Why You Should Never Use Public WiFi’s & My Tiny Hardware Firewall Review

My New Tiny Hardware Firewall

My New Tiny Hardware Firewall

Introduction

I’m writing a very long article on Firewalls because we just replaced our home Firewall and I was researching my options before selecting one. I was surprised to see how many new categories of Firewalls there are now. Many for home use and even some for travel…which is the category that Tiny Hardware Firewall falls into. Or, perhaps portable is a better term.

I’ve known for several years that using public networks was dangerous…but I never completely understood the extent of the danger. Nor did I know of an alternative if I had to use one.

Which is why I’m writing this post. I learned about a great solution for when you need to use public networks.


If You Don’t Want to Read Everything Just Scroll Down to Watch the Video I Label ‘Must See‘ Towards the Bottom and Read the Article Immediately Following it.


What’s a Public Network?

A public network is any network that is available for use without a password…meaning it’s unsecured and anyone can join it. So Starbucks, the airport, a business convention you might be at…any network that lets lots of strangers join it might be a better definition.

What I didn’t realize was that other public networks which may require passwords like at a hotel, hospital or a large clinic’s like Mayo in Rochester, and even onboard an airplane, may be equally dangerous. Because just a password only isn’t the thing that protects you…or the determining factor really. It’s whether or not the network is encrypted. And if it has a password there’s a better chance it’s encrypted. But non-password networks can also be encrypted…so it gets confusing. I think the safest way to think about a public network is that it’s any network that allows a lot of strangers onto it. Because for sure, it’s all those strangers that raise the risk factors a lot.

Although I didn’t understand how, I’d always assumed that when you entered a password to join a network that somehow made the network safe to use. But I was wrong…and the fact that my Facebook account has been hacked multiple times while on vacation and while using hotel networks with passwords should have been my clue.

I also learned that oftentimes using apps is even worse. Because so many apps don’t bother using secured communications. Pinterest and EBay are 2 good examples of completely unsecured apps. Last I learned that you can get into trouble even if you don’t use a public WiFi…just by leaving the WiFi receiver on your device turned on. You can learn more about that in this Time Magazine article. So if you’re using an ios device you can either turn WiFi off completely when your out, or turning on ‘Ask to Join Networks’ if you need to leave WiFi on is better than nothing.

Why are Public Networks Dangerous?

Once again I don’t understand the exact logistics of how hacker’s do the things they do on public networks…but I do understand some of the risks…although it’s quite possible that I’m not aware of them all.

These are the main risks I know about:

  1. Your account credentials can be seen as you enter them and therefore stolen…which is how my Facebook account was hacked twice.
  2. Your personal information can be taken as well. Whether or not that occurs as a result of your actually typing in or entering it while visiting a website…I’m not sure. But regardless this is a worrisome enough aspect for me to think twice about using a public network.
  3. Your web browsing activities can be watched.

The risks are probably greater than just those above…but I can only speak to things I know for a fact to be true. If you’re interested in seeing just how easy it is to hack someone’s device you can watch this YouTube video which demonstrates the 10 best Android hacking apps for 2017.

How to Protect Yourself on Public Networks

The obvious answer is to not use them. But that’s not practical for things like vacations when you need to rely upon hotel networks. Because generally your only alternative is your cell plan’s network which isn’t intended for high volume things like uploading lots of vacation photos, and can therefore become very expensive quickly.

You can take a hotspot with a better cell plan along with you and we do that too. We bought a Verizon hotspot and it’s great…but it’s expensive too. We have a small $50 per month plan because it’s monthly and many months we don’t use it. We could increase for vacations…but we run the risk of forgetting to decrease it when we get back home…so even this isn’t a great solution. We also tried 2 different ones that we just paid for when we used them…but they had huge problems. The monthly plan options just seem to work a lot better.

