Tag Archives: router

Buying vs. Leasing Technology Hardware

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Courtesy Dream Designs

Lease or buy technology hardware?  Black consumers need to ask themselves this question because, as I have said before, Black people don’t play when it comes to money. 

Consider your cellphone; cell phone carriers have long practiced the art of selling you a cellphone with their service without actually selling you a cell phone. You know the deal, sign a two year contract and get the cellphone for free or at a discount. Cellphones have never been cheap and the true price of the phones are buried in your wireless bill. Now cell carriers are dropping those two year contracts, slashing monthly fees and creating new programs for the actual cost of the phone.  The option of buying or leasing a phone has become serious money choice.

Consider this, cheaper phones means a cheaper bill every month. If you are sensitive to the steep price of some of the more advanced phones you can drop your monthly bill by selecting a cheaper phone. 

But lets face it; the best way to save big money is to keep your old phone. Think about it, do your really need the latest smartphone just because it’s the newest thing on the market? That is what the cellphone makers want you to think!

Once your current phone is paid for that cost comes off your bill putting $20-30 a month back in your pocket.  Before the death of two year contracts service providers didn’t lower your bill even if you didn’t upgrade to a newer device.

If you must have a new phone for whatever reason you can always buy a nice refurbished smartphone. They are often just a year or two old and much cheaper than brand new phones. Many of these phones are refurbished by the manufacturer and are hard to tell from new. Finding these phones is simple just search online.

You have to do the math and see where your best deal is. Sprint and other carriers are offering some interesting deals where you get to upgrade the phone every two years without actually buying it. Sprint comes right out and says you are leasing it.

At the end of the lease you have the option of turning in the old phone (just two years) and getting an upgrade and keep paying. Or you can pay off the balance on the phone and just pay for the monthly service. 

AT&T recently has changed its phone plans making it tough to own a phone. Where it once offered three plans AT&T now offers only two. The new plan, titled AT&T Next Every Year, offers an annual upgrade and lets you trade-in your current phone as long as you’ve paid 50 percent of its retail value. The other option, AT&T’s Next plan, offers a 30-month financing plan. With AT&T Next you trade-in your phone after two years as long as you’ve paid 80 percent of its value. You also have the option of 24, 18 or 12 month lease plans. But you need to check the fine print on these plans. Both plans require you to trade-in the financed device meaning there’s no option to simply pay one off and start fresh with a new device or just buying a service plan. You just keep paying. The cellphone industry is getting tricky so you need to seriously consider buying versus leasing your next phone.

Another area to consider lease versus buy is your home Internet connectivity. Ask yourself this question; how long have you been leasing you Internet router and cable modem? Probably years. Now do the math. How much would a new router and modem cost you that you own free and clear? As little as $99 each. The average person can save as much as $250 dollars a year depending on the combination of router and service you currently pay for.  Starting to get the picture?

Here are a few things to think about when considering leasing versus buying a router and modem. To start make sure the equipment you buy is compatible with your Internet providers networks. You can usually find that information on their website or give them a call. Also consider technical things like learning how to configure it for maximum performance and security. If you have multiple wireless devices in your home you must consider how your router will perform and that includes television and telephone service. Some routers have a limited number of devices it can service effectively. Finally, if you have trouble or a breakdown of equipment you are responsible for repair or replacement of the equipment. 

With a lease you won’t have these worries. You just call your provider and problem solved.

Now you know.

 

 

Home Internet Security; Have You Been Hacked?

ID-100310547Far too many African-Americans ignore their Internet security. When we do this we are gambling with our lives. Our financial life, our professional life, our identity, our children’s identity or the identity of our husbands or wives, are all endangered if we ignore basic cyber security.  Let’s look at it this way; do you drive without a seat belt? Then why would you use the Internet without being safety and security conscious?

One of the first things you should be aware of when using the Internet is if you are browsing safely and if your browser is secure. Regardless of the browser you use, be it Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, FireFox or Opera, you have to ask, is it secure.

