social networking

How to Make Your Passwords Really Secure

How to Make Your Passwords Really Secure 150 150 Kerry Butters

Without passwords, cybercriminals would have free, unlimited access to all of your accounts and online information. Indeed, the password is the first line of defence against such thieves, and so it is very important that you consider them carefully.

To make your passwords really secure:

1. Invent something long that is made up of letters, numbers and symbols

One of the worst things that you can do is use a password that’s predictable or easily guessable. Far too many people don’t really appreciate the importance of password security, and rather lazily opt for ‘password’ or ‘123456’. Another temptation is to use publicly available information that you might think is particular to you – your phone number, for instance – but so many people do it, and cybercriminals will always be giving it a try.

Therefore create a password that is long ­– at least 15 characters – and uses a combination of mixed-case letters, numbers and symbols that will quite frankly be completely unique and unpredictable. It’s the only way.

Creating a unique, memorable, but all the same indecipherable password may indeed be the hardest part of your password security plan. One tip is to think of a phrase or saying that only you know and then use the letters and numbers from it to turn it into a password. So, for example, your phrase might be: “I only love my goldfish Fred and Linda 45 per cent of the time”. So, now, if you take the first letters of each word, this is what you’ll be left with “IolmgF&L45%ott”. Here you have a password that is made up of a good jumble of mixed-case letters, numbers and symbols, completely unique and utterly unguessable.

2. Use a unique password for each of your online accounts

The temptation may be to always use the same password for all of your accounts as this will be easier to memorise. Don’t, under any circumstances, do this. Just think if you used the same key for your home, your office, your car and your safe, and then one day it was stolen. The thief would have instant access to your whole life, and in some ways, the havoc an online criminal can create will be even more devastating. Though certainly not a vessel of convenience, the use of multiple passwords is essential so as not to leave every aspect of your online life completely compromised.

3. Keep your passwords safe

It will, of course, be very hard to memorise all of the complicated passwords that you are creating for yourself. You will therefore probably need to write them all down somewhere. Just be sure that wherever you put them it is in a place that won’t be discovered. This could even be somewhere on your computer, in a hidden file that you need a password to access. If you do this, then make sure you memorize the password to this file – if the only place that it exists is in your head then no one will be able to crack it.

4. Update your passwords frequently

You never know who’s lurking over your shoulder when typing in your passwords. Indeed, despite your best efforts, somebody may well stumble across your secret stash and gain access to all of them. You may even get really unlucky and have a cybercriminal crack one. Therefore you absolutely must make it a habit to update all of your passwords for all of your accounts regularly.  About once a month should be fine. Again, this is will, of course, be a bit of a nuisance, but protecting your online information is one of the most important things you can do. So stay safe and make the time.

5. Make sure your password recovery options are up to date

If the worst comes to worst and you do forget or lose your passwords, then make sure you have a way back into your accounts. Most services will send you a link to reset your password to a specified email account, so just make sure that you always have access to that account.

Sometimes you will have an option to attach a phone number to your profile so that you may receive a code via text to reset your password. Again, just make sure that if you lose, sell or otherwise replace your phone, that you also update your new phone’s information on your profile.

Another way some services like you to verify your identity in the event of a lost password is to have you set a secret question to which you must provide a secret answer. If this is the case, make sure it’s a question and answer that only you and you alone could ever come up with.

Strong passwords are actually a great defence against cybercriminals, so take the security of them very seriously, never hand them out to anyone, and always have a means through which you can recover them if they ever get lost or forgotten.

Are Social Media Skills More Important than a Degree?

Are Social Media Skills More Important than a Degree? 150 150 Kerry Butters

Conventional wisdom has it that, just by getting a degree you show you’re ready for the real world – having made it through three or four years of lectures, and completed something challenging.

Not these days, though.

Increasingly, what matters is getting degrees in fields requiring exact knowledge (like law, medicine, or engineering), or that leave you with an exact skill-set (like education, science, and sometimes business).


The Master’s Way

A master’s degree has a distinct way of preparing students for the working world. Postgraduate studies build on undergraduate skills like time management, self-discipline and working to deadlines.