I recently discovered a much better solution which is the 2nd main subject of this post…using a portable Firewall which also includes a VPN. That’s exactly what the Tiny Hardware Firewall is.

Example of how my Tiny Firewall protects me

Example of how my Tiny Firewall protects me

How Does a Portable Firewall with a VPN Protect You?

The way you use a portable Firewall is by connecting it to a network and then connecting your devices to it. Because it stands between you and any dangers it can protect you in numerous ways which depend upon your preferences. It can offer security services which examine all of the incoming and outgoing traffic to decide if it’s safe or not before allowing it. It can include ad blockers and malware blockers. Last, with the addition of a VPN, it can keep all of your data hidden so no one has access to it.

Think of the VPN part like this. The Firewall connects to the public network then it uses the VPN to create a protected tunnel for all your communications to go through. So even though your data is traveling on a public network…it’s doing so inside this protected tunnel. No one can see it or access it. Your data is completely hidden.

Why is a Portable Firewall the Best Solution?

The main reasons boil down to speed and cost. When you use a cellular hotspot your using cellular network speeds…when your using a firewall your using true network speeds like those that are provided by broadband, DSL or Fiber. Cellular plans are expensive too and recurring. You never know in advance how expensive though because you can go over your plan’s limits easily and end up incurring huge charges for that. I know this from personal experience too.

A few years ago we arrived home from a Mediterranean cruise to a $13,000 cell phone bill!

During our cruise I had been in constant contact with our cell provider to make sure that we weren’t incurring large, unknown costs. I spent (really wasted) so much time doing that…because it took hours sometimes to even reach someone at our cell provider’s international division. But my actions were our saving grace too. Had I not done that our cell provider would not have ultimately reversed all those charges.

But Aren’t VPN’s Expensive?

There is an ongoing cost for using a VPN but it’s pretty reasonable when compared to a cell plan. Our Tiny Firewall’s chosen VPN costs about $100 a year. Because I can have up to 4 users on my Tiny Firewall at the same time, it’s like I’m getting 4 VPN subscriptions for the price of one. That’s equivalent to 2 months of the cost for our Verizon Hotspot’s service…which is the lowest priced plan Verizon offers.

Are VPN’s Slow and Hard to Use?

That’s what I always thought. But I guess things have changed a lot. I think a VPN’s speed is actually determined in great part by the speed and bandwidth of the network you’re using. So our network at home gives us 300 Gbps down and when I tested out the new VPN on it we ran two iPads simultaneously streaming YouTube videos. It was amazing! There was no buffering and the display quality was excellent!

Using the VPN inside our Tiny Firewall is super easy too. We just turn it on with a little slider button.

Tiny Hardware Firewall's website

Tiny Hardware Firewall’s website

My Review of the Tiny Hardware Firewall

Using the VPN was super easy…but setting up the Tiny Firewall initially wasn’t. Luckily I had help in the form of the network consultant who was installing our new home Firewall.

I’m super lucky that I had his help, because I learned a lot about how these work and get setup. Now that I understand the process, I know I could do it…but I would have struggled before.

It took about an hour for he and I working together to get it all set up. Then after he left I played around with it for about a half hour to make sure I knew how to use it. I wrote a Step by Step guide for myself on using it, which I thought I would share here.

I probably could have set it up myself…but it probably would have taken me much longer to do. Maybe around 4 or 5 hours total. So, if I learn enough about that process to write about it…I’ll come back and update this post.

So my primary review is this. The Tiny Hardware Firewall is simple to use and amazing once it’s setup. It’s well worth the price of $220 that I paid for it. Part of that price is the $100 for the VPN which we’ll need to renew in 1 year’s time. The VPN which is HotSpotVPN is excellent and there is a support link for that if you run into trouble. The Firewall is also excellent…it’s got so many great features and it does some really cool things. That’s why I think the setup was hard, because despite the User Guide being excellent…the guide is long too…27 pages. It’s probably too long for the average user to sit down and read in it’s entirety…especially because it’s pretty dry reading and has a lot of network terms most people don’t understand.

