TechTip: Using 2 Factor Authentication for secure access to websites

#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?

800px-SecureID_token_newThe 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.

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Tech Tip: Using Technology to Prepare those Holiday Lists

#TechTip: Technology can help prepare those holiday shopping lists. @evernote for lists or#Pintarest for gift and decoration ideas

Its not secret that I am a big fan of Evernote.  For those that don’t know what it is, Evernote is a note taking app that syncs across all your mobile devices and computers while making everything searchable.  It even incorporates traditional paper note taking and is able to bring it in to your electronic world.

When its time to make your shopping lists, I would recommend using either Evernote, or if you have a note taking program you are comfortable with, to make your holiday shopping lists.  Here’s why:

  • Don’t worry about losing your paper list with everyone’s gift ideas on it.  not only would it be hard to remember what you are getting everyone, but leaving it lying around may come under the scrutiny of those who’s names are on the list.
  • Add items to your list while working on your computer, and then easily access them while on the go
  • Use the camera function to take pictures of gift ideas and add them to your note, so everything is in one location. (Try adding a picture to the back of the envelope you wrote your list down on!)

On the topic of using your camera phone for gift ideas, another tool you can use this holiday season is Social Media.  Pinterest is a newer social media platform that has gained quite a bit of attraction since its launch.  Its purpose it to share images on a board, much like a bulletin board.  Once you log on, you can create a board where you can scour the internet for pictures of gift ideas, or use your camera to take pictures while out shopping.  This is great for making your preliminary list of things to get people, as well as making your own holiday wish list.  You can share your list or keep it private.  (Just know that once you make a private board public you can’t undo it).  Pinterest is also great for finding lots of holiday decorating ideas.

The holidays can be a stressful time, but hopefully if you start early, and use your connected technology properly, you can get through it quickly and stress free.

Tech Tip: Enjoy tunes from your phone in your car

#TechTip: Get a good Bluetooth car kit for your phone, and enjoy your music over your cars speakers

Bluetooth car kits have been around for many years now, and some cars already come with kits built in.  While Bluetooth headsets are still popular when driving, a decent car kit provides a great deal benefits.

First, lets start with the warning: Using your phone while driving can be dangerous and in some areas illegal.  Be aware of local laws regarding phones, electronic devices and driving.  Don’t drive distracted!  Keep your eyes on the road!

While using your phone can be dangerous, there are ways to safely set up your phone and car to limit the amount of distraction and make it safer.  A car kit or earpiece is a must is most jurisdictions now.  Make sure you have one.  As I said in a previous tech tip, keep a backup wired headset in your car just in case your wireless one dies on you.

While most car kits have the built in speaker, some will even go as far as syncing up to your car stereo, whether its built in to the car, or through an FM transmitter, your kit can send calls to your stereo, making it easier to hear the caller at the other end.

In addition to that, if your phone will sync to your car stereo, there should be a setting to play music from your phone over the stereo.  This gives you the enjoyment of your music every you go.  Whether it is music stored on your phone or streamed through your data connection, it will keep you tuned in that what you like best.

To safely operate your phone/music player, make sure your phone is in a proper cradle that attaches to your car.  The easiest way is to pick up a suction cup mount that has a generic adapter for all phones.  This way you can keep the same mount even if you change phones, or move the mount if you move cars.  Personally I’m more of a fan of mounts built in to a car, such as from ProClip.  Their car mounts often require professional installation, so its best for cars that you plan to keep for a long time.  They have individual brackets for each brand of phone, and each mount is custom designed for your car model.  Expensive yes, but I’ve been using them now for 8 years, 2 different cars and countless phones.

Most stores carrying smartphones, especially around the holiday season, will be carrying different suction cup window mounts.  This is fine for most people, but there are also mounts that clip to your car vents.  While these are handy, I recommend you don’t have the heaters blasting out of these vents directly onto your phone.  That makes it too easy for your phone to overheat.

You can probably pick up a nice long USB cable and run it from your phone, or Bluetooth kit, or both, and into your Cars power outlet. Get a 12V adapter with 2 USB ports on it to keep both your phone and bluetooth kit charged up at all times.

Stay safe and enjoy your drive!

Tech Tip: Adding technology to your winter driving kit

Tech Tip: In addition to a snow brush, keep a backup battery or car charger in your car as part of your winter driving kit.

