Monthly Archives: September 2016

Tips To Secure Your Wireless Home Network

So you’re having a big party and inviting friends over who are bringing their friends along. No doubt you have everything ready to throw a big bash.

Except one thing….

Is your home network secure enough to handle that dodgy looking friend – friend who ask you if he can have the password to connect to your wireless network?

This is when reality sets in and you realize more attention should have been made with locking down devices on your network. Time to panic.

Instead of having moments like this, let’s look at some tips for locking down your home network from the inside.

Tip #1 – Use Wireless Router Guest Mode

If there was one feature with wireless routers that is worth every penny, it’s guest mode (as long as router manufactures don’t botch guest mode implementation….yes Linksys is one of them).

Using guest mode isolates your main network and prevents guests from casually snooping around on the network. It also prevents the use of sophisticated network tools from scanning the inside network.

Sort of like locking the refrigerator and making guests use the cooler full of cheap beer. It can also prevent malware from infiltrating devices on you main network.

The other benefit of guest mode, is that you don’t need to give anyone your normal Wi-fi passphrase. All you need to do is give them the guest passphrase. Then the next day you can change the password, so nobody from the party can park outside your house and hog your bandwidth. Make sure you reboot the router so everyone gets kicked off your Wi-fi connection and can no longer reconnect (because the password has been changed).

Also with guest mode, you will actually provide a service to your guests, since the connection will be WPA2 encrypted which prevents passwords from being sent in the clear over the network when they log into Facebook or access email.

Tip #2 – Use A Password On Your Computer

Do you usually leave you computer on all time? Is it in a room that’s centrally located? If so, now is a good time to password protect it so nobody can walk up to it and start using it. Think about what you have on your computer – files with personal information, a browser with a gold mine of browsing history, or your music library that can easily be copied to a USB drive.

Sure it can be a hassle at times to always log on to your computer after start up or when it’s idle and the screen saver kicks on, but after a while you will get used to it. Just make sure to use a hard to guess password. Check out these tips for making strong passwords that are easy to remember

Tip #3 – Disable WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup)

Speaking of walking up and using your devices. The same can be said with wireless routers and the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) functionality. If you router WPS is push button (usually found on back of router), and depending on how WPS is implemented on the router, anyone can walk up and push the button allowing them to easily connect to your network.

In a nut shell. WPS lets you join a secure Wi-Fi network without selecting the network name and entering the password. When the button on your router is pushed, network discovery of new devices is turned on. At his point, all you need to do on your smartphone is select the network and your device is automatically connected.

Not something you want in your house, just for the sake of conveniently connecting devices to the network.

Another reason to disable WPS, is if PIN functionality is used. While it may sound like the use of a PIN is secure, the problem is with how its implemented and that it is vulnerable to brute force attacks. To learn more about the issue with WPS and PINs, check out the following article at Digital Citizen.

Not all routers allow WPS to be disabled and that’s a shame. But if your router does, now is a good time to disable it.

Tip #4 – Easy Access Means Shenanigans At Your Expense

One thing that irks me with technology, is with convenience over security.

For example, can your printer configuration be accessed with a web browser on your wireless network with out entering a password? If so, you may want to set a password (especially if guest mode is not an option on your router) to avoid any mischievous activity with someone jokingly printing all night long.

Unfortunately not all printers can be password protected. If this is case, there is not much you can do, other than unplug it from the wall outlet (hey…it’s only for one night and better than finding all the paper on the floor than in the tray).

Tip #5 – Anything Else On The Network?

You remember that commercial – “What’s in your wallet”… well the same can be said about – “What’s on your network”.

With everything becoming Internet smart, from refrigerators, to TV’s, to thermostats, who can keep track of all network connected devices? No time for lazy thinking.

The easy way to find out, is by logging on your router and see what devices are connected. If for some reason your router does not have this capability (might be a good time to buy a new router), you can easily discover connected devices from your smartphone with the tool Fing. To learn more with how to use Fing, check out the article: How to Hack Your Family and Friends Wireless Network.