You can’t fault a product for being too excellent!

Setup is rough however, despite the fact that the developers have included a very comprehensive User Guide. I think this is true because the guide uses so much network terminology that is complete Greek to a non-network person. For example, the Firewall operates in 3 main modes…Client Mode, Access Point Mode and Wireless to Wireless Mode. There are descriptions of what these are and even diagrams, but for people who’ve never done much networking, even those things aren’t really enough.

Personally, I think the developer should create a YouTube video that explains the setup process. It doesn’t need to be fancy or long, but it should show the screens involved and explain how and why average users would use the various features.

How to Use the Tiny Hardware Firewall

Once the Firewall is all setup, we’ll be using it in Wireless to Wireless mode. Which means we’ll connect to a hotel’s wireless network using our own wireless devices…iPhones, iPads and Android phones.

The Steps We’ll Follow Each Time We Want to Use the Firewall

Me Only – First login to the router to enable the VPN:

  1. Give the router power by plugging it in.
  2. Wait about 3 minutes for it to boot up.
  3. Join the wireless network it creates. (We gave this wireless network a password during the setup process.)
  4. Go to the IP address for your router using a web browser.
  5. Turn on the VPN

How Other People Get On to The VPN & Firewalled Network

  1. Go to network settings on your device and look for the wireless network the Tiny Firewall broadcasts.
  2. Join the network by entering the password (we also made up a password for this during the setup.)
  3. On ios devices turn off ‘Ask to Join Networks‘ so your device stays on the protected network.
The TOR Browser uses an onion for a logo

The TOR Browser uses an onion for a logo

Some More Cool Features of the Tiny Firewall

You can have up to 4 devices on the network at the same time. They can be hardwired using an Ethernet connection or wirelessly. There’s also a TOR network included which I’ve never tried but have always wanted to explore. TOR is the way hackers get onto the deep web…it’s a highly protective browser that keeps you extra safe and hidden and virtually untraceable. You can read more about TOR here and visiting the dark web here.From what I’ve read recently though the dark web isn’t really around much anymore, since Silk Road an infamous market for criminals was taken down about 3 years ago.

Where to buy the Tiny Hardware Firewall

I purchased mine from the developer’s website. I got the most expensive version which allows 4 users both wired and wireless…and mine has an antenna. Mine was about $220 including shipping I think. There are smaller, less expensive models too…there are four in total. Ours arrived in about 3 days via UPS and we had to sign for the delivery.

Here’s a link to the website where I purchased ours from.

4 models of the Tiny Hardware Firewall

4 models of the Tiny Hardware Firewall

2 Great Must See Tools if You Want to Quickly Learn How Easily Public Networks are Hacked & How to Stay Safe”

If you don’t have a lot of time to spend learning more about ways to stay safe, this section includes 2 links which together should bring you up to speed on everything you need to know to understand the threats and to keep yourself safe. So, consider these links together as a mini course about public WiFi safety.

This excellent 20 minute YouTube video demonstrates an easy method hacker’s use to hack public networks with a device similar to my new Tiny Firewall (which is basically a tiny router.) At about 17 minutes in he show how to use a device like the Tiny Firewall for good to protect yourself.

This great article written by the FTC adds some more information you should know about for keeping safe.

Additional Resources

Here’s a link to a great Wired article about the Tiny Firewall.

Here’s a great YouTube video that tells you a lot more about the Tiny Firewall

Here’s a link to the Tiny Firewall’s User Guide

A link about how to find out what kind of encryption a WiFi is using

Make Sure Your Home Network is Secure Too

Even when you’re not traveling you could be exposed to hackers if you haven’t bothered to secure the network that you use everyday. It’s not difficult to secure your network and it can be done in less than half an hour all by yourself. Nothing additional is needed other than you’re taking a little time to learn about why it’s important and how to do it. I wrote this guide for securing your home network, after I realized that somehow ours had become unsecured. Which tells me that this is something I need to check once in a while just to make sure my security is still in place.

