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More Microsoft security

NEW YORK -- Microsoft is offering enhanced security for its email, storage and other services.

People who turn on the new feature will be asked not just for a username and password, but also a second piece of information, such as a temporary code sent as a text message to a phone on file. Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. already allow two-step verification as an option.

The security enhancements work with all Microsoft accounts, such as email addresses ending in Hotmail.com, MSN.com and Outlook.com. Those accounts unlock a range of Microsoft Corp. products, including email, Skype, SkyDrive storage, Xbox gaming, Office software subscriptions and Windows 8 machines.

Microsoft has no plans, however, to lift its current 16-character limit on passwords. Having a long password is one way to thwart hackers by making it tougher to guess. In a statement, Microsoft says passwords are often compromised when people reuse them on multiple sites, respond to scam email messages or use machines that have malicious software. Longer passwords aren't helpful in those situations, the company says.

Two-step verification is one way to improve security without a longer password. Someone able to guess your password would still need physical access to your phone for the second code, for instance.

Microsoft already requires a second code for sensitive activities, such as editing credit card information. The new feature, available in the coming days, will allow people to require that for all tasks.

So if you're logging on from a new personal computer or mobile device, you'll be asked for that second code, sent to a phone number or an alternative email address on file. If you're offline and unable to get that second code, you can generate one using a Microsoft Authenticator app on Windows Phone devices. Those using iPhones or Android devices can install a third-party authenticator app compatible with Microsoft's system.

If you use a particular computer regularly, you can have that device remember that you're legitimate, so you're not asked for the second code again and again. But you may still have to provide one if you are switching web browsers or if you haven't used that device for 60 days. If you lose a phone, you can revoke access remotely.

Ads based on tweets

NEW YORK -- Twitter is introducing a feature that lets advertisers target ads based on words that appear in users' tweets.

Twitter said in a blog post Wednesday users won't see any difference in their use of Twitter and the change doesn't mean ads will show up more frequently.

Rather, Twitter says this keyword targeting will bring its users ads that are more relevant to them. For example, if someone writes a tweet about a band they like, they might see an ad about the band's upcoming concert nearby.

Twitter is privately held and doesn't disclose revenue figures. Research firm eMarketer, however, expects the San Francisco company's worldwide ad revenue to hit $583 million this year. Next year it is expected to grow to nearly $1 billion.

Canada Post sees loss

OTTAWA -- Canada Post says it expects to lose money in the 2013 financial year as it grapples with a combination of "rapidly declining mail volumes" and a growing number of new addresses.

The Crown corporation says in the shorter term, it managed to return to a profit of $127 million before taxes last year.

That's an improvement over the $253-million loss before taxes posted in 2011, which was the first time the postal service had reported a loss in 16 years.

The main Canada Post operations were also profitable in 2012, with net income of $98 million, though it was from $152 million of adjustments related to the recognition of lower future sick-leave and health benefits.

Without the new collective agreement, Canada Post would have lost $54 million before taxes, it said, while the entire group of companies would've lost $25 million.

Canada Post says it needs to continue reworking its operations to help substitute the decline in mail volumes. Nearly one billion fewer pieces of mail were sent within Canada last year than in 2006, it says.

The post office and CUPW reached a collective agreement late last year after the union launched a series of rotating strikes in 2011, which the corporation countered by locking out its workforce.

The labour disruption was ended when the Harper government introduced back-to-work legislation.

One of Canada Post's largest financial problems is a solvency deficit in its employee pension plan. The deficit climbed to $5.9 billion in 2012 from $4.7 billion a year earlier. The agency is, by law, responsible for funding shortfalls in the plan.

"This places greater pressure on the financial position of Canada Post Corporation going forward," the agency said.

"Canada Post must continue to explore and pursue opportunities to reshape its business and adjust its labour costs in order to meet Canadians' changing needs for postal services."

The company has been focusing more on a digital initiative that includes an electronic mailbox that helps organize ebills.

-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 18, 2013 B9

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