As we start adjusting to winters arrival, we have to male a few changes both to how we drive and what we carry with us in our car.  Snow brushes and a blanket are great additions to any car during the winter, but there are a few technology solutions we can also include as we winterize the car.

If you don’t already have one, make sure you include a car charger for your phone.  The last thing you want is to be spun out in a ditch on a snowy evening and have your phone die on you.  Most smart phones have moved over to the Micro USB adapter, meaning 1 charger packed away is probably all you need as it will charge most phones now and in the future.  Apple does remain stubborn and have it’s own proprietary charger so make sure you have one that will work if you use an iPhone.

Another great item to include is an emergency battery backup for your phone.  In essence, it is a portable battery pack that you can fit in a glove box or bag to provide emergency power.  Most battery packs can charge a phone 1 or 2 times before it needs to be charged itself.  While a car charger is handy, its useless if your car battery is dead.  It is important to remember that cold can affect battery performance so if you decide to get a portable battery pack, make sure its checked or charged up regularly.  Even better would be to keep it in a bag or pocket where it will stay warm enough not to lose its charge.

Another option to carrying a battery pack is to store a portable power generator for charging your phone.  Some hand crank flashlights have built in chargers for a phone.  A solar charger is also a great idea, but just remember it’s darker in winter so a solar charger will be at its least efficient during the winter.  Another great tool is the PowerPot by Power Practical.  It generates enough electricity to charge a phone by heating water in it over a stove.  I originally bought one for camping, but found it extremely useful during my recent kitchen renovations.  I now keep it I’m my car in the event I get stranded at the side of the road.  Fortunately melting snow is a great way for it to produce electricity.  You can buy a small camp stove and fuel tank that fits right inside and stashes away in your trunk easily.

Winter presents its own set of challenges for driving, and preparing for those challenges is critical.  By preparing in advance you will be ready for any issue that arises, and still be connected at the time you need it most.

What’s better: Apple or Android? The answer may surprise you!

There has been a lot of discussion over the past few years over what is a better smartphone: Apple or Android. There are loyal camps on both ends and a lot of vigorously defiant camps in between. (BlackBerry, Microsoft etc.) Some of the fanboys (and fangirls) on both sides will gladly talk at length over why their preferred system is better than all the rest.

So who is right? What is the best mobile solution out there?

The answer? It doesn’t matter.

Both Apple and Android are 2 software ecosystems for connecting you to the digital world. BlackBerry, Windows Phone and all the other operating systems are also excellent at keeping you connected.

You are probably thinking “WELL THAT DOESN’T HELP ME!!!” “WHAT A STUPID ANSWER! OF COURSE MY _____ PHONE IS BETTER THAN ALL THE REST!”

And I have an answer to that rebuttal: You’re right. Your ____ phone is better than all the rest….For you.

There has been too much attention placed on why one is better than the other; but in truth, it all comes down to the same thing I have told people for over 14 years working in the telecom industry. There no such thing as the best phone, there is only the best phone for you!

Lets look at it from a different perspective. What do you need a Smartphone for? Staying connected. Phone calls, Text messages, emails, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and the host of other connected solutions available. Really what does a smartphone do? It bridges the gap between your digital and personal worlds. Any one of the phones I have already mentioned can do that (Plus many more I haven’t even talked about yet) The thing is, everyone is different. Some people rely heavily on social media connectivity and need something that will work. Others just want secure email, while others just want it to work easily. Since everyone is different there is no way to make a blanket statement over what is the better Smartphone, especially in an industry that changes as rapidly as the telecom sector.

So what do you need to know to make the right decision?

Ultimately you need to find out what kind of user you are going to be. Do you need occasional connectivity or constant? Do you have specific applications that you rely on or will you be using more basic communication solutions? Whatever you decide you are, just know that your habits will change over time. What you think is the right solution for you now may not be the right solution for you in a years time. Change and adaptation is part of the technology ecosystem we live in.

There is one thing I will say that will separate ecosystems and hopefully make a decision easier. Platforms should be network and information agnostic. Your information should be accessible on all platforms. You should be able to switch ecosystems as easily as a pair of shoes and still maintain an adequate level of reliable communications. Anything that prevents you from doing that, or forces your information to only be locked to a single ecosystem should be reconsidered.

Open solutions are the only way to stay connected.