Comments

I love to get feedback from my readers…so leave a comment if you feel inspired!

Form

contact-formcontact-field label=’Name or Nickname if you don%26#039;t want your real name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’//contact-form

Posted in Computer & network security, Digital security, public network safety, Security, travel safety | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Apple Doesn’t Want You to Buy Their New iPad

My New iPad 5

My New iPad 5

Introduction

I recently purchased Apple’s newest iPad 5. I’m in the midst of writing a very long, very positive review in which I’ve enthusiastically proclaimed the new iPad 5 to be ‘Apple’s Best iPad Ever.’ My writing of that glowing review came to an abrupt halt 2 days ago following the shocking event I describe below.

Has Apple’s Often Predicted Demise Begun?

It’s undeniable that Apple has paved the way for an entire industry of mobile technology. Yet many people are questioning if they’ve lost the technological edge the company once enjoyed. Lackluster user response to many of their recent product launches seems to be the main evidence for this theory.

I don’t think that’s entirely true. I think they’ve just shifted their goals from producing technology that’s considered ‘groundbreaking’ to producing more ‘nuanced’ products. Ones which improve upon already great designs in smart and beneficial ways. But that may not be enough.

Their approach was working. They managed to keep up with, and even maintain their lead in most of their product niches. Their profits have never been better. Despite this many don’t realize that it’s not hardware production that’s really their problem. It’s their inability to think like their customers. Especially in creatively imagining how their products might solve problems and fulfill user needs. But customers have never been their focus. In the past it wasn’t necessary for their success. But now, the tables have turned because the market is completely different. In many regards it’s saturated. There are so many amazing products yet Apple’s not leading the innovation anymore, so their competitive edge is decreasing and they have nothing left to take its place. Recognizing the asset that their customers represent could have been that thing…but it’s probably too late now to turn that around.

Stated a little more bluntly, Apple has always seemed uninterested in their customers. Had they been paying attention they could have appreciated the infinitely creative ways in which their customers improve the value of their technology. If they’d stopped to notice for one brief moment, it would have been their users who showed them all the open doors available to them for future success.

Beyond their slick marketing campaigns which really are the by-product of some ‘uber genius’ marketeers, creativity does not appear to be Apple’s forte anymore. As evidence I give you the App Store, their own suite of apps, iTunes, even their core applications, ios and OS X. Things that seemed out-dated, boring and maybe even antiquated in the past, feel downright obsolete in 2017.

Most of Apple's iPhones & iPads are manufactured in China

Most of Apple’s iPhones & iPads are manufactured in China

Which Brings Us Directly to the Question At Hand

Why Doesn’t Apple Want You to Buy Their New iPad?

It seems odd really because iPad sales have dropped a lot in recent years.

You’d think they’d want as many new sales as possible. Deep down I suspect they do.

But, like the difficult sibling every family has, it appears that Apple is very particular about who they sell their new iPad too. If you’re an avid Apple user who enjoys many of their products already, then even though this new iPad is really a great one…it’s not really intended for you.

How did I arrive at this revelation?

By actually purchasing their new iPad…which, I should also mention, I really happen to love! But I don’t know if I love it enough to make the choice Apple has thrust upon me. A choice I didn’t know I would be forced to make. Apple is forcing me to choose between this new iPad and my older ones. But I also happened to have grown quite fond of them too.

I really don’t understand why Apple is forcing me to choose…why can’t I decide?

Apple's Net Annual Income from 2005 to 2016

Apple’s Net Annual Income from 2005 to 2016

How I Discovered I’d Be Forced to Choose Between Keeping My New iPad or My Older Ones

Looking back I probably had some clues. I’d been having quite a few problems with my iCloud lately. I even wrote a post about it a few weeks back called ‘How I Fixed My iCloud Photo Sync Problems.’ But it wasn’t until I finally called Apple Support that I really put 2 and 2 together.

