Tech Tip: Automatic Alerts to your phone to stay connected

#TechTip for news junkies, set up news alerts to your phone for breaking stories or to stay up to date on current events

News is breaking every day all over.  Staying on top of it can be a full time job.  Whether you are a news junkie, or just want to know whats happening the world, breaking news alerts are a great tool to help you connect with the world around you.

Many news sites offer breaking news alerts or subscription services.  This usually involves setting up an account on the news website and telling them what you are interested in.  CBC News, for example, offers their subscription service that will email you alerts based on what you have requested.  They offer everything from Breaking news, to news digests based on the geographical area you are most interested in.  Email alerts will arrive in your inbox so you don’t have to keep refreshing their website every 5 minutes to see if something new has happened in the world.

If you want something a little more immediate and you have a specific topic you want news on, consider getting the news right from the source.  Many journalists get breaking news from the Canadian News Wire, which offers press releases for businesses and organizations.  When a company or government has something to say in Canada, they will often issue press releases.  Setting up an account and planning what you want to get news about is a great way to stay on top of a story before it even breaks in the news.

I have also said many times, one of the best ways to get breaking news is through Twitter.  Before news breaks on TV, often people are talking about it and sharing it.  Not only is it a great way to find breaking news, its also great to follow ongoing stories.  During major events, update can often be found on the Twitter accounts of those closest to the story.  During recent storms and environmental emergencies, Governments and organizations provided updates on their twitter feeds to keep the public up to date on what was going on.  Over the summer, for example, when a major storm caused flooding and power outages in the Greater Toronto Area, local power utilities were issuing statements saying what areas were without power and where crews were working to restore.  Their social media teams did a good job responding to requests for information and providing updates.

Keeping updated is easy, but filtering information so only the right information comes at the right time is critical to avoid information overload.

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Tech Tip: Use different passwords for all your online portals

#TechTip: use a different password for each online portal. It will limit your exposure if 1 password is compromised
Today’s Tech Tip blog continues on our theme from yesterday.  Passwords are making it back in the news after last weeks announcement that close to 2 million passwords were stolen from major web portals.  Yesterday we talked about what you should include in your password.  Today we cover how many passwords you need.
The short answer:  Lots!
Yes, it is easy to have 1 password that you use on everything.  Makes it easy to log into sites you don’t normally access and keeps everything nice and clean.  However the more sites you have with the same password means you are opening yourself up to a greater level of exposure.  It is important, especially on popular sites like Gmail, Facebook and Twitter (basically all high profile social media sites) to maintain different passwords for each site.
If you are afraid of remembering all your passwords, you can alter each password by only a few digits and make sure to can figure out which password is for each site.  Even better is is a completely different, random password for each site.
How do I remember all my passwords if you need me to have dozens or hundreds of different passwords?
That is the topic for our next blog post on password management.  Stay tuned.

Tech Tip: Change your passwords to ensure security

#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
  • Numbers
  • Punctuation
  • 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.

 

Tech Tip: What are Hashtags and how can they be used?

#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 some great articles out there if you have more questions on hashtags such as this Beginners guide to Hashtags from Mashable or directly from Twitter.

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.

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