Monthly Archives: October 2016

Avoid This Seven Password Mistakes

It seems everything you do online these days requires a password. But watch out – most people give little thought to their passwords, creating short, easy-to-remember passwords that can be defeated by hackers in mere seconds.

It pays to get your password right and create a password that greatly reduces the chance of your online accounts being hacked.

Here are the common mistakes to avoid

1. Personal data

Many people create passwords based on personal information that’s all too easy to find out. Never use a password that includes personal details, such as your birthday, your address or the names of your spouse, pet or children.

2. Common passwords

They may be easy to remember but passwords such as ‘123456’ , ‘abcdefg’, ‘qwerty’, ‘letmein’ and ‘password’ top the list of the most common passwords people use – and are the first passwords even a novice hacker will try.

Don’t grab a dictionary to choose a password either. Hackers can quickly check hundreds of thousands of entries in seconds using software. Choose a complex, random password.

3. Easy to find

Jotting down your password on a post-it note or piece of paper and keeping it next to your computer is a bad idea – it’s like leaving your front door key in the lock.

Choose passwords that are memorable enough that you don’t need to write them down, but if you must, then keep them in a secure location or use a password manager.

4. Too short

The shorter your password, the less secure it is.

Hackers use software to crack passwords and the longer it takes, the more likely they are to give up and move on to easier prey. Each additional character in your password dramatically increases the time it takes to crack. So use a password with at least eight characters, although 12 or 14 characters are better.

Don’t simply add a couple of digits to the end of a password to lengthen it as hackers expect this.

5. Not complex enough

Avoid using passwords containing all letters or all numbers, especially if sequential, such as ‘1234abcd’.

Make sure your password includes both upper and lower case letters, numbers and keyboard symbols. However, avoid common patterns easily spotted by hackers, such as putting two or four numbers before or after the letters or adding just one symbol, such as ‘!’, at the end of the password.

6. Too old

Using the same password for years can be a mistake as someone may acquire your password and use it to snoop or steal over an extended period of time.

Regularly changing your password prevents this from happening, however creating a strong but memorable password each time can be challenge, so consider using a password manager.

7. One password

Using the same password for multiple accounts poses a security risk. If a hacker cracks your password, he can then access all your other accounts that use that same password.

Always use a unique password for each of your online accounts.

Tips to Keep Safe On Public Wi-fi Networks

Free wi-fi is everywhere. From train stations, coffee shops and even supermarkets – the ability to connect your laptop, smartphone and tablet to a free wi-fi network can keep you online while on the go.

But, criminals are on the lookout for the unwary, and connecting to a free public wi-fi network can expose you to scams, hackers and viruses.

Follow our advice to stay safe when connecting to free public wi-fi networks.

1. Use recognized wi-fi networks

Anyone can set up a fake wi-fi network with a convincing name, so ensure you know the actual name of the genuine network you want to connect to. That way, you’ll avoid bogus networks designed to scam you.

2. Be careful what sites visit

Be careful which sites you visit and what data you transmit over public wi-fi.

Avoid using public wi-fi for banking, email, photos or any data sharing, or anything that requires you to enter a password.

3. Always use secure sites

If you do need to login to an online account, always type the URL directly into the web browser address bar and ensure the connection is encrypted.

Look for a padlock in the web browser address bar and a web address beginning with the prefix ‘https’ to be sure.

Use a free web browser extension, such as HTTPS Everywhere, which will direct you to the secure versions of websites (if there is a secure version).

When you’re finished visiting a site that requires your password, remember to log out of your account.

4. Use two-step authentication

Use two-step authentication for logging into your account – as offered by Gmail, Twitter and Facebook.

This typically involves a code sent to your mobile phone that you need to enter to log into the account. That way, even if someone hacks your password, the extra security layer will prevent them from opening your accounts.

5. Don’t download software

As tempting as it is to download applications, avoid doing this on public wi-fi. It’s harder to be sure of the source of the app, which could hide a virus or spyware.

6. Keep up-to-date

Make sure your operating system, web browser and anti-virus programs are up-to-date with the latest versions but only download and install updates when on your home or work network.

7. Turn on your firewall

Make sure your computer’s firewall is turned on to stop hackers connecting to your computer.

To do this in Windows, go to Control Panel > Windows Firewall and in Mac OS X go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy and click the ‘Firewall’ tab.

By default, Windows Firewall hides your computer from others on the same network. Mac users can access this extra protection by clicking ‘Firewall Options’ on the ‘Firewall’ tab and selecting ‘Enable Stealth Mode’.

8. Turn off file sharing

File sharing can leave your computer vulnerable to hackers, so turn this option off before using public wi-fi.

In Windows, go to Control Panel > Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center, and then click ‘Change Advanced Sharing Settings’. In OS X, open System Preferences > Sharing.

9. Forget this network option

Make use of your laptop or device’s ‘forget this network’ option to stop it from automatically reconnecting to a wi-fi hotspot without your permission.

In Windows, untick the ‘Connect Automatically’ box next to the wi-fi network name. To prevent it happening in the future, click the wi-fi name in the ‘Network and Sharing Centre’, then click ‘Wireless Properties’ and untick ‘Connect automatically when this network is in range’.