The reality is that it’s hard to know which browser is the safest or most secure. Why? Because there is no set standard for browser security. That makes you responsible for setting up your browser and home network to be as secure as possible. But there is a little good news. Experts at Skybox Security have looked at all the browsers mentioned above and evaluated them based on exposed vulnerabilities, most published and patched vulnerabilities, and the shortest time between security patches.

Surprise! The winner is the browser you are probably not using; Opera.  Opera is pretty much an unknown browser.  It’s market share is around one percent so there’s probably not a lot of interest in finding Opera’s vulnerabilities.  Keep in mind hackers are looking for the greatest numbers to have the greatest impact when they attack. But Opera did have the least number of vulnerabilities.

Even if Opera has the fewest vulnerabilities we have to look at how often the other browsers find and fix their own vulnerabilities. In this category Chrome wins. Chrome finds flaws and issues updates every fifteen days compared to Opera’s every 48 days. Internet Explorer and Firefox update about once a month. But again there more to it than that. Keep in mind that all these browsers are vulnerable to what is known as Zero Day Exploits. That is a flaw that the hackers finds and attack with no warning to the browser makers. It happens all the time. As for Firefox; just last year Extremetech.com named it the least secure browser.

So finally let me answer your question. Which is the safest and most secure browser? My answer would have to be Chrome. AACR does not make product endorsement. But, when looking at the overall measures we have decided that having defenses that update regularly and frequently is the best way to go. We hope that answers your question. Read more about the Best Browsers of 2015 here.

Lets take the next step in your home Internet security. Is your home router secure? Or has it been hijacked? My guess is you really don’t know. I have always said, make damn sure you have solid password protections on all your devices including your home router. Ask yourself  “Is my password stupid?” If your home router is compromised then your life is compromised. Every Internet device in your house uses the router. Think about this, your cellphones connect to your router, all your computers, laptops, tablets, game consoles, television, telephone, printers, home security system, your thermostat and any other smart appliances you have in your home all go through your router. Think long and hard about that.

So how do you now if your router is hijacked? A company named F-Secure just launched their Router Checker tool. It’s a quick, simple and free way to determine whether or not your DNS is working the way it should. OK; so you’re asking what the heck is DNS. DNS stands for Domain Name Servers. This is the the Internet address book.  If your DNS is corrupted or poisoned then you could end up on some pretty dangerous websites and not even know it.

The best thing about the Router Checker Tool is that there’s no app to download and install. It’s a website that you visit with any modern, standards-compliant browser. Any of the browsers we have talked about, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera, will work. I would suggest you check your browser immediately and then bookmark the site and do the test regularly. You can also use the tool when you’re connecting to less trustworthy access points like the airport, a coffee shop, library, or anyplace offering free WiFi. Before you do anything in these places you should fire up F-Secure’s tool and find out what it thinks about your connection.

Now let me ask you another question. Have you been pwned? First a quick definition of the word is clearly needed. Pwned comes from video-game culture. It refers to someone who’s been beaten. Pwned accounts are email addresses and user accounts that have been compromised. A hacker may have illegally obtained the data from a vulnerable system. Perhaps a breached home router? Pay attention people!

Now if your pwned account is made public it becomes a pasted account. That means it has been pasted to public sites that share information while remaining anonymous. Such a site is Pastebin.com

Now there is a site you can use to discover if you have pwned or pasted. Have I Been Pwned?  is a website built by Troy Hunt author of web security courses for PluralsightIt’s simple and free to use. You just enter your email address or account name in a text search box and the site lets you know if it’s been pwned or pasted. Do it!

Paying attention to your digital life is as important as paying attention when you drive. The slightest lapse in focus could get you killed. You know that. It’s the very same with using the Internet. I suggest to black people that you pay attention to what can happen if you lose focus. The Internet may not kill you but if something goes wrong online you may want to kill yourself.

 

 

 

 

Is Your Router Wide Open?

When it comes to the Internet black people are sometimes unaware of the little things that are happening all around them.  For example how many black people knew that there are maps online that can show every house and every WiFi network and even the devices that are on the network in your home?

