Gmail two-factor authentication

It's interesting that Google had revealed that fewer than 10% of people using Gmail have two-factor authentication active on their account. Most people are relying on just their password to protect them!

So why should anyone be worried about their email getting hacked? A lot of people might say that their email doesn't contain anything of particular value to worry about – but they forget that your email is often the access key to every other service you use online.

Think about all the forgotten password reset forms you've ever filled in. Most of the time, all they require is for you to enter your email address, and then click on a link in the subsequent email they send you.

So, if I have access to your email account, I can start accessing all your accounts: all your social media accounts, all your online utility accounts, and maybe even some of your bank/financial accounts. I can certainly find out a lot of information about you that I could use for identity fraud.

I also have full access to all your contacts, and can approach them, pretending to be you, and try and scam them out of money or information.

So I'd certainly recommend that your email account should be the most secure account you have online – precisely because its the gateway to all your other accounts.

So what is two-factor authentication then?

Two-factor authentication requires you to enter two pieces of information to access your account. The first authentication is your password, and the second is typically something like a 4 or 6 digit code sent via SMS to your phone.

With two-factor authentication enabled, you need to have access to both your password and a physical device (your mobile/cell phone) to access your account. And so it makes it a lot harder for someone to hack into your account.

Google makes it even easier to use, in that it offers alternatives to the typical SMS code sent to your phone. You can do your second authentication by using any of these methods:

  • clicking a button on your phone
  • running an authentication code app (useful if you don't have signal to receive an SMS)
  • receiving an automated voice call to your mobile or landline
  • storing a security code on a USB stick
  • having a printed list of codes

And once you have authenticated yourself on a particular computer or device you often don't need to re-authenticate yourself for a month or more – and so it's not that big a hassle.

And to enable it, all you have to do is visit the Google 2-Step Verification site and turn it on. It takes only a few minutes, and could go a long way to securing yourself online.

What about other services?

You can enabled two-factor authentication on all major sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Your bank probably forces you to use it, or has some additional security steps to try and protect your account.

And you can visit the site Two Factor Auth to find out what online services you use have it available.

Small URL

My obsession with acquiring domain names continues today, with the addition of the domain rick.ie to my list.

Applying for a .ie domain name is not as straight-forward as for other domain extensions. For an IE domain you need to convince the domain owner – in this the IEDR – that you fulfil certain requirements to be able to qualify for a particular domain:

  • that you're Irish or residing in Ireland
  • that you have a business name, trademark, or personal name that matches the domain name

Fortunately you can somewhat side-step the second requirement by applying for what's called a "discretionary" domain – whereby you can apply for pretty much any domain name you want, as long as you can supply a compelling statement saying why you want it, and what you'll use it for.

My immediate plan for rick.ie is to use it as a private small URL for this blog. So instead of having to use the link http://richardbloomfield.blog/2017/11/small-url/ to get to this post, you can use http://rick.ie/kyfje.

Problems with MyTaxi

It's been just over 6 months now since MyTaxi took over from Hailo in Dublin.

At the time of the change-over there were a barrage of customer complaints, but has the company overcome these teething troubles since then?

Not in my experience!

I used the MyTaxi app on two consecutive days over the last week, and had trouble both times.

On both occasions, when I opened up the app, the screen informed me there was a taxi available a couple of minutes away. But each time when I went to try and book a taxi, all the nearby cabs seemed to evaporate into thin air.

So either I was incredibly unlucky, and someone else managed to book the taxi moments before me, or else the app was lying to me about the availability of cabs. Either way, it was embarrassing to me, because I was telling my family that there was a cab 2 minutes away, and then 30 minutes later, no driver had yet accepted the job.

To counter the problem of taxi availability on the 2nd day, I decided to use the pre-book feature. But that didn't work either. I wanted a taxi at 7.30pm, but the app said that I could either have one at 6.15pm, or I would have to wait until 8.45pm, because all the pre-book slots were taken.

I never had these difficulties when using Hailo. I always used to be able to get a taxi whenever I needed one, within about 10 minutes. But on my recent experience, it takes about 30-40 minutes to get a taxi with MyTaxi.

I'm seriously considering ditching the app altogether, and going back to ordering taxis by phone.

The #MeToo Hashtag

Those of you on social media over the last week can't have failed to spot women (and some men) posting the #MeToo hashtag, and sometimes sharing their stories.

It's in response to the recent Harvey Weinstein sex abuse allegations, where victims of similar abuse have bravely declared that it has happened to them as well.

My Facebook feed has been awash with friends posting #MeToo, and every time I see it I find it heartbreaking.

Of course, it's not right that any woman has to deal with any predatory sexual advances, coercion, or abuse. But it seems especially poignant when you learn that it's happened to people that you know and care about.

I'm impressed by their bravery in coming forward, while at the same time being horrified that it's so widespread – especially when you think that for each person goes public there are probably dozens more that have had the same experiences, but prefer (for whatever reason) to keep it private.

Free Revolut cards in Ireland

I just got an email from Revolut to say that they're offering the next 10,000 to sign up in Ireland a free prepaid Mastercard. 

It's apparently to celebrate Revolut opening an office in Ireland. And instead of the usual €6 fee to order the first card on the account, they are going to wave this fee.

Revolut is great for anyone who travels, or who orders anything from abroad. The mobile app-based prepaid credit card offers much better exchange rates than a traditional banks, credit cards, or foreign currency exchanges.

My wife and I used the card extensively on a holiday to the USA a few months back, and must have saved about a hundred euros in currency transfer fees. I also use the card to buy things in pounds sterling from Amazon.

How much can I save?

At the time of writing, buying something from Amazon costing £50 will cost you:

  • €58.07 if you choose to pay in Euros rather than Pounds at the Amazon checkout
  • €57.38 if you pay with a Bank of Ireland card
  • €55.81 is you pay with a Revolut card

I don't know about you, but I'd rather keep that couple of euros difference!