Monthly Archives June 2017

Managing your personal network

Keeping expenses down while maintaining the speeds and data you need can be a delicate balance. Here are some tips for managing your own personal network to ensure you’re getting what you need without breaking the bank.

1: Assess what you’re paying for!

You need to make sure you understand exactly what you are paying each month and what you’re getting for those payments. Are you paying full price? Are you paying for services you don’t need? Are you paying for services you don’t even realize you have access to? Are you signed up for a minimum-term contract with penalties for breaking it? If you don’t understand, call customer service and have them explain it to you!

All this information is important not only for your own records, but because if you know exactly what you’re paying for, you’ll know exactly how to bargain for better prices. Ensure that you review your account information, billing information and contract so you have a thorough understanding of where your money is going.

2: Have a clear understanding of your needs!

It’s very important to separate the relevant from the irrelevant. Sometimes you see a deal that sounds too good to pass up, but you need to remember that a deal is only a deal if it’s something you’re actually going to use! Do you only use your smart phone and watch Netflix? Then why are you paying for a home phone/cable bundle? Even if you’re paying a reduced price, if you’re not using the product, it’s not worth your money.

3: Be timely and accurate!

Phone and internet providers want your business as long as you’re paying for it. As soon as you’re not making timely payments, your business is no longer a priority. Write down your payment dates and pay them in full, on time, every month. If you’re always paying and you’re always on time, you have leverage because the company wants to keep you as a customer! You can use that to bargain down prices.

4: Don’t be afraid to haggle!

So now you’ve assessed your payments, you’ve trimmed the fat and gotten rid of the things you don’t need and you’ve paid your bills in full and on time. The company wants your business! Now is the time to haggle.

Don’t accept the posted price. If you don’t ask, you don’t get! If you can’t get a deal from the person you’re talking to, escalate the call and ask for the retention department. Come prepared with alternative options and services if they try to call your bluff – with the amount of competition, you can squeeze even the large companies to give you a discount.

Finally, remember to be polite and professional. Sometimes, discounts are discretionary – which means an employee can decide whether or not to offer them to a customer. If you’re rude and aggressive, you’re much less likely to be offered the discount.

Energy companies are major target for hackers in 2016

Findings from a Deloitte LLP report show that in 2016, three out of four natural gas and oil companies were victims of at least one cyber attack, marking an increasing trend in the energy industry.

Why gas and oil? According to The Financial Post, “Technology advances, such as Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s recent control of operations in Argentina from an operating center in Canada, offer new openings for hackers, the authors wrote. At the same time, older equipment retrofitted for cybersecurity, including the pumps known as nodding donkeys, make it tougher to defend against sophisticated attacks.”

Inadequate tech and security measures seem to be a big problem across the industry. For example, the report found that less than half of drillers use any monitoring tools on their upstream operations networks. And of that minority, only fourteen percent have fully operational security monitoring centers.

Deloitte senior partner Paul Zonneveld told The Financial Post that when the authors of the report visited various oil fields, it “was like walking into the 1980s, with shared passwords and passwords written down on paper.”

Cyber attacks have been impacting the energy industry since 2011, when the “Night Dragon” attack stole exploration and bidding data from major companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and BP Plc. This is not a new problem – but it is getting increasingly worse.  However, the report suggested that a lot of the companies feel like they would be unlikely targets, and so do not take the proper precautions.

The Financial Post writes that the “cost of cyber crime is estimated to average about $15 million in the industry right now, major assaults can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and risk deaths and environmental damage.”

It’s 2017 and email is still running our lives

There are lots of services and companies out there that are trying to revolutionize the way we communicate. Despite the increasing number of options, recent studies show that, at least in the U.S., email isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s taking more of our time than ever.

According to Entrepreneur, a new survey conducted by email-marketing software company ReachMail suggests that 54 percent of people report that they have more email to deal with than they did three years ago. Only 14 percent claim to receive less.

ReachMail surveyed 1,000 Americans who use email for work daily. What they found is that these people are not just seeing an increase of email use during work hours, but also outside the office. Only a quarter of respondents said they have never sent a work-related email after 6 p.m, and interestingly enough, the survey revealed that men were more likely than women to do this. Sixty-two percent of men and 46 percent of women surveyed admitted to sending a work email after 9 p.m.