Once you have identified all connected devices, look and see if they are secure. If they are not, can they be secured either with a password or some other means. Otherwise,

Tip #6 – When All Else Fails, Shut it Off

Sure it may sound extreme, or even paranoid. But it’s better than being hacked by a prankster.

And there is no better way to squash that prankster than by unplugging things that cannot be secured. Just for one night of course.

Remember, its your place. Unfortunately wireless networks has no boundaries other than distance. But with a little common sense, you can have more control with locking down access to your domain.

Some Ways To Cut Costs On Your Comcast Bill

One of the easiest way to cut cost is to get your own router and modem and say goodby to the rental fee cost. At today’s rate, that’s a $10 saving a month going back into your pocket. You can bet that cost will only be increasing in the future.
If you figure out the cost of a new router and modem, the 2 devices can pay for themselves in approximately 13 months.

For example, pairing up a DOCSIS 3.0 Arris SURFboard SB6183 with a TP-Link N450 Wireless Wi-Fi Router will cost slightly more than one year worth of Comcast rental fee for Internet hardware. While a wireless N router is becoming older technology compared to ac wireless routers, it’s still has enough capacity and bandwidth speed to easily handle your streaming media demands. But if you don’t mind shelling out a few more dollars, you can always opt for the AC router. Just remember, to get the full speed rating of the AC router, you also need to upgrade your wireless adapters (on your computer) or make sure your other devices (smartphone/tablets for example) are AC compliant.

With owning your hardware, you have more control with the configuration and setup. Additionally you will have more stability and better performance with a separate modem and router, than an all-in-one device can provide.

Don’t forget to return the Internet Gateway hardware back to Comcast, otherwise they will not remove the rental fee.

Do I Really Need All These Set Top Boxes

One job function of the Marketing department is to get you excited about all of the possibilities of the latest and greatest technologies available. And Comcast Marketing machine is very good.

Count how many set top boxes are in your house. If you said one, the Marketing department didn’t do a good job, If you said more than one, they did exceptionally well. Why? Because the more hardware that’s in your house displaying the Comcast/Xfinity logo, the more in rental fees it’s going to cost you.

Ask yourself this question – do I really need all these set top boxes? Probably not.

Think about it. Before there were smartphones and tablets, you probably needed a set top box. But now you can stream your channels and On Demand, even X1 cloud saved DVR recordings with the XFinity TV app (via Google Play or Apple App Store) .

Besides what else are you going to use an over priced tablet for, other than email browsing and YouTube videos. Instead turn it into a TV and let it pay for itself, instead of paying Comcast every month.

Better yet, get Chromecast and stream to your TV from your phone, tablet or PC. The cost of purchasing a Chromecast device will pay for itself in less than a year compared to the infinity rental fee of a set top box.

One thing Comcast does not want to lose, is you. Sure you may think being a behemoth company, they could care less about their customers. But the reality is, without customers, they have no business.

So why not take advantage of their awful customer service reputation and get something out of it, like promotional discounts on services. They run them all the time….except they just don’t advertise them. You gotta ask for them.

Now the key to getting a promotional discount from Comcast is simple. Be nice. That’s it.

So what if you think they are out to get you or they are clueless on the phone when you need help. You’re smarter than that. Tell them you have been a loyal customer, and “really like” their service. Butter them up, just like they did to you when they were trying to get you as a customer. Two can play that game, you just need to be smart about it and ask.

You might just be surprised when using this to your advantage and save some money on a monthly basis. As a matter of fact, I didn’t know Comcast offered a Loyalty Discount until I received my next bill. I was floored when I saw the additional $15 discount.The Customer Service rep that I talked to, never mentioned the discount and applied it to my package out of courtesy.

If they do offer other promotional discounts, make sure you fully understand the terms of the promotions, such as the length of the promotion (usually one year) and if it’s really upgrading your service to a different tier. Even though the promotion may lower your bill for one year, it may cost you more than what you currently have after one year.