Postgraduate study can also be about changing direction, or location – which can lead to greater employment opportunities.

The ultimate goal is to walk into the workplace as a professional, rather than a graduate or intern.

Internment, more like…

But, especially in the US, companies large and small are living off university students who’ll work for unpaid internship credits. Firms don’t really need to hire and pay for entry-level positions – which can cut graduates out of the mix, entirely. Why pay for recruits, when you don’t have to?

The sad fact is, when you graduate, you could be in the same position as someone who hasn’t gone to college and may – through their own experience and use of social media – be a better prospect than you are.

The Social Alternative

So, what kind of jobs can you walk into, and with which social media skills?

1. Marketing and Public Relations

  • Detail-oriented
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Oral and written communication skills
  • Project management
  • Self-starting/self-motivated
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
  • Microsoft Office
  • Digital marketing
  • Product development/management
  • Business development

2. IT

  • Hypertext markup language (HTML)
  • Website development
  • JavaScript
  • Detail-oriented
  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
  • Oracle Java
  • Software development
  • Structured query language (SQL)
  • Oral and written communication skills
  • Project management

3. Sales

  • Sales experience
  • Self-starting/self-motivated
  • Oral and written communication skills
  • Microsoft Office
  • Work ethic
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Goal-oriented
  • Work independently
  • Customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Business development

4. Human Resources

  • Microsoft Office
  • Oral and written communication skills
  • Sourcing strategies
  • Detail-oriented
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Applicant tracking software (ATS)
  • Self-starting/self-motivated
  • Project management
  • Organisational skills
  • Work independently


Getting the Skills

Natalie Burgwin, senior public relations manager for 1-800-GOT-JUNK? has a hit list of skills to be applied across the social media board.

1. A sense of humour

Customers want to talk to real people, so posts should be fun and light-hearted, whenever possible. Even complaints can be handled with a little touch – if you’re clever about it.

2. Display common sense

Social media requires knowing how to handle a variety of interactions on different platforms. Don’t waste time and energy on stuff unrelated to your business. Know when to comment, and when not to.

3. Use filters

Think about how your messages could be interpreted by (diverse) others.

4. Grammar and style matter

Every message you send represents you, or your organisation. So, take the time to proof-read. And use a spell-checker. Strive to be topical, but not predictable.

5. Manage your time

Focus only on sites that fit your business best. And give them attention, every day.


Sell Yourself!

Here’s how to do just that:

1. On Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

  • Set up a good profile. It’s common for potential employers to check out your Facebook profile before they decide to interview you.
  • Manage your privacy settings. When an employer looks you up, they should see only your picture and some key information about you.
  • Make sure your photos show your best side. As in, no drunken revelry, or bunny costumes.
  • Maximise your number of Friends or Followers. Many marketing jobs need a Facebook media manager and will ask how many Facebook friends you have. Stay active and favour your friends’ Tweets, or like their Instagram photos.
  • Create a fan page, where relevant. Promote your talent or skill. Spread awareness about your work and update your fans.
  • Have an account. Avoid that awkward moment where potential employers ask for your Twitter or Instagram username, and you don’t have one.
  • Think before you Tweet. Keep it appropriate, even if your privacy settings are high.
  • Think before you post a photo.  (See “bunny costumes”, above)

2. On LinkedIn

  • Maintain your profile. LinkedIn is a professional network, so you’ll need an active one. Update often, and make sure to include all of your experience.
  • Be careful. Avoid adding perfect strangers to your network. Stick to people who share several connections with you.

3. Elsewhere

  • Network in person. Whenever you meet someone who can help advance your career (and if it’s appropriate), be friendly and personable – and exchange contact information.
  • Network with Alumni. Join any (school or university) alumni networking sites to increase your chances of finding a connection who can help you find a job.
  • Work the room. Listen, to the views of others. Share their views, as appropriate. Respond courteously and promptly to feedback.
  • Be patient. It takes time, to build relationships – and that’s what social media skills are all about.

And Remember…

Professional use of social media includes networking in your particular industry, reading up on trends, sharing related content, and gaining the interest of others. What you do in your personal life should (generally) be kept entirely separate.