Google Fact Checking

Fake News

For months preceding the U.S. Presidential election in the fall of 2016, fake news reports abounded on every media outlet around the world that were politically motivated and completely untrue.

These reports left American voters and the rest of the world confused as to what they should believe so many resorted to trusted intermediary fact-checkers like PolitiFact which is a website that uses a “Truth-O-Meter” to rate the accuracy of statements made by various political candidates, pundits and others. Snopes is another popular internet source to which many turn for verifying misinformation, as well as rumors, myths and folklore.

Google has stepped up efforts to combat fake news in internet search results by including “fact-check tabs” on its search engine. When clicked on, the fact-check tab will show information about the claims made as well as who made them and fact-checking results based on submissions by over 100 fact-checking authorities, including PolitiFact, Scopes and any other organizations or individuals that qualify as “publishers that are algorithmically determined to be an authoritative source of information….”

The feature was initially introduced in the U.S. and U.K. in October 2016 and a few other countries in early 2017, but has now launched globally to help distinguish between true and fake news in internet search results.

Google, Facebook and other popular websites are stepping up efforts to help distinguish between fact and fiction and hopefully more will join the effort to identify and ultimately eliminate fake news report altogether. More Information

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Computer Viruses

 Computers and the Internet have entirely changed the way people live, work and play and conducting business is completely dependent on electronic devices for connecting to networks, retrieving and sending information and documentation, as well as vital inter and intra-office communications.  Residents of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) are no exception and rely on a variety of electronic devices every day.   

That’s all fine and well until a virus infects your electronic device and causes it to do weird things, slows down or freezes up altogether, rendering the device useless until a an Internet Technology (IT) professional appears on the scene to diagnose and repair the problems. 

The reasons people spend so much time and energy developing these nefarious invaders are numerous and include blackmail, personal revenge and political or social activism.  Regardless of motives the damage caused by computer viruses, worms and other malware (“malicious software”) can be severe and sometimes devastating. 

The importance of developing a good working relationship with a qualified IT specialist in the Toronto area cannot be overstated since simply installing security software is not sufficient to keep devices safe.  This applies to individuals as well as businesses that rely every day on computers, Smartphones, tablets and a variety of other handheld mobile devices.  

Even installation of the latest and greatest antivirus software cannot protect electronics from malware because the cyber criminals who create the invasive viruses are always trying to stay one step ahead of even top antivirus software programs. 

Well, you may say, I will just stop downloading music, streaming movies and visiting suspicious websites and won’t have to worry about viruses.  Unfortunately, you would still leave yourself open to invasive viruses that can find their way into any electronic device when users simply surf the Internet, check business or personal emails or even by adding external devices to your computer or laptop.   

Now you’re probably wondering if the symptoms your device has been displaying are indicative of the presence of a virus that you should be trying to eradicate.  The following is a list of common issues symptomatic of invasive computer viruses: 

  • Application(s) stop working properly 

  • Menus and dialogue boxes seem different 

  • Inaccessible disks or drives 

  • Printing issues 

  • Computer processing speed slows down or freezes up 

  • Computer reboots or restarts on its own 

  • Error messages 

  • software program disappears  

  • Unexpected and unfamiliar sounds or music 

  • New icons appear on desktop when no new software has been installed 

  • Antivirus program won’t run, disables or won’t restart; new antivirus software won’t install properly or at all 

  • Ads appear while you’re not actively browsing or surfing the Internet. 

  • Outgoing emails are shown in your “sent” file that you didn’t send 

  • Unusual or suspicious emails from friends who may unknowingly have a computer virus 

Worms and Trojan Horses 

Computer operators in Toronto have also been plagued with stand-alone malwares that replicate themselves by spreading to other computers (often through networking) and don’t need to attach themselves to any existing computer program.  These invasive worms rely on security failures on the target computer to infect and spread malware. 

One of the worst types is the Trojan Horse that claims to help rid computers of viruses but instead infects them with insidious malware applications. The Trojan Horse references the story of the Greeks giving a gigantic wooden horse to their enemies during the Trojan War, supposedly as a peace offering, but the horse was filled with a select group of fighting men. 