Doing a little research before calling will prepare you with understanding what channels or broadband speeds are available with the different tiers, as well with the terminology used by Comcast.

Their Competitor is Your Friend.

If you are lucky enough to have another provider in the area, dangling spectacular offers in front of you, then use it to your advantage. One way or another you will save money.

Nothing eats at the core of business than the guy down the street with a better offer. Especially when the competitor marketing machine is pitching cheaper prices for basically the same Internet/TV service. Comcast does not want to lose existing customers to anybody. In my case that would be Verizon.

Before calling Comcast, read the offer from the other competitor to understand the type of service and package they have. As previously mentioned, research and make notes about the offer before making the call. Being prepared will give you an advantage.

Finally….

I’m sure you read all over the Internet all you really need to do is threaten Comcast with discontinuing your service.

Just ask yourself one question before doing this. Are you really prepared to cut ties today? If not, you could easily find yourself with Internet service before the day is over.

Before pulling the plug, make the attempt to lower your bill first. If you really do want to cancel, don’t call Comcast first. Get yourself ready with another provider and schedule service for installation. This way you will be able to time the new service activation and cutting off Comcast on the same day, with out losing cable/Internet service for any length of time.

Get More Efficient Internet Searching

Did you hate memorizing seemingly insignificant facts for tests at school? No photographic memory? Good news! Life is now an open-book exam — assuming you have a computer, browser, and Internet access. If you know how to use a good search engine, you don’t have to stuff your mind with facts that are useful only when playing Jeopardy! and Trivial Pursuit.

Chances are, you aren’t the first person to run across the problem you are experiencing. Chances are also good that an answer is awaiting your discovery on the Internet — you just have to remove the irrelevant pages and the unhelpful/incorrect results to find that needle in the haystack.

Google has been fanatical about speed. There is little doubt that it has built an incredibly fast and thorough search engine. Unfortunately, the human element of the Internet search equation is often overlooked. These 10 tips are designed to improve that human element and better your Internet search skills.

1: Use unique, specific terms

It is simply amazing how many Web pages are returned when performing a search. You might guess that the terms blue dolphin are relatively specialized. A Google search of those terms returned 2,440,000 results! To reduce the number of pages returned, use unique terms that are specific to the subject you are researching.

2: Use the minus operator (-) to narrow the search

How many times have you searched for a term and had the search engine return something totally unexpected? Terms with multiple meanings can return a lot of unwanted results. The rarely used but powerful minus operator, equivalent to a Boolean NOT, can remove many unwanted results. For example, when searching for the insect caterpillar, references to the company Caterpillar, Inc. will also be returned. Use Caterpillar -Inc to exclude references to the company or Caterpillar -Inc -Cat to further refine the search.

3: Use quotation marks for exact phrases

I often remember parts of phrases I have seen on a Web page or part of a quotation I want to track down. Using quotation marks around a phrase will return only those exact words in that order. It’s one of the best ways to limit the pages returned. Example: “Be nice to nerds”.Of course, you must have the phrase exactly right — and if your memory is as good as mine, that can be problematic.

4: Don’t use common words and punctuation

Common terms like a and the are called stop words and are usually ignored. Punctuation is also typically ignored. But there are exceptions. Common words and punctuation marks should be used when searching for a specific phrase inside quotes. There are cases when common words like the are significant. For instance, Raven and The Raven return entirely different results.

5: Capitalization

Most search engines do not distinguish between uppercase and lowercase, even within quotation marks. The following are all equivalent:

technology
Technology
TECHNOLOGY
“technology”
“Technology”
6: Drop the suffixes

It’s usually best to enter the base word so that you don’t exclude relevant pages. For example, bird and not birds, walk and not walked. One exception is if you are looking for sites that focus on the act of walking, enter the whole term walking.