Seventy five percent of respondents check their work email on weekends, while 61 percent check during vacation and other days off. Why do we do this to ourselves? Especially amongst younger employees, ReachMail suggest that receiving email after-hours makes them feel more important in their role. Fifty-five percent of Millennials suggested this, compared to 31 percent of Gen Xers and 18 percent of Baby Boomers.

FCC grants permission for OneWeb to launch internet-providing satellites into space

As confirmed by chairman Ajit Pai in a statement, the Federal Communications Commission has granted permission to internet innovation company OneWeb to launch internet-beaming satellites into space. OneWeb has been working on providing internet via satellite since 2000.

According to The Verge, OneWeb is working “to launch a constellation of 720 low-Earth orbit satellites using non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) technology in order to provide global, high-speed broadband.”

OneWeb’s goal is a noble one: providing internet to rural, remote, and other isolated communities or individuals who have suffered poor coverage. OneWeb has also stated that it wants connect “every unconnected school” by 2022, “bridging the digital divide” by 2027.

OneWeb is not the only company to have the ambition for space internet through satellite constellations. Boeing, ViaSat, and Telesat are all working on similar projects, while Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been holding meetings with the FCC for months. Likewise, Tom Sullivan, chief of the FCC’s International Bureau, says the applications under review range from “as little as two satellites to as many as 4,000.”

Workplace chat platform Slack draws interest from Amazon

Amazon might have shown a great deal of interest in the real world with its recent purchase of Whole Foods, but don’t be fooled – the company is still looking to snap up any promising Internet presences as well. According to the Financial Post, one such potential presence is Slack Technologies Inc, a corporate chatroom startup based in San Francisco.

There’s no agreement or deal on the table yet, but Amazon insiders have confirmed that the company is interested. Experts believe that this deal would place Slack at a value of around nine billion USD.

Slack launched in 2013 and has since been working hard to rope in big users. In January, the company released an enterprise version of its chat software which supports tens of thousands of employees at a time, allowing international businesses to collaborate with ease. Even Microsoft has taken notice of this young startup, recently releasing its competitor to slack, a chat platform called Teams.

As reported by The Financial Post, Slack has “5 million daily active users — 1.5 million of whom pay to use the service — and had $150 million in annual recurring revenue as of Jan. 31.” These figures make it obvious why a company like Amazon might want a piece of Slack’s success.

The CRTC banned unlocking fees: here’s how that affects the average Canadian

Schooley Mitchell complaintsAs of December 1, 2017, Canadian telecom companies will no longer be able to carrier-lock phones or charge customers unlocking fees. This CRTC ruling is a big win for not only the Liberal government, who promised telecom reform back in 2015, but also the consumers who will undoubtedly benefit from the new regulations.

In 2016, carriers like Rogers, Telus, and Bell made $37.7 million CAD in unlocking fees. That’s a lot of money from the pockets of consumers. And while it might seem like taking that income away from the carriers might impact them negatively, Mobile Syrup points out that in one quarter, the three carriers mentioned above generate roughly seven billion dollars combined.

Mobile Syrup’s Sameer Chhabra writes that, “the total amount of money that all Canadian carriers generated from unlocking phones across the country is dwarfed by just one of the Big Three’s quarterly earnings.”

And as University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist points out, “the lock was used as a barrier to lock not just the phone, but the consumer to carrier. It made it more difficult to leave and to roam with other carriers.”

So if you’re a smartphone owner in Canada, and had the idea of changing carriers, you might have noticed it was becoming increasingly expensive. In 2015, it cost an average of $30-per-unlock. That amount rose to $40 in 2016. As of now, the figure is around $50. Government intervention in this scheme has no doubt prevented continued growth for that figure.

Jean-Pierre Blais, the outgoing CRTC chairman, told the Financial Post he regrets not solving this issue sooner. “Frankly, that’s one case where I think my gut was telling me we probably should’ve forced unlocking. It would’ve helped three years sooner, a more dynamic marketplace.”

So what does this mean for you, the phone owner? As of December, you will have the ability to switch from carrier to carrier as you see fit, pursuing whatever deal suits you best, all without having to worry about those pesky, unfair fees or having to get a new phone or phone number.

Galaxy S8 disappoints in sales while iPhone remains on top

Despite their anticipated release and positive critical reception, the new Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus phones have not garnered the hoped-for success in the U.S smartphone market. In fact, according to BGR, Android makers in general are struggling to compete with Apple in the United States.