On a Mac, go to ‘Network’ in System Preferences and click ‘Advanced’ in the wi-fi section, then untick ‘Remember networks this computer has joined’. For iPhone or iPad, tap ‘Settings’, select ‘Wi-Fi networks’ and click the ‘I’ icon next to the network name and choose ‘Forget this network’.

10. Set up a virtual private network (VPN)

It may sound technical, but it’s possible to create your own private virtual network. Called a VPN, this routes your data through an encrypted private network, keeping your activity and data safe even when using public wi-fi. You can buy VPN services for laptops and mobile devices.

Some Reasons to Get A Twitter Account

In March 2016, Twitter celebrated its tenth birthday, and announced that it had 310 million monthly active users.

If you’re already one of those millions of regular Twitter users, you’re probably not surprised. You’re likely to already be well aware of the lure that keeps you coming back to scroll through the stream of tweets that make up your own personal Twitter timeline.

However, if Twitter has thus far bypassed you, perhaps you’re wondering why it boasts such a long-term appeal to people.

So if you’d like to know exactly what you’re missing, here are five reasons why you should get on Twitter:

Make your opinions heard

I once heard it said that Twitter is like talking to yourself in a crowded room (in fact, I probably read that on a tweet), but sometimes, when you have something to get off your chest, that’s all you need.

I’ve grumbled about the person who nipped into the car parking space I had my eye on, grumbled about my dog pooping in my shoe, grumbled about my long-suffering husband who momentarily ticked me off – and once I’ve got it out my system, I move on.

Of course, you have to be careful what you tweet about – tweet in haste, repent at leisure, as the saying probably doesn’t go.

And sometimes, one of the people who follow me will commiserate, or bestow a ‘Like’ upon my grumpy tweet – and I feel vindicated and validated, and generally much chirpier.

Get speedy customer service

I recently had an issue with some balsamic vinegar going mouldy well before its use-by-date, even though I had stored it at the recommended temperature. In days of yore I would have tutted in annoyance and binned it, writing off the money I’d spent. But I simply took a picture of the mould and the use-by-date and sent it to the supermarket’s Twitter account. Within moments they had responded apologetically and credited my loyalty card account with enough points to buy me a whole new bottle.

I’m sure that had I taken the bottle in to the customer service, they would have done the same thing, but I would have ended up leaving the bottle on the side for a week or two before remembering to actually take it with me on my shopping trip, and it probably would have leaked in the car, and then I would have felt a bit silly asking for £3.50 back.

Conducting the whole thing over Twitter was simple, hassle-free and painless.

And if you are struggling to get a resolution from other avenues of customer service, you’ll find no company wants to publicly let their customers down, so it’s in their interests to sort your issue out as soon as possible when you bring it to a forum as public as Twitter.

Twitter is a funny place to be

The best part about Twitter, I find, is that whenever I check my timeline, I’m bound to see something that at least makes me smile, and often makes me laugh out loud.

That’s because by following the people who I find funny (comedians, actors, friends), I have been exposed to the people who make them laugh too.

When they’ve laughed at a tweet in their own timeline, they retweet it, and it automatically goes into my timeline. I’ve found so many unsung comedians by accident in this manner that my timeline is now packed with hilarious jokes I can dip in and out of whenever I need a lift.

And whilst I don’t for a moment condone ‘joke theft’ – taking a joke made in a tweet and passing it off as your own is looked upon very dimly by the Twitter community – repeating jokes on Twitter has made me seem a bit funnier too. More than once, I’ve found myself saying ‘I saw a very funny tweet today’ and quoting it to friends and family – whilst it’s not my original thought, they haven’t heard it before, and it makes me seem hilarious. Well, I laugh anyway, and isn’t that the most important thing?

And whilst we’re on the subject of making no one but yourself laugh, do you ever find yourself thinking up a very funny joke that no one else gets, simply because they don’t have the same interests as you? If you find yourself saying things like ‘We should call this bus Godot’ and receiving blank looks, turn to Twitter. You might find exactly the audience you’ve been missing all this time.

Have a brush with fame

A few weeks ago I posted a tweet that mentioned a certain well-knownish Hollywood actor by his Twitter name. It was just a silly comment, but a few days later I checked my notifications and saw he had ‘liked’ it, all the way from across the pond.

It’s probably quite sad to admit, but it made my week, and gave me a conversation starter that I would like to say I used for about a week, but in all honesty, I’m still using it to this day.

Another friend, a huge Star Wars fan, mentioned Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker, if you’re wondering) in a tweet and got a ‘like’ from the man himself. You haven’t lived until you see a grown man shed a tear over his smartphone; it’s an image that’s difficult to shake.

Watch your favourite TV shows with a commentary

By using an established hashtag like #BritainsGotTalent , #XFactor or #Strictly, you can settle down to watch your favourite show and read the amusing musings of the people you follow as they tweet along in real time, a little like reading a TV review as it happens.

Sometimes actors from the show will live tweet little nuggets of behind-the-scenes information, giving you a whole new level of enjoyment as you watch the scene unfold on screen.

I like this most when I think something to myself, check Twitter and find I’m not alone in my opinion. I still have a little chuckle to myself from time to time when I remember someone I followed on Twitter commenting that X Factor 2012 winner James Arthur’s (overly emotional, I had thought to myself) performances reminded him of ‘that time on Corrie when Deidre went bonkers on the cobbles’ (I’m paraphrasing, as years of repeating that little gem in conversations has left me with a somewhat garbled version, but you get the gist).