7: Maximize AutoComplete

Ordering search terms from general to specific in the search box will display helpful results in a drop-down list and is the most efficient way to use AutoComplete. Selecting the appropriate item as it appears will save time typing. You have several choices for how the AutoComplete feature works:

Use Google AutoComplete. The standard Google start page will display a drop-down list of suggestions supplied by the Google search engine. This option can be a handy way to discover similar, related searches. For example, typing in Tucson fast will not only bring up the suggestion Tucson fast food but also Tucson fast food coupons. Use browser AutoComplete. Use this Google start page to disable the Google AutoComplete feature and display a list of your previous searches in a drop-down box. I find this particularly useful when I’ve made dozens of searches in the past for a particular item. The browser’s AutoComplete feature must be turned on for this option to work. Click one of these links for instructions detailing how to turn AutoComplete on or off in I.E. and Firefox.

Examples:

Visual Basic statement case
Visual Basic statement for
Visual Basic call
8: Customize your searches

There are several other less well known ways to limit the number of results returned and reduce your search time:

The plus operator (+): As mentioned above, stop words are typically ignored by the search engine. The plus operator tells the search engine to include those words in the result set. Example: tall +and short will return results that include the word and.
The tilde operator (~): Include a tilde in front of a word to return results that include synonyms. The tilde operator does not work well for all terms and sometimes not at all. A search for ~CSS includes the synonym style and returns fashion related style pages —not exactly what someone searching for CSS wants. Examples: ~HTML to get results for HTML with synonyms; ~HTML -HTML to get synonyms only for HTML.
The wildcard operator (*): Google calls it the fill in the blank operator. For example, amusement * will return pages with amusement and any other term(s) the Google search engine deems relevant. You can’t use wildcards for parts of words. So for example, amusement p* is invalid.
The OR operator (OR) or (|): Use this operator to return results with either of two terms. For example happy joy will return pages with both happy and joy, while happy | joy will return pages with either happy or joy.
Numeric ranges: You can refine searches that use numeric terms by returning a specific range, but you must supply the unit of measurement. Examples: Windows XP 2003..2005, PC $700 $800.
Site search: Many Web sites have their own site search feature, but you may find that Google site search will return more pages. When doing research, it’s best to go directly to the source, and site search is a great way to do that. Example: site:www.intel.com rapid storage technology.
Related sites: For example, related:www.youtube.com can be used to find sites similar to YouTube.
Change your preferences: Search preferences can be set globally by clicking on the gear icon in the upper-right corner and selecting Search Settings. I like to change the Number Of Results option to 100 to reduce total search time.
Forums-only search: Under the Google logo on the left side of the search result page, click More | Discussions or go to Google Groups. Forums are great places to look for solutions to technical problems.
Advanced searches: Click the Advanced Search button by the search box on the Google start or results page to refine your search by date, country, amount, language, or other criteria.
Wonder Wheel: The Google Wonder Wheel can visually assist you as you refine your search from general to specific.

9: Use browser history

Many times, I will be researching an item and scanning through dozens of pages when I suddenly remember something I had originally dismissed as being irrelevant. How do you quickly go back to that Web site? You can try to remember the exact words used for the search and then scan the results for the right site, but there is an easier way. If you can remember the general date and time of the search you can look through the browser history to find the Web page.

10: Set a time limit — then change tactics

Sometimes, you never can find what you are looking for. Start an internal clock, and when a certain amount of time has elapsed without results, stop beating your head against the wall. It’s time to try something else:

Use a different search engine, like Yahoo!, Bing, Startpage, or Lycos.
Ask a peer.
Call support.
Ask a question in the appropriate forum.
Use search experts who can find the answer for you.
The bottom line

A tool is only as useful as the typing fingers wielding it. Remember that old acronym GIGO, garbage in, garbage out? Search engines will try to place the most relevant results at the top of the list, but if your search terms are too broad or ambiguous, the results will not be helpful. It is your responsibility to learn how to make your searches both fast and effective.

The Internet is the great equalizer for those who know how to use it efficiently. Anyone can now easily find facts using a search engine instead of dredging them from the gray matter dungeon — assuming they know a few basic tricks. Never underestimate the power of a skilled search expert.