Data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech says that Android’s market share in the U.S fell 5.9 percent from 67.6 to 61.7 percent in the three month period that ended in April of 2017. At the same time, iOS sales grew 5.8 percent across the U.S, giving Apple 36.5 percent of market share.

“Android partner brands Samsung, LG, and Moto experienced year-on-year declines in the US,” reports Kantar’s Lauren Guenveur. “The Samsung Galaxy S8, released in the last two weeks of the April period did not show a significant impact on Samsung’s sales in the period ending in April, nor did LG’s G6. Neither of those made the list of Top 10 best-selling phones.”

Guenveur also revealed that in the three months that ended in May of 2017, the S8 and S8 Plus only amassed a combined share of 8.1 percent of sales in the United States. Again, during the same period, the S7 and S7 Edge achieved 8.8 percent of sales and the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus took 20.1 percent.

It’s not all bad news for Android and Samsung, however. The opposite results are being seen in China, where over the past year Android sale shares have increased from 79.1 percent to 83.4 percent, while iOS sales have dipped twenty percent to 16.2 percent of the market.

Does CIBC have Canada’s best banking app?

After being pit against five competitors – including TD and RBC – CIBC has been proclaimed by Forrester Research Inc. to have the best online banking application.

According to MobileSyrup, Forrester evaluated five different banking apps on functionality and usability based on 54 different criteria. CIBC’s app scored highest in both categories. It also compared CIBC to a number of undisclosed global competitors, where it still ranked number one.

According to Forrester, CIBC’s app has a number of impressive and unique features, including the ability to order foreign currency, and smartwatch functionality. And unlike RBC and TD, CIBC supports the recently-launched Android Pay platform.

“We believe Forrester’s recognition speaks directly to how CIBC continues to build a complete end-to-end personalized mobile banking experience that puts the client first,” said Aayaz Pira, senior vice-president of CIBC digital retail and business banking division. “We are continually working to innovate for our clients including enhancing and building new mobile-driven solutions so they can access modern convenient banking, how and when they want.”

Simply hovering over a link in PowerPoint could infect your computer with malware

 Security is always a worry when surfing the web – even more so nowadays when considering large-scale attacks such as the WannaCry ransomware. If you click on the wrong link, you might find your computer infected, held hostage, or worse. However, a new kind of malware makes this threat even scarier; it can be installed on your PC without a single click, needing you to simply hover your cursor over the infected link.

Tend Micro, a security vendor, recently discovered this malware method inside a PowerPoint presentation slide. The malicious link can be attached to either text or an image. The effectiveness of this link is dependent on the version of Microsoft Office you are running; the newer version will pop up a “potential security risk” warning before the script can run, whereas the older ones will allow it automatically. On the newer version, the user then has the option to disable the script.

Despite the nefarious nature of this malware, it’s still difficult to become infected. According to PC Mag, “The user has to be supplied with the malicious PowerPoint file via an email, open it, and then mouse over the ‘Loading… please wait’ text present on the included slide. Even then, if PowerPoint has Protected Mode enabled, which it is by default on more recent versions, the script cannot run. It also won’t run if you’re using PowerPoint Online or Office 365’s web mode.”

Although this particular attack isn’t all that worrying, it’s the method that is making people nervous. It’s in the nature of many internet users to hover a link to learn new information, and now that previously safe method could become compromised. Now is a better time than ever to check your computer’s security.

Northwest Territories gets Fibre Optic Connection

Residents of the Mackenzie Valley in the Northwest Territories are about to find their internet connectivity vastly improved. According to CBC, a 1,154 kilometre fibre optic line is set to come online after a $82 million construction project, bringing these northern Canadians better access to video streaming, data collection, and more.

In the communities it reaches, this fibre optic line should triple internet speeds. “We’re very happy because it gives us a more secure communication line and much bigger potential for future endeavours,” said Grant Hood, senior administrative officer with the Town of Inuvik, one of the communities benefiting from this project.

I think in the long run, it’s going to be one of those ‘if you build it they will come’ for certain things that will expand our opportunities,” Grant elaborated.

Grant perfectly summarized the purpose of the fibre optic line, which the N.W.T’s government hopes will help modernize the territory’s economy as well as greatly benefit the youth of the communities affected.

According to CBC, the line runs “1,154 kilometres from McGill Lake, 80 kilometres south of Fort Simpson, to Inuvik. Wrigley, Tulita, Norman Wells and Fort Good Hope are also connected.” These communities are home to around 6,500 Canadians.