Although worms and Trojan Horses are different from computer viruses, they have the ability to transport and spread viruses and display symptoms that include the following issues: 

  • Computer operates as if it’s being controlled by someone else remotely 

  • Uninstalled software suddenly appears  

  • A contact in the address book indicates having received an email from you that you didn’t send, which often include links or attachments with extensions like .ese, .bat, .vbs or .scr. 

  • After clicking on a nefarious link or opening an infected attachment, especially one that ends with the extensions indicated above, the computer stops operating properly and begins to drag or error or dialogue boxes start appearing 

  • Every contact in a user’s address book receives an infected file 

  • Computer hard disk reformats, deleting files and programs 

  • After the infected file replicates itself on your computer, all hard disk free space will be taken up by the invader 

Some of the symptoms outlined above may be caused by something other than malware such as old or faulty software or hardware, running too many programs at the same time, lack of disk space or simply a computer that has become obsolete and needs replacing.  Problems also arise when users fail to keep their computer or operating systems safe by running newer software programs and up-to-date anti-virus security software, which changes all the time to keep pace with cyber criminals and hackers.  The high-tech residents of the city of Toronto have a large selection of experienced, competent and reliable IT experts from which to choose for computer related services. 

Denial of Service Attack (DoS) 

DoS cyber attacks have become all too common and are used by hackers to disrupt or suspend services linked to a certain machine or network resource such as gateways to credit card payment information or denying entry to a particular business or store. This is most often accomplished by flooding the targeted device or resource with overwhelming numbers of requests (emails, log in attempts, etc.) that overload electronic systems and interrupt or completely suspend normal operations. 

Cyber criminals focus these attacks on high profile web servers like banks and other credit card and financial institutions.  It’s also common for hackers to attack high profile media websites, including political sites, with the intent of completely bringing down a website for multiple hours to abruptly stop operations at least temporarily.   

One of the biggest cyber attacks ever perpetrated was aimed at the BBC in early 2016 by an organization that wanted to take down websites affiliated with ISIS.  Sony was recently hacked and private emails were leaked that revealed the disdain of some company executives for certain celebrities, among other things.  Customer personal and credit card information has been stolen via numerous cyber attacks on retailers like Target and others, many of whom are giants in their particular industries.

More recently a Domain Name Server (DNS) suffered a DoS attack that completely took down its online systems and created widespread outages on popular websites like Amazon, Netflix, Spotify, Twitter and Airbnb.

Preventing Malware 

As previously mentioned, a lot of cyber attacks rely on the ignorance, naivete or unpreparedness of both novice and experienced computer operators.  The best protection is a multi-faceted security plan that includes the following: 

  • Keep computers and operating systems up-to-date using patching and updates offered by various Internet browsers to protect against the latest nefarious threats 

  • Use reputable anti-virus software and update it often because none are infallible 

  • Never reveal login and password information even to apparently legitimate sources 

  • Never open emails from senders you don’t know 

  • Never forward “chain” type emails 

  • Change passwords on routers and other devices regularly 

Conclusion 

The best thing you can do is familiarize yourself with cyber attacks and the various ways they are perpetrated, as well as maintaining the most recent reputable anti-virus software available because this remains one of the best ways to prevent malicious electronic invasions.  You should also seek a qualified IT expert in the Toronto area to assist when issues arise that are out of the realm of your particular expertise. 

No computer is exempt from hacking and invasive viruses that are designed to do nothing more than disrupt personal lives and business operations for millions of people around the world.  When these invaders attack your electronic device, you need to call an expert (affectionately referred to as a computer nerd or geek) whose obsession with electronics will be your personal or professional saving grace when your electronic equipment malfunctions and prevents normal lives and business operations. 

Even large organizations are having trouble keeping up with all the viruses and invasive worms and nefarious hackings that are becoming all too common.  It’s become quite ordinary for national news reports to include segments dedicated to warning about the most recent computer virus or latest hacking of personal information from retailers and others.  

