#TechTip Use 2 factor authentication for the websites that have it. Makes it that much harder to hack & will alert you if someone tries
We continue our week of Password protection in our Tech Tips blog for the week. As we mentioned the past few days, changing your password is important, and choosing a password that is complex enough not to be broken easily is essential to online security. Along with that, each online login should have its own password, and you should use a password manager to keep them all secured.
Today we look at 2 Factor authentication. Many website are starting to implement this to increase security to its users by making it difficult for someone just with a password to access your account.
What is 2 Factor Authentication?
The concept behind 2 factor authentication is that you basically have 2 passwords: Your normal password, and a separately generated password that is given to you each time you log on, or an item that you must use to access your information. You may be most familiar with 2 factor authentication in the corporate world using secure login tokens. When a company needs you to log into their secure computer system, you will have to enter your password, as well as a code generated in the token key. Typically these systems have been reserved for businesses who can afford the high security, but not it is becoming made available to average users through different means.
For portals like Gmail, Google has introduced 2 factor authentication using text messages sent to your smartphone. When you activate it and log on, a text message with a 6 digit code is sent via SMS to your mobile phone. You then enter that number into the next screen after your password and then you are let in. The obvious benefit to this is that even if someone gets your password, they won’t be able to access your email unless they can also intercept that text message.
Twitter as well has added additional verification as a security feature to your twitter account. Twitter has both SMS verification as well as a feature built into the Twitter app for Android and iOS phones which require you to have your smartphone when you log into Twitter. This ensures that anyone wishing to access your account will need both your password and your smartphone to get in. More information on Twitters additional verification features can be found on their Support page.
PayPal has its own version of 2 factor authentication which includes either SMS or a digital token. When you log on to your enabled Paypal account, you will be asked for a second step. You can either have an SMS message sent to your phone, or you can get one of their authentication tokens. They use a credit card sized token that generates a new passcode every time you press the button on the card. It costs a few dollars to get the card, but its good security if you don’t want to use the SMS feature.
If you are concerned about access to a particular site, you can look in their help sections to see if they provide additional sign in options that will give you the extra security you need.
#TechTip: Change your passwords often. Don’t use words found in a dictionary or easy number combinations.
Last week, news broke of a major password breach on a number of major social media websites. Close to 2 million passwords were accessed from sites like Gmail, Facebook and Twitter. The security breach means if your password was compromised, you may be susceptible to attack from other hackers.
It is strongly advised that you change your passwords. Even if you don’t think you were affected, its always good to change your passwords now and then for security. This week, we are going to bring a series of tips and blogs on why security for your password is important and offer tips on what to do.
First for this week, lets talk about the actual password you use. Do not use names, dates, or any word that can be found in a dictionary. Even words that are linked together can be cracked. If its found in a dictionary, it can be cracked. It is strongly suggested that passwords contain the following elements:
- Upper Case letters
- Lower Case letters
- 8 or more characters
If you include these in your password, and they are not based on any dictionary words, chances are its a secure password. Having said that, almost any password can be hacked by a skilled hacker. The point is not to make an uncrackable code, but to create a code that would require so much effort for a potential hacker to crack that it wouldn’t be worth their time or resources to try.
Even with good strong passwords that can’t be easily cracked, its still suggested you change your passwords often. Your login credentials for the sites you visit are usually kept in a database somewhere. Its those databases that hackers tend to be attracted to. If they manage to get in and steal a file containing many passwords, then all the complexity in the world won’t help you. Simply changing your password will avoid any issues.
#TechTip: Be careful about what you post online over the holidays. Posted travel info can attract unwanted attention to your empty house.
The holidays are a great time for getting away from the cold to sunny spots down south. Or maybe you’re planning a trip to visit family over the holidays. Whatever your plans are, enjoy them. Take lots of pictures. Tell all your friends how great your trip was (or not so great, depending!) but just make sure to tell them AFTER you get back.
Social media is a wonderful tool to share your memories with friends and family about your travels and allow them to experience what you are in real time vicariously through you. But this has also led to a number of unsavory individuals trolling the internet finding you your house is empty, and then proceeding to make sure your house is empty before you return home.
Here are a few tips to ensure you and your home are safe:
- Don’t post your travel plans in advance on social media. A tweet saying “Off to Cancun for the next week” might as well say “House is empty for the next week. Take what you want”
- Know your Social media platforms. Twitter, Instagram and many others are public so anyone can see what you post. Facebook and Google+ allow you to restrict who sees what posts. If you are intending to post things online, choose outlets that reduce the likelihood of criminals finding out you are away
- Foursquare is great for checking into places, especially when away, but make sure the list of people who follow you are actual friends, and don’t post your checkins to Twitter
- Instagram is wonderful for sharing your pictures and videos, but again it is publicly accessible. Save the pictures on your camera or smartphone until you have returned or are on your way home.
- Make sure you have friends or neighbours checking on your place while you are gone.
- Put lights on timers, or for those wanting to go the extra mile, set up a home automation system that you can remotely connect to while away
Don’t start the new year having to deal with insurance companies to replace all your home contents. Take precautions and have an enjoyable trip.
#TechTip: Hashtags make your content searchable. You can also follow conversations by searching for a hashtag comment
Everyone from news stations to popular comedians have been talking about Hashtags recently, but for someone following from the outside, you may ask yourself: What exactly is a Hashtag?
Good Question! Put simply, a Hashtag is a word or phrase written on social media outlets that starts with the Pound or Hash sign ( # ) and makes content searchable. Example: #TechTip
How does that happen? With social media, tweets and posts come at an alarming rate and sometimes make it hard to follow. A Tweet has a very short life span. Depending on the content, your group of followers and any retweets, a tweet can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes before it falls off the radar. Facebook posts and other social media platforms tend to have longer life spans, but even then not by a whole lot. What a hashtag will do when added to your post or tweet makes it easy to be searchable. It can actually do this in two ways.
1) Tweets can be seen in real time by people who do not follow you but follow the same hashtag. You may not know who is talking about a specific topic, but if everyone who is uses a hashtag, then a quick search will pull up the current live conversation. For example, if you wanted to see who was talking about Canadian politics, you can search for the hashtag #CDNpoli or about a specific event in Canadian politics such as #SenateCA .
2) Tweets can be pulled up even if they were sent out a while ago. If you search for a hashtag, even one that doesn’t have a current conversation going, you can generally find that topic searchable.
There is a third use for hashtags that is a little different. Since anyone can make a hashtag about anything, it has become common to use hashtags as a joke or to add emotion, emphasis or sarcasm to a tweet or post. A tweet about hashtags could include something like #Whatiswithallofthesehashtags or something other to get a point across.
Hashtags can go anywhere in a post or tweet. The only things you need to know are that you can not have any spaces between words and there can be no other punctuation in it. Generally you should not include more than 1 or 2 hashtags in a post or tweet, but there are some exceptions for some social media platforms like Instagram where hashtagging almost every word to make it searchable has become quite common.
There are many popular hashtags that people can follow such as #FollowFriday which encourages people to tweet out the usernames of people you think your followers should also follow. Since anyone can make one, feel free to have some fun making your own or use it in a Google search or Twitter search for important or fun discussions online.