Sunday, October 18, 2020

October Cybersecurity Tip - Use Strong Passwords and Change Them Often

Cyber Security emblem in black and white
Cyber Security - stay safe on the Internet!

Strong passwords are your first defense against identity and information theft. The strongest passwords have at least 8 characters and make up a phrase. They include special characters other than letters (such as any of the Shift+number keys, “;”, “:”, etc.). One way to set up a strong password is to use a favorite phrase such as “Paint the town red” and then do a letter/number substitution or add some symbols.  It could be “P*int the t0wn red?!&”. You get the idea. Security research shows longer passwords are far more secure; anything over 18 or 20 characters would take weeks, if not months or years, to break.

You should not use the same password for all your accounts and apps. If somehow a password is stolen, that opens up everything to the scammer. Instead, use different passwords for each account. Of course, that means you have many passwords to recall. Rather than try to remember them all (that would be impossible in this age of dozens of different accounts for different websites) or writing them down in a book (unless you encode your passwords with some really fancy techniques anybody can grab your book), or using an application such as Word and password-protecting it (who remembers to go back and change the password in a document? - nobody), try using a secure password manager, such as Keeper or LastPass.

These applications allow you to store all your login information under one password. Password managers can also automatically fill forms online or on your phone and allow you to synchronize your passwords across multiple web browsers and multiple devices. They can help you change your password and make sure the new password is saved. All you have to remember is one super-password to log on to the password manager.  Again, make that password a phrase of some kind and add some symbols and numbers to it, then use that password over and over until you have it in muscle memory.

It may seem like an onerous chore to change passwords, but you can do it easily by clicking the “forgot my password” link when you sign into a website or app. You will be asked to answer one or more security questions such as the answer to a secret question, or the site may email or text you a code or temporary password. Password managers can help you ensure that your passwords stay secure.

It’s important to change your passwords on a semi-regular basis.  To be super-safe, perhaps make a monthly task to change some of your passwords.  Be aware that some websites limit the length of a password - for example, Second Life limits passwords to 15 characters.  All password managers have a way to set the number of characters in a password it generates.

And lastly, if you are accessing a website that uses “http” in the URL, do not under any circumstances create a username and password there because web traffic using “http,” and not “https,” is not secure.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Black and white cyber security logo disc

Think about what is on your computer or smartphone that you do not want to give away. It could be passwords, your banking information, credit card number, or your health records. Maybe your child uses the computer.  You will want to protect all these things. This means not exposing them to cybercriminals.

Scammers are taking advantage of COVID-related uncertainty to convince you to accept phony offers of financial assistance, fake cures, or goods to get your usernames, passwords, and financial information. Children may be doing schoolwork online from home. If you are working from home, the securities set up by your office IT department are sometimes no longer available. This means that cybersecurity is up to you. “If you connect it, protect it.”

For the seventeenth year, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency is sponsoring National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Check out their website for additional information. Virtual Ability will be posting cyber safety tips on our blog throughout the month.

“Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.”

Monday, October 12, 2020

Tips - The Extra Costs of Living with a Disability


Picture of caliper squeezing money
Balancing the budget when living with a disability

Adults who live with a disability have additional expenditures beyond the ordinary costs of living. This means they have more difficulty saving for future and unexpected expenses, and simply making ends meet to cover monthly expenses. Many adults with disabilities and their families live in poverty.

The National Disability Institute (NDI) is an organization that collaborates with other organizations, including employers, financial institutions, community organizations and government agencies, to help people with disabilities and their families improve their financial literacy and build a better future.

On Wednesday, October 14, at 11am SLT (2 pm Eastern), NDI offers a webinar entitled “The Extra Costs of Living with a Disability.” Researchers who studied this problem will be part of a panel discussing their findings. Other panelists will include persons with disabilities who will share their financial struggles, as well as NDI staff who will give policy recommendations.

Captioning and other accessibility strategies will be offered. To register and for more information about the webinar, please fill out the form here:

Friday, October 9, 2020

Things To Do - Visit HealthInfo Island!

This month, Virtual Ability's HealthInfo Island focuses on:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act

  • The History of the Independent Living Movement

  • The Role of Organizations for People with Disabilities

  • What do you call people with disabilities?

  • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

  • What defines community?

