Did you know ?

Tips and Tricks on how to do some neat things
with that computer you use everyday.

November 2009

Computers - Just about everyone uses a computer each day, but do you really use it?

Most of us only scratch the surface of it's abilities. Within each issue of our newsletters, we will show you how to use some of the programs that you possibly already use daily, with tips to your advantage and just maybe make you smile.

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   Product Tip of the Month

WiFi - Working Wirelessly

Wireless connectivity - It's becoming a way of life these days.  Known as WiFi, it brings endless possibilities, Good & Bad.  I'm sure an eyebrow or two moved on that sentence. Bad?

Good: Flexibility, Productivity, Extending into areas where wires will not go.
Bad: Speed issues, can be complex, security, range, compatibility.

If you own a iphone, laptop or similar device you probably connect to a network using WiFi.  So what's the big deal you ask?  This month we'll talk a little about WiFi security.

War Driving - It's a method that people use to "find" wireless connections that are not secured.  A quick download and a GPS hookup would allow us to map out an entire city with every open/non-secured wireless connection available. iphones have an option that tells you every time there is an available connection, other devices will allow you to scan for available connections.  Again, big deal right?  Wrong.

When a device connects to a typical network, that device will be able to talk to everything connected to that network, just like it's plugged in with a wire.  This brings possibilities of your other devices such as your home computer or your office computer to be looked at. Not only should you be concerned about this, but this also allows them to "use" your Internet connection.  Why should you care?  Here are a few thoughts to scare the whit's out of you quickly.

a. Spammers - love finding open networks so they can connect, send out thousands of spam emails quickly and then take off to the next.  ISP's just hate spam, just like you do and if enough is sent, they will quickly disable your account.  We have heard horror stories of ISP's immediately dumping accounts as they will say you violated their terms.  Imagine how long it will take to find a new ISP.

b. Bad people - love finding open networks so they can "surf" websites that might be tracked.  They know that the authorities might be watching their home networks so they use others.  The issue here is that with enough traffic, your immediately on the list of some law authority outfit.  Imagine the FBI knocking at your door, taking your computers and worst case, taking you in.  Of course you have no clue of anything they are talking about.  Not only might you have to find another ISP, imagine explaining to everyone why the FBI was carrying stuff out of your house and of course all the legal headaches that might come with it.

c. Hackers - Wireless hackers love finding open networks.  Once they are connected, they might as well sit down in your house with their equipment plugged into your network.  Imagine the information they might find.

Scared yet?  You should be!

We took a quick drive (5 min) and found the following results. (Shown to the right)

Without diving deep into the results, simply look at how many RED OPEN are listed. 

We hid the names to protect the innocent and all of these were from a residential area but remember, businesses are not exempt from this list.

So, you decided to run and get a wireless access point for your house and was in such a hurry you just pulled it out and plugged it in; it worked so what's the big deal right?  In the past all of the units that you could of purchased had NO wireless security by default.  Today, most units now enable this by default however most still don't change the defaults.  We have been in many restaurants that have WiFi enabled openly for their guests but they don't change the "password" on the device.  Every manufacture uses default settings so it's very easy to find what these are and change a unit setting rendering them useless.

Typical setups for wireless networks would be:

Open - No connection security

WEP - Older security, not as secure but useful for older equipment still

WPA - Newer security but not all devices have this a
WPA - Newer security but not all devices have this available

WPA2 - Best security but not all devices have this available

The better the security, the higher the encryption which means the harder it is to break.

Red listings are OPEN available
WiFi connections which you could instantly connect to!

Change the administrator password for your wireless access device!  Make a label and attach this to the bottom of the unit.  Most people don't remember the password once they set it.  Check every so often for updates for the unit too.

Now one might add that some networks such as airports, hotels, and other hotspots operate in Open so why would they not worry about the security risks.  These types of networks typically have equipment that still restricts where and what people can see and usually operate in what's known as Guest mode so not only do you have to click that you will obey their rules and regulations, they also can restrict access to "poor quality" areas, including restricting outbound email to keep spammers from operating.

Operating in Open mode however does expose some of your communications, so there are other issues which is another subject to be covered.

So you have a laptop and want to get connected?  Here are three articles from Microsoft on how to just do this.  Some vendors install their own wireless connection software so if yours is one of those, you will need to follow the instructions for those applications.

How to get connected

We didn't want to drill into too deep in this issue other than to promote awareness of WiFi security.  There are plenty of topics to cover and will enough interest, we'll be happy to continue with this topic in future editions.  Drop us a line and give us your input.

   Keyboard tip of the month

Quick Print

A quick easy way to print is to use the two key combination sequence of Control + P.  This won't work in everything but will work in the majority of the applications that you use.

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