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Superman helps hackers.

It’s a sign of the times that hackers are constantly on the lookout for weaknesses in people’s computer security systems.

Individuals can go a long way to making things more difficult for the hackers by ensuring they have up to date anti-virus software in place and that their passwords are good passwords.

But what is a good password?

Before answering that, let’s look at some bad passwords.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has just released a report on some of the most hacked passwords. They analysed hacked accounts where details were being sold by hackers.

Last year an astonishing 23 million people around the world with the password “123456” were hacked.

You should really hang your head in shame if your password is 123456 as it’s very easy to hack into.

OK, what about the name of your favourite football team as your password. Would that provide you with more protection?

Alas not as football team names are very common passwords.

Roughly 280,000 accounts were breached last year with the password “Liverpool”. 

“Chelsea” and “Man-Utd” passwords were breached 216,000 and 59,000 times respectively.

Using the names of your favourite music artist also isn’t a good idea.

The most popular passwords using the names of music artists are “blink182” and “50cent” (these are probably popular as they satisfy the need to have letters and numbers in a password).

If you’re a fan of superheroes then avoid Superman, which was the most common superhero inspired password.

So, onto good passwords.

According to Ian Levy, the Technical Director of NCSC, “Using hard to guess passwords is a strong first step and we recommend combining three random but memorable words. Be creative and use words memorable to you, so people can’t guess your password.”

There you go.

As easy as 123 or should that be, as easy as “123456”…

Free ACCA Study Materials

All of us here at ExP are excited. We’re excited for 2 reasons.

First of all, we’ve just gone over 350,000 followers on Facebook and a huge thank you to all of our followers.

In fact, 350,000 thank you’s!

The second reason is that we’ve just released our free ACCA eBooks. These can be downloaded free of charge on the following page:

Free ACCA Study Resources

We hope that all of you that are studying for your ACCA exams find them useful. If you’re not studying ACCA, you’ll find the eBooks useful if you want an overview of some key finance and business topics.

Thanks again for the Facebook follows and best wishes from all of us at ExP.

December 2014 ACCA exam tips released but don’t do this…

Professional exams are tough. It’s not easy passing them but to be honest they should be difficult as if they are too easy then everybody could become a Chartered Accountant and the value of the qualification would be downgraded.

december-2014-acca-exam-tipsThat’s easy for me to say now that I’m qualified but in the run-up to my exams I can vividly remember wishing they were a lot easier!

It’s important in the final run-up to the exam to remain focused and concentrate on practicing exam standard questions.

There’s a lot of pressure when it comes to sitting professional exams. All your hard work is compressed into a few hours where you try to prove to the markers that you know what you’re talking about.

We’ve just released our December 2014 ACCA exam tips and whilst it’s only the examiners who know what’s in the exams, our tips show areas of the syllabus that we would pay particular attention to if we were sitting the exams ourselves.

Our ACCA exam tips are below but one thing you should definitely do during the exam is to remain calm. Whilst some of the topics in a number of the exams can be relatively predictable, there will always be surprises that can crop up.

The gentleman in the video below showed a remarkable level of calmness even though there were early signs that things were starting to go wrong. Let’s just hope that nothing like this happens to you in your exams and that you can remain as composed as the interviewer.

If you’re after any last-minute exam tips for the ACCA exams then here are our December 2014 ACCA exam tips (follow the link, choose the paper you are interested in and the exam tips can be downloaded on the right hand side of the page).

Professional exams and romance. A perfect match?

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. The day first started becoming popular in the 19th century in Great Britain and it’s a day when couples celebrate their love for each other.

The shops have been full of Valentine cards and gifts for people to send to their partners. I have a nice story about Valentine’s Day and professional exams as a few years ago two of my students first met on one of my courses and then ended up getting married on Valentine’s Day a few years later.

They worked for different Big 4 companies and love started to blossom when they sat next to each other on my course and the guy Andy asked Liz (his future wife) at lunchtime on the first day of the course if she understood what was being taught in the morning as he was finding it quite difficult. Fast forward 3 years and they got married on Valentine’s Day.