Everything in your house that is online has two distinct numbers. One is a MAC address and the other is an IP address. These are exactly what they say they are, addresses. A MAC address or media access control address is a unique set of numbers assigned to each device on a network. It is a permanent number that is assigned when the product is manufactured. Sometimes it is called a physical address.

The other number or address is the IP address. An IP address is a unique set of numbers separated by periods that identifies each computer using the Internet Protocol to communicate over the Internet. Your laptop, your printer, your set top box, your smartphone, your tablet and your router all have a MAC and IP address. And that is where the problem begins.

Every home that connects to the Internet has a router. Its the front door to your home network. Its the entry and exit  for everything on the Internet you ask for and many things you don’t.  You probably leave it wide open.

The router can be hard wired and all your equipment is connected to it via a wire of some type. Or it can be a wireless router that allows the devices in your home to connect via radio waves. That router is the only thing standing between you and the jungle we call the Internet.

A wired and wireless router

The one thing you need to know about that router is that it has a password and if you have not changed that password then any hacker can, and may have already, been on your home network.

Anyone can get the password to your router simply by going to any one of several websites that have a list of default passwords. One of the sites that reveals default passwords is Routerpasswords.com. This site allows you to search by the brand name of the router. Just select the brand name and the password is revealed. Another website for router passwords is Portforward.com and there is PCwintech.com. The message being; it is easy to get your router password if you have not changed it.

The next question you may ask is how would someone know what router is in my house? That is a simple answer as well. They simply go to a website that displays maps of home networks. Yes; I said that your home network is located on a map on the Internet. Wigle.net will show you what networks are on in any neighborhood in the world! Simply go to the site and enter the needed information and you will probably find your own network. Not only will you find your home network mapped out but your equipment may be identified by brand name. Google has mapped every WiFi network in England.

Here are a few steps you need to take if you have not already. First get a hold of your Internet provider and ask them to help you rename your router to keep it from revealing who you are and where you are. Don’t use any information that will tell people who that router belongs to. Something simple such as an odd mixture of numbers and letters like JK44RC578. Then change your password so no one can break into your network. Its the simple things that will protect you.

Now you know.

 

 

Internet Spying: Your Home is Full of Snitches

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Courtesy of Image go

A lot of African-Americans are going to be extremely surprised by what I am about to tell you. Your home is full of snitches. Everything in it is spying on you. And not just your home. Your car is a snitch as well.

Black people are extremely averse to having our business in the streets. We believe in minding our own business and reminding you to stay out of ours. But we live in the information age and things have become very open and complicated. Technology has gotten to the point where you can’t do much or anything or go anywhere without someone knowing exactly what you are doing. 

AACR Rule #11, Information is the currency and commodity of the digital age.

Let’s look at the devices in your home that are telling your business.

1) Televisions – Black men love a big screen television with all the tricks and features. You gotta have it to watch the game. But these new smart TVs can and do track what you watch. Electronics manufacturer LG makes televisions that not only spy on what channels you’re watching but sends the names of files on thumb drives connected to the set back to LG. Hackers can also hack some models of Samsung smart TVs and use them as instruments to steal data from your network and all the devices connected to it. And are you ready for this? Hackers can even watch you through the webcam built into the television.

2) Your DVR/Cable-Box/Satellite-TV ReceiverNow even if your television is not spying on you then your cable box may be doing the job. Those set top boxes do more than bring you cable television. They can also provide your Internet service. So everything you watch on television and do online is recorded somewhere. Cable providers can track what you are watching and recording. They use this information to target ads more efficiently. Did you read your service contract? You may have agreed to allow the cable company to sell this information and even turn it over to the government.

3) Kitchen Appliances – Yeah; the newest refrigerators and other high tech kitchen appliances are connected to your home network allowing for great convenience and energy savings. But there is a catch; spying and security risks. So what can a kitchen appliance tell someone about you? How about when you wake up in the morning. That connected coffee maker is a snitch. If you have a refrigerator with a barcode reader it will tell someone your shopping habits. Smart kitchen appliances have had known security vulnerabilities for some time now. Can you believe there is a documented instance where hackers were using a smart refrigerator in a malicious email attack. I’m not joking! Hackers successfully used a smart fridge to send out malicious emails.

