable” USB cable is required. Though techies are aware of this, the cable suppliers are often not clear about cable specs and they generally aren’t labeled, which can lead to frustration.
— Dirk Nansen
A: Good point. Yes, there are USB cables that carry only power and that can’t be used to transfer data. Those are the kind that usually come with your cellphone and that you use to charge it. They are generally thinner than USB data cables, which can also be used to power devices. Power-only cables also use only two wires in the cable compared to four in a data cable, but since many power cables use the same four-contact port connectors, you can still misidentify the type of USB cable it is.
The good news is no harm comes from using the wrong cable. You just won’t be able to connect to the phone for data transfers. That’s your cue to grab another cable.