It’s never been more important to contact your local Toronto IT specialist to assist with identifying, eradicating and preventing virus and other malware attacks.  These professionals are your best defense against malicious computer invaders since they are familiar with old and new viruses and malware and can provide valuable advice as to safe and reliable anti-virus security and other software programs.

 

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Winter Weather 2015

Winter Weather 2015

 

2015 WinterDespite a series of arctic blasts, blizzards and below average temperatures during the first few months of this year, the winter of 2014-2015 will go down in history as the 19th warmest winter in the past 120 years, according to data released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The contiguous United States averaged temperatures that were 2.1-Fahrenheit degrees above average, thanks in large part to warm weather that persisted in the west this winter, giving the states of Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah and Washington their warmest winters since 1895.

Contrast that with the unprecedented low temperatures and snowfall the east coast and, particularly, the city of Boston, Massachusetts experienced in February and the continued snowfall that will undoubtedly break records in the region.

Surges of arctic air have been relentless this winter, creating dangerously cold temperatures throughout a large portion of the eastern and southern United States that caused numerous power outages, hopefully residents who experienced this brutal winter had a backup power generator hooked up to their residents or business. Municipalities in the region chose to close schools and businesses and encourage residents to stay home and off the snow covered, dangerous roadways.

A highway in Kentucky was closed because of slick roads that made it impossible for semi trucks to climb even the slightest incline, which created a line of backed-up traffic that was eventually covered in snow and stuck in place, forcing some people to stay overnight in their cars.

And winter isn’t over yet, since temperatures are expected to be below average east of the Rocky Mountains as another blast of arctic air moves southward over the region, which will undoubtedly bring more freezing temperatures and more unprecedented snowfall to eastern states. The western states continue to experience a relatively mild, warmer than average winter, much to the dismay of those who enjoy shushing down the slopes of western ski resorts.

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Perfect Wedding Times

Perfect Wedding Timing

I get asked by many of my Daffodil Waves Photography brides, “What is the perfect time to get married”?

weddingIt is a really hard question to answer but because I capture a lot of weddings in Birmingham, the UK and abroad, I will answer from my point of view.

Some people worry that having it too early will cause the guests to get bored later on. On the flip side, a lot of couples don’t want it too late because they have spent a long time planning this day and don’t want to see it go in a blink of an eye.

I personally think about 1pm is the perfect time for a wedding ceremony and this is why;

It gives you a chance to have a lie in and have plenty of time to get ready. Even if you started getting ready at 9.30, that is still three and a half hours away from the ceremony start time!

People will know to eat for about 12pm or have a big breakfast. Some of my couples still worry about people being hungry so mention on the invite information somewhere that the wedding breakfast will begin at x o’clock, plus the canapés keep people going.

It allows you to have some time after the ceremony to get a drink and mingle with your guests without you having to rush into photos because you have an hour to do everything before you are called for food. They have spent a lot of money to come to your wedding so to give them quality time is nice for both you and them.

You don’t have to feel rushed during your photos. Group photos can be hectic enough without the extra panic about people going to the toilet at the wrong moment because it will hold up group photos.

Let yourself have another drink and relax after your photos, before you go into your meal.

Here is a rough schedule of what my timings would be. Obviously for Winter weddings this would either need to be moved forward an hour or the time between the ceremony and wedding breakfast shortened.

9.30 – Bridal preparation begins.

12.30 – 13.00 – allow for travel time if the wedding is not in one place.

13.00 – 14.00 – (until 13.30 if a Civil ceremony) Ceremony. Allow for travel time if leaving Church.

14.00 – 14.30 – Welcome drink with new Husband and Families.

15.00 – 16.00 – Group and couple photos

16.15 – Guests called to be seated

16.25 – Bride and Groom called to be seated

16.30 – 18.30 – Wedding breakfast and speeches (whether these are before or after the meal)

19.00 – Evening guests start to arrive

19.45 – Cutting of the cake

20.00 – First dance and the party begins!!

Obviously this might not suit everyone’s needs but even if it gives you a rough guideline, then it has helped a little!

by Nicola
www.daffodilwaves.co.uk

 

 

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