4) Cell Phones – If this comes as a surprise to you then you clearly have not been paying attaention. Your cell provider may be following your everymove, call and text. This information includes whom you communicate with and your location. This also includes the various apps you load on to your phone. Haven’t you heard about Angry Birds That and other apps may track other more detailed activity. Some apps will sync your phone contact list with the app the providers’ servers by default.

5) Your Webcam or Home Security Cameras Malware on your computer can operate your computer webcam  and record you or your family. That’s right. That webcam may be busy taking photos or video and you think the camera is off. Some notable people have found themselves the target of blackmail from a hacker who captured compromising images. Miss Teen USA was blackmailed by a hacker who took control of her laptop’s webcam. The hacker photographed her naked and demanded more images. Your home security cameras are vulnerable as well. Malware on computers could intercept transmissions from your home security cameras. These cameras are attached to your network and allow you to watch your homes from anywhere. Once hacked a criminal can see you’re not home or, more frightening, who is at home.

6) Your Telephone – You got the bundle right? Phone, internet and television service all in one. All using your home network and router. Easy pickings especially if you have not changed your router default password. Look at your phone bill. Every call, every number you dialed and every incoming call is listed and how long you were on the call. Its all there. And the provider has it too. See #1 & 2.

7.)  Lighting, Home Entertainment System, Home Security System – Can you turn on the lights from your cell phone? Open the garage door? What about your home alarm system? All these things are controlled via the Internet. Very convenient.  But ask yourself if this information is available to outsiders?  Is your security company recording your coming and going? What about your home entertainment system? Do you have a DVD player that streams Netflix? Do you stream music over your home stereo? This information is  relayed to manufacturers of the equipment as well as the supplier of the music or programming. Remember that anything that connects to the Internet can be hacked.

8) The house thermostat (s) Internet connected thermostats are now on the market. These devices provide convenience and energy savings. And the energy companies learn your habits and preferences. Google’s recently purchased the Nest thermostat maker. And keep in mind that Google is a notorious information collector. Your utility company may offer comparable devices to help you save on your energy bills. But what else is that thermostat or better versions that are sure to come telling your utility company?

9) Your Medical Devices This should definitely shock you but its not anything new. Medical devices such as pacemakers, insulin pumps, and other medical devices can and have been hacked. But even if they have not been hacked these devices may still be spying on you. Some pacemakers can transmit patient status information over the Internet allowing the doctor to monitor the patient.  Could this information be intercepted? What if a hacker transmitted phony information to the doctor? Also known as a man-in-the-middle attack.  And please forgive me thinking like this, but what if a hacker took control of a pacemaker or insulin pump? Would that be the perfect murder?

10) Your car – You have GPS don’t you? What about Bluetooth? Pandora radio? What about EzPass or other toll taking devices? Wherever you drive you can be tracked. Cars are the latest target of hackers because more and more come with Internet connectivity and some even act a WiFi hot spots. But what about how you drive? Some insurance companies are now offering devices that track your driving habits in exchange for insurance discounts. Progressive insurance uses a device called a SnapShot. It tracks your driving habits for 30 days and then adjusts your rates accordingly.

11) Your gun! – America loves its guns and it seems everyone has one at home. Is this a privacy issue? As firearms technology advances we may see the day of the  “smartgun.” A weapon that is computerized with various safety features meant to prevent accidents and unauthorized use. Such as by a child or someone other than the owner. Look for these on the market soon.  But can these devices be used to spy on the owner? Can the gun be remotely disabled by a hacker or law enforcement? Would the government be interested in such a high tech measure? Could a citizen or criminal be tracked by following his gun? Could a stolen firearm be tracked or how about illegal gun sales. And what would the NRA say about it? Stay tuned!

Now You Know

 

 

 

Home Wi-Fi Security

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Courtesy of Stuart Miles

We are in the era of wireless connectivity. Most African-American homes have an Internet connection that comes through the cable or telephone wires. But once inside the signal goes to a wireless router that allows you to access the Internet. Your home Wi-Fi allows you to use your laptop, tablet or other device anywhere in the house. It works using radio signals. It’s called home Wi-Fi security for a reason. But you knew that. Now for what you don’t know.