He later claimed that he did understand what was being taught but simply wanted to start up a conversation!

The moral of the story though is that if you’re on a course or studying with some friends and you find one of your colleagues attractive then don’t be afraid to get talking and who knows you may end up getting married in a few years!

Getting your exam results: better than your wedding day?

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I received a call first thing this morning from an individual that shall remain nameless. He was really pleased as he had just received his ACCA exam results and he had passed his final two exams.

He was so pleased that he actually said today was better than his wedding day (hence the decision for him to remain anonymous in case his wife who is also an accountant is reading!).

ACCA exam results day and wedding days certainly are memorable and over in Hong Kong, the fast food chain McDonalds has seen a gap in the market and are diversifying into McWeddings.

Had this been launched on 1 April then I would have been tempted to assume it was an April fool’s joke but no it’s genuine and may well make business sense for the company.

Anyone who’s been to Hong Kong will know that it’s a buzzing, fast moving place. Traditional Chinese weddings can be very expensive and for those couples that have dated in McDonalds then why not take it a step further and get married in McDonalds?

The McDonald’s “Warm and sweet wedding package,” starts at HK$9999 (approximately £800) and the first couple to get married at McDonalds did so last week on Valentine’s Day. It’s not clear though at this stage whether the ceremony replaced the words “would you like fries with that” to “would you like a wife with that”.

Many congratulations to everyone that has been successful with their ACCA exam results today and if the enjoyment from receiving your results is better than your wedding night then all the hard work was definitely worth it.

ACCA exam tips released today and I hope you’ll be better prepared than this person…

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To put it bluntly, in order to pass the ACCA exams and qualify as an accountant you have to be intelligent.

You will have needed to have put in a significant amount of work over the last few months to cover all of the main areas of the syllabus.

Now whilst no training company knows for sure what will actually be in the exams next month our ACCA exam tips identify areas which we believe you should have covered particularly well.

Being properly prepared though isn’t just applicable for people who are trying to pass their professional exams.

If your chosen method of progressing in life is to be a getaway driver for a gang of jewellery shop raiders then I guess there should also be an element of preparation.

A shop raiding gang in Essex in the UK put 19 year old Mohammed Alasow in charge of being their getaway driver.

It took his colleagues a mere 20 seconds to break open the shop window with a pickaxe and sledgehammer. They managed to grab £9,000 of jewellery and jumped into the getaway car where Mr Alasow put his foot down and the car shot off at speed.

Alas for the poor driver and his friends the car didn’t get very far as it ran out of petrol and stopped in the middle of the road a few miles away.

Things got even worse for the gang as a kindly policeman stopped to see if they needed some help and spotted a sledgehammer, masks and jewellery on the back seat of the car. Fast forward a few months and they were recently jailed for 8 years.

Now being a getaway driver and forgetting to fill the car with petrol doesn’t really indicate a thorough preparation for the role.

Back to a more respectable profession and in terms of last minute preparation for the ACCA exams then we advise that if you haven’t done so already to print off a copy of our free ExPress notes from www.theexpgroup.com and review them in the run up to the exam. These notes cover the key areas of the syllabus and are a perfect last minute revision aid.

Also, don’t forget that the exam papers will be marked using scanning technology. The scripts will be completed as normal by students but will be marked on screen by the markers.

It’s important therefore that you use a black pen in the exams. If you use anything else such as coloured pens or pencils there is a risk that the scanning technology may not pick up your writing.

Good luck with your final revision and click here for the links to the our ACCA exam tips.

The ACCA exam results are out today. If you’ve been successful then maybe head to the vending machine.

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It’s ACCA exam results day today and congratulations to those of you that have passed. All your hard work has paid off and it’s now time to celebrate.

I’ve often wondered whether the results day should be a Friday so you can celebrate on Friday night and Saturday night or whether it’s a good excuse to annoy everyone else in the office on the Monday with your shouts of happiness all day.

If by any chance you’re in Pennsylvania in America and want to have a little drink to celebrate your success then there is now a novel way of doing so.