  • Why is community important to people with disabilities?
Send yourself, interested friends, and family to HealthInfo Island so all of us can learn more about these important topics.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

October 8 is National Depression Screening Day

Man holding a red unhappy face sign
Man holding a red unhappy face sign

Over 16 million American adults are affected by major depression each year. But only a third of those with severe depression seek appropriate treatment, perhaps because they do not know that it is affecting them, or they believe that this feeling is “just a normal part of life.”

Clinical depression is a serious mental illness that can complicate other medical conditions. It can also lead to suicide if not treated. With so many adults dealing with depression, it is important to recognize the impact of this disabling condition, not only on the person dealing with it directly, but also on family, friends, and coworkers. Clinical depression can affect anyone.

National Depression Screening Day is held every year on October 8 as part of Mental Illness Awareness Week. Increased awareness of mental illnesses such as depression can fight stigma and help those with the condition recognize that they are not alone.

Major depression is a type of mental illness; it is not simply feeling sad or down. Know the symptoms of major depressive disorder. If you have several of these symptoms, consider taking a free anonymousonline depression screening test.

However, remember that online tests are not professional diagnoses. Share the results of an online test with a medical professional for appropriate follow up on your mental health concerns.

Screening for depression is the first step toward getting appropriate care.

TIP - How to Tell if Eggs are Fresh

Fresh chicken egg cracked out of its shell
Fresh chicken egg cracked out of its shell

Your grandmother may have had to check the freshness of farm eggs by dunking them, still in their shells, into water. The belief was that fresh eggs would sink and eggs you would not want to cook or eat would float.

This old wives’ tale is not entirely accurate, however. It is true that the air cell inside the eggshell enlarges as the egg ages. But floating eggs may still be safe to eat. Crack the egg into a bowl and check its appearance and smell before deciding whether to use or discard it. A spoiled egg has a distinctive sulfur-like odor known as “rotten egg smell.” If the egg smells OK, it is likely safe to cook with.

There is a better way to check the freshness of eggs you get from the grocery. Check the egg carton!

Eggs packed at plants that are under US Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection have a pack-date number on the carton. These 3-digit numbers (called Julian dates) range from 001 to 365, and indicate the date (from January 1 through December 31) that the eggs were packaged. The American Egg Board states that raw eggs stored in their cartons in the refrigerator are safe to eat for four to five weeks beyond the Julian date.

Egg packing at plants not under USDA inspection comes under state laws for labeling. Most require a Sell-By or EXP date, which is a direction to the store, but is also the consumer’s guarantee of freshness for a couple of weeks past that date.

For a downloadable infographic explaining Julian and Sell-By dates and many other labels found on egg cartons, please see:

Monday, October 5, 2020

Things to Do - Oct 6-10 Eggstravaganza Virtual Family Week

Bird nest full of brown eggs
A very full nest of eggs

It used to be that we felt we could not eat many eggs because the yolks contain cholesterol. Now we know that saturated fat, not dietary cholesterol, has a great effect on blood cholesterol and thus the risk of stroke and heart attack.

In fact, research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in April 2020 reviewed the effect of eggs in the diet on 177,000 people in 50 different countries. The researchers found no association between those who ate an average of more than an egg a day compared to those who ate less than one egg per week on measures such as blood lipids, mortality, and major cardiovascular disease events. Moderate egg consumption is safe!

Manitoba (Canada) Egg Farmers is sponsoring a five-day Eggstravaganza! Starting Tuesday, October 6, each day offers a fun family activity. On the 6th, learn to cook classic deviled eggs with dietitian Carla D’Andreamatteo and her daughter. Carla has worked with Virtual Ability in the past on a nutrition education research project. She also did a presentation on Healthinfo Island during the Women in Science celebration.

There is a Twitter Party for adults on the 7th and TWO fun events for kids on the 8th. Learn magic tricks you can do at home on YouTube at 8am SLT with magician Cary Tardi. At 5pm SLT attend a party with Elsa, Spiderman, and your children on Zoom.

Friday, Oct 9, which is World Egg Day, Canadian egg farmers answer your questions about hens, eggs, and egg farming. This special week ends on Saturday with a virtual tour of a working egg farm

If that’s not enough family activities about eggs, your kids can sign up for a free fun egg-tivity kit that contains an activity for each day of the Eggstravaganza week.