Business Columns & Blogs

Switching your landline number to mobile

Q: Can I transfer my landline telephone number — one I’ve had for years — to a new wireless smartphone?

A: Moving your landline telephone number to a mobile phone is possible if you are staying in the same geographic area, but you should check with the wireless carrier you want to use to make sure the company can handle it. (However, if you have a separate long-distance calling plan for your old home-telephone service, expect it to get left behind as your new carrier takes over.)

In addition to moving landlines, the Federal Communications Commission says you can also keep the same wireless number if you are switching service providers. The agency’s website has a consumer guide to taking your phone number with you.

Most of the major national wireless carriers have their own online guides to lead you through the process of transferring (or “porting”) your existing telephone number to their networks. And AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless all have pages on their sites where you can type in your number to check its transfer eligibility.

You should also be able to make the move by visiting a store run by your prospective carrier. Have a copy of your current phone bill or other account information available to prove the number belongs to you. Once the transfer is in the works, it may take a few days to fully transition over, and both the landline and the smartphone may ring when a call comes in during this period.

Protecting Data When Using Browser Extensions

Q: I was installing a browser extension the other day, and the software said it needed to “read and change all the data on the websites you visit.” Why is this, and should I be worried?

A: Browser extensions meant to perform tasks — like finding coupon deals or stopping videos from automatically playing — are programs all on their own. Web browsers that use a permissions system to explain what data the extension needs to function should alert you to what the program wants to do and, as with app permissions on mobile devices, give you a chance to stop installing the software if its reach seems too invasive.

In theory, an extension that has license to “read and change all the data on the websites you visit” can see the sites you browse, make changes to those pages and report back to its creator with the information. Some extensions legitimately require access to this data to perform their function. For example, video-blocking software must read a website’s code to see that a clip is set to play automatically — so it knows how to stop the playback.

Many extensions benignly use this information, but there is always the danger that the all-access pass will be abused or that rogue software will grab keystrokes, login information, account numbers and other private data. Malware makers have hijacked or even bought legitimate extensions from their original developers and used the access to pump invasive advertisements into webpages; Google previously banned these offenders from its Chrome extension store.

The creators of Honey, a popular shopping extension that requires permission to “read and change” the data on the websites you visit, have said that they have been approached by malware and data collection companies about selling their trusted software — but that they have not done so. Many add-on programs quietly do their jobs without grabbing your data, but if online privacy and security concern you at all, consider skipping the convenience of the browser extension, or thoroughly read its creator’s privacy policy so you know what you are agreeing to share when you install the software.

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