We blogged last year about the use of vending machines in Germany for selling local fruit and vegetables but in Pennsylvania they are now piloting a new type of “outbound logistics” (using Porter’s Value Chain Analysis terminology).

You can now buy bottles of wine from vending machines. In order to buy the wine customers have to firstly prove they are old enough by swiping their ID and a credit card. They then have to prove they are sober enough to buy the wine by using a breathalyzer.

Wine aficionados may well be aghast at the thought of buying wine from a vending machine but if you’re the type of person that just doesn’t want to stand in a queue and talk to the shop assistant when you’re buying the wine then this could be for you.

Then again, if you’re buying it to celebrate passing your exams I would recommend that you buy it from the shop assistant so that you can tell them and the rest of the people in the queue the reason you’re buying it.

Allegations about two of the Big 4 and “espionage”? Make sure you don’t do this in your exam…

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So the June ACCA exams are finally starting today. After all the hard work students all over the world are facing that unique mixture of excitement, fear and anticipation as they turn over their actual exam papers for the first time.

One thing that really goes without saying though is that when you’re sat in the exam hall you shouldn’t be looking at the person next to you and trying to see what they are writing.

Although exams aren’t being sat in these two particular buildings occupied by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young in London, there have been various allegations recently that the buildings are a little too close for comfort.

Three years ago PwC moved into an office next door to EY. At their closest point the buildings are approximately 10 metres apart. This has led to concerns that the rival companies could spy on each other.

PwC have apparently made the first move to reduce the threat of “espionage”. In order to prevent EY employees spying on them through the windows they have installed automatic blinds that close as soon as audio-visual equipment is turned on. The offices have also been designed so as to prevent any computer screens from being visible through the windows.

EY were reported to be evaluating their options in response.

Whatever the outcome of this is, all of us here at ExP would like to wish you the very best in your exams and sincerely hope that you don’t feel the need to try to spy on your neighbour in the exam! GOOD LUCK.

The “little black dress” is a fashion icon but when you’re sitting your exams don’t forget to…

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The “little black dress” is an evening dress that is simple, classic and fashionable. Its origins date back to the 1920s with fashion historians claiming that the first design of the little black dress was made by the designer Coco Chanel back in the 1920s.

The design has been worn by numerous women over the years. The most famous “little black dress” was arguably the one worn by Audrey Hepburn in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

This is all very interesting but what has it got to do with a blog for finance students and in particular what has it got to do with the ACCA exams that are taking place next month?

Well, if I’m honest it actually has very little to do with the exams as I can’t imagine there will be a lot of people wearing little black dresses to the exams! What should be happening though is that everyone should be attending the exams with a “little black pen”.

The June 2010 ACCA exams will for the first time see all the papers marked using scanning technology. The scripts will be completed as normal by students but instead of the scripts then being physically sent to the markers they will instead be scanned and then marked by markers “on screen”.

It is important therefore that you use a black ballpoint pen in your exams. If you use other colour pens, pencils, fountain pens or highlighter pens then these are unlikely to be picked up by the scanning technology and as a result the marker may not be able to see your answer.

Put simply, it doesn’t matter how good your answer is but if it is not picked up by the scanning technology then you may well find that you miss out on passing the exam.

In summary, forget about wearing a “little black dress” to the exam but don’t forget your “little black pen”.

The Superbrand results are out and it was a close run thing between ACCA and CIMA

The 2010 results of the UK Superbrands research were recently announced.

The annual Superbrands programme recognizes the UK’s strongest business to business brands.

For the last 15 years Superbrands has commissioned independent research to identify what are considered to be the UK’s strongest brands. The annual results are in the words of Superbrand “based on the opinions of marketing experts, business professionals and thousands of British consumers.”

It was a close run thing between ACCA and CIMA with ACCA being identified as being number 304 and CIMA being one ahead at 303. It was virtually a tie between the two institutes so it’s nice to know that they are both considered to be top brands in the UK.

In case you’re interested the top brand in the UK according to the 2010 Superbrands research was Microsoft.