Those radio signals can travel well beyond the walls of your home. You may not know it but someone could be piggybacking on your Wi-Fi signal. Yeah, your neighbor maybe getting free Internet because they can use your unsecured wi-fi signal.

But the situation could be worse. There maybe someone sitting in a car close by using your Wi-Fi. Maybe they are watching and recording everything you do online. If your home Wi-Fi is not secure then you could be asking for trouble. A wardriver or wardriving is a person who searches for Wi-Fi signals from a moving vehicle. These wardrivers actually map Wi-Fi networks and put the information on the Internet for all to see. Wigle.net offers a mapping service where you can find almost anybody’s home network and sometimes the devices on the network. They sometimes even designate which are open or unsecure. Is that your home Wi-Fi?

ESET Senior Research Fellow David Harley says that “for many users, a few simple steps could enhance security without having to grapple with complex software, or buy a new router. Taking a few simple precautions  would enhance security for quite a lot of home Wi-Fi users – though I don’t have any statistics to say how many networks are relatively insecure.”

Securing your home router is a top priority because that is your door or gateway to the Internet. If you leave it open anybody can walk right in. Let’s look at how to secure your home router.

1. Make sure your firmware is properly updated. Firmware is the code and data that makes routers work. You can compare them to a computer operating system. But the big difference that updates for firmware often have to be installed manually. To update your router you need to find the routers model number. Its usually on the router itself. Look on the back or bottom. Then visit the manufacturer’s website to see if there is a newer version. Download the update to your computer. Then access your router’s controls via its internal IP address.  This is usually standard for each manufacturer. You can also find it in your manual, or on the manufacturer’s site. You can also contact your Internet service provider for help. Most provide tech support for these things.

2.Change your passwords. Many routers come from the factory with default passwords. If you never changed it then its probably something easy like “123456” or “password.” You can also find just about any manufacturer’s default password on the Internet. Portforward.com lists hundreds of default passwords by manufacturer.

Harley says that users should always, “Change default router administrator usernames and passwords, and change the default SSID.” The SSID is the name of your network. This SSID is broadcasted beyond the walls of your home to anyone within Wi-Fi range. Not changing your default password is makes it easy for a hacker. From your SSID the hacker can learn the model of your router and whether you are using one supplied by your service provider. When you do change your network name make sure to use a name that does not identify you. Don’t use your address or your first initial and last name. Avoid any personally identifying information. 

It might be worth it to considering making your home Wi-Fi a “hidden network. This disables the broadcasting of the SSID’s name. It makes you less visible to attackers. To connect a new device, simply type in your network’s name on the gadget.

Harley warns when you perform a router software update your settings may revert back to factory settings. “After any update, check these settings have not reverted,” he says.

3. What is your router’s encryption setting?  If you find that your router is using the old WEP then you better update. New routers use the more secure WPA2 encryption standard. If you have had your router for more than two years then you need to check it. “Don’t use WEP encryption, if anyone still is,” Harley says. “If the router doesn’t allow anything else, time to change it. WPA2 is reasonably secure. Even if you had trouble connecting a tablet or other mobile devices to your network, leaving it “open” is always a bad idea. Harley says, “ If you’re not using encryption at all, fix it.”

4. Who’s using your network? As I said earlier; someone in your neighborhood could be using your Internet. Happens all the time and no can really say of if it is legal or not. But i’ts your Internet connection. You pay for it.

Your PC, tablet, game console, cable box,  DVD player even your phone has a unique identifying number known as a MAC address. Accessing your router’s settings permits you to choose which devices can connect to your network. This usually prevents any freeloading neighbor from logging in on your network.

You can add the MAC addresses of any devices in the home to the router’s authorized list. No other device will then be allowed on the network. You can find smartphone MAC addresses and other portable devices under their network settings. If not then check with the manufacturer.

Finally take some time to watch the online video provided by Welivesecurity.com that gives basic steps to secure your home router.

Now you know.