Stay Secure with a Strong Password

Not too long ago hackers stole 32 million user passwords and exposed them on a web site. An enterprising security company, Imperva, did some analysis of all these passwords. Guess what they learned?

Your password probably isn’t strong enough. If you thought you were being clever by changing your super easy to guess password from “123456” (like 290,000 users had) to something more difficult like “123456789” you are in the same boat as the nearly 78,000 users who use that as their password. Oh, and “Password” was used by 62K users.

Some other not-so-clever passwords to avoid include:

  • 12345
  • iloveyou
  • princess
  • rockyou
  • 1234567
  • abc123
  • Nicole
  • Daniel
  • babygirl
  • monkey
  • Qwerty
  • 654321

What can you do to make your password more secure but not require a Ph.D. to remember? It needed be as difficult as you think:

  1. Make sure your password is 7 or more characters in length
  2. Change an easy to remember word by turning letters into numbers, e.g., password -> pa55word
  3. Use an upper case letter in a different spot, e.g., pa55wOrd
  4. Change a letter to a special character, e.g., p@55wOrd
  5. Use one or more spaces, e.g., This is my p@55wOrd
  6. Use really long sentences that are easy to remember and type, e.g., This will always be my p@55wOrd
  7. Change your password regularly. Did you know that February 1 is National Change Your Password Day? Or if that doesn’t work for you, change it twice a year when the time changes.

For most users, following 3 or more of the tips above will keep you safe on the Internet. But any system can be hacked. Once you develop a good password, don’t tape it to your monitor or beneath your keyboard.

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Office 2010 Released

It’s out. It’s nice. If you’re using Office 2003 or earlier, it’s time to upgrade.

Office 2010 uses the same kind of ribbons that Office 2007 users have grown accustomed to. The new “ribbon” that you’ll find in Word 2010 is the one that 2007 should have had. It’s called file. The file ribbon gives you all the options and information about the particular file that you’re working on that you could possibly want to know.

For example, as I type this blog entry in Word 2010, when I click the file tab, I have lots of nifty choices like Open, Save, Save as, and Print but the option that is highlighted is Info. Under Info I can Set Permissions (protect the document so that only those who should see it can), Prepare for Sharing (basically let’s me easily strip hidden information that other’s shouldn’t see but that is useful to have for an in house document) and work with different Versions of the document.

I can also see useful information such as how long I’ve been editing this document, add or view the Title and any Tags, see who the creator is, and lots of other information. It is also from the file tab that I can open recent or other documents and do many of the tasks from the old File menu.

As is usually the case, the biggest change comes with Outlook. As the way people communicate continues to change, Microsoft tries to make Outlook the tool to help you do this. Outlook now has its own ribbons (for some reason Outlook 2007 didn’t get the ribbon makeover).

The newest feature here is the Quick Steps box. Basically what this box does is let you create macros or rules on what do with certain messages. Once that rule is created, you can run it by clicking the appropriate button in the Quick Steps box. I’m still experimenting with this but this feature holds potential in helping to tame the email beast.

Access has some nice new features, one that we’re taking a very close look at right now is the Project template. What is nice is that Access is now really designed from the get go to be interactive. I opened the Project template and the first thing I had to do was create a user (myself) and then log in. Then I was off to the races creating and entering information on the project.

The downside is I wanted to watch the video which required SilverLight which I had already installed which Access didn’t recognize as being installed. Still a few issues, it would appear but all in all I like this latest version and could see moving some of our folks to it even before the first service pack.

Other tools that come with the complete version of Office 2010 include OneNote (great for taking quick notes or for having a notebook on a particular task or subject) and InfoPath – the tool for forms – now comes with a Designer part and a Filler part. For business users (those with lots of computers and users), there’s also a new program called SharePoint Workspace. I’m still investigating these but they look to be pretty nifty tools for improved work flow.

The full version “Professional” retails for around $500 but as a productivity tool is well worth it.

 

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Instant On Operating System

What an interesting week this has been. I helped a wonderful couple from my church transition from their old computer to a newer XP computer. It was interesting when they first called because I asked them what operating system was installed. “Thelma” as I’ll call her, replied that she wasn’t sure.  I asked her to click on the start button but she couldn’t find that either. When I arrived, I turned on the computer and it was on almost instantly. Have you got it figure out yet? This was a 486 computer running DOS and Windows 3.11.

The thing that stunned me was how quickly it was ready to go. Even my faster computers will take 45 seconds or longer to boot up. This one was ready in less than 10. But of course it was Windows 3.11 so there wasn’t alot that could be done on it – although I did notice that it had an AOL icon so theoretically they could have gone online.

Why write about this now? Well our friends at Google are trying to take us back to the days of instant on with their new Google Chrome-OS.  They have had Google Chrome – the browser – out for awhile and it works pretty well (though I still prefer Firefox). Their next step is to have an entire operating system that boots quickly and basically just connects to the web from which you can access everything you need. Afterall, with Google Docs and all the other Google apps, what else do you need?

I have to admit it would be nice to have an instant on system that meets 21st Centry expectations of performance and usability because it was nifty to see how quicky that old computer fired up.

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Growing in a Down Economy

How do you grow your business in a down economy? There are lots of cliché’s I could throw out there. But it really comes down to tuning out the naysayers and focusing on what you do best. So here’s what the technology experts at EduCyber recommend:

  1. Turn off the TV. Leave it on too long and you’ll be barraged with advice to give it up because the economy is tanking.
  2. Don’t worry about what you can’t control. Strongly related to the first tip, the point is that you still have your business. Look at ways to expand your customer base, increase sales to existing customers, or make bigger sales to new customers.
  3. Leverage your existing IT infrastructure. Sounds like big business but it isn’t. There are always efficiencies that can be gained. Take the time up front for training or learning how to best use your network and applications.  Greater efficiency equals more money for your bottom line.
  4. Look at your web site. Can  you sell more products to more people through it? Can you target your ideal client more effectively through paid advertising or paid search?
  5. Continue to invest in yourself and your company. When others see that you’re investing in yourself, they’ll know you aren’t going anywhere. This will help them make the (right) decision to do business with  you.
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Stay Organized and Stay Productive

We’ve been giving and receiving Outlook training this week and it hit me how important it is to stay focused with productivity tools of which Outlook continues to be one of our most important. In an office environment, using Outlook as the front end to an exchange server gives lots of opportunities for sharing schedules, assigning tasks, sharing calendars, and storing emails in public folders so that others in the company can easily access the same information.

Outlook 2007 is a powerful tool whether in a business environment with Exchange server or as a standalone program. The search component in particular is powerful. I have on my Outlook Favorites the search folders Unread Mail and For Followup. You can also add particular category searches that help you to stay connected and keep moving forward. The To-Do bar on the right side of the screen is a handy tool that you can expand or hide to meet your needs but when expanded shows your upcoming schedule and flagged emails.

Another productivity tool that I use in conjunction with Outlook is Jott. I’ve written about Jott previously but it is a great time saver if you’re out and about a lot. I can call Jott to send myself emails, ask for reminders that will come to my phone and email, or send an email to anyone in my address book. Yes, from my phone. So when I’m driving down the road and remember that I need to confirm an appointment via email, I can call (using my hands free bluetooth device of course) and tell Jott to send an email to Ted, letting him know that I’ll be at the breakfast meeting on Friday and Ted will get the email.

Between Outlook, Exchange and Jott, I manage to stay organized and on top of my schedule and keep my productivity high.

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