Back in 2015 when Apple had one of its worst years ever for ios problems, my family was hit especially hard. That was the year of ios 8. As ios 8’s tenure drew to a close our combined family’s iCloud photo syncing and backups came to an abrupt halt. Since we’d arrived home from our summer vacation with lots of new photos, this couldn’t have happened at a worse time. At our local Apple Store, a Genius told us that the problem was we just had too many pictures for iCloud to handle well, and we should really buy a Mac mini to back them all up manually if we didn’t want to lose them…so we did.

I know what you may be thinking…that’s a really expensive solution…and you’d be right. But I had years of my family’s photos stored there and I wasn’t willing to risk losing them…especially because I had already lost several years worth of family photos when our home network was taken over by a Botnet already. I also wasn’t all that thrilled with having to learn an entirely new operating system either. The Genius was correct however, and our getting the Mac Mini did solve our Photo syncing and backup problems, so in the end we were OK with it.

But that’s all we’ve ever used the Mac mini for. Now it turns out that Mac is 1/10th of my current problem! What led me to call Apple Support a few days ago about my current sync problems was when I discovered using that computer that not all of my devices showed up under my Apple ID. So I called Support thinking that they would talk me through how to get all my devices back under my ID. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My Recent Encounter With Apple Support

The first person I talked to a was a nice enough woman who told me she’d try to help me, but she very quickly got to the heart of the problem. With the purchase of my new iPad 5 there are now more than 10 devices in my name. I was beyond incredulous when she told me I’d have to get rid of some of them! We went back and forth in a conversation for about 15 minutes that sounded something like this:

Me: You mean I can’t have more than 10 devices total?

Her: No

Me: But then what do I do?

Her: Get a new Apple ID

Me: But if I do that I won’t be able to access my information on all my devices, right?

Her: Well, no, that’s not exactly what I mean, but yes essentially you are correct.

Me: So, you mean I really can’t have more than 10 devices? Including computers? Because I thought maybe computers were different. I thought that they fell under a separate ‘5 Authorized Computers Limit’ and that was a separate limit, right?

Her: Well, no, that just means we don’t want you to own more than 5 computers.

Me: Why not?

Her: Because if you do you’re probably a business.

Me: But I’m not a business.

Her: But most people would be.

Me: Really? Why do you think that?

Me: I mean, I do write a blog, but I wouldn’t call it a business. I don’t actually earn any money doing that. In fact I write about Apple products a lot which is one reason I like to have the different ones…to be able to knowledgeably write about them.

Her: Well, no I understand your situation, but it’s unique. Most people with that many devices would be a business.

Me: But, really, if you think about it, it’s not that many. Granted I may be somewhat unique by keeping my old iPod, which I still love, and an old iPhone as a backup one, but other than that, I don’t think I’m that different from most Apple users. I have a Watch, this computer, an Apple TV, my phone, an iPad mini, an iPad Air Original, an Air 2, the 12″ Pro and the 9.7″ Pro and now the iPad 5. So, basically just one of each. But that adds up to 12 devices. And I really love the new iPad 5 and wanted to get another one.

Her: That’s too many devices for one person to have.

Me: Is that a personal opinion or a corporate one?

Her: Both

Me: Doesn’t Apple want people to buy more of your products?

Her: Well…..yes and no…we don’t want people abusing the system.

Me: What do mean abusing the system.

Her: These products are meant for personal use.

Me: But I am a person and I am just using them for personal use…I mean I mentioned my blog right? But it’s not a business, I don’t earn any money from writing it.

Her: But you couldn’t possibly be using all those devices…you must be doing something else with them.

Me: Like what?

Her: I don’t know, I just don’t think that you’re personally using them.

Me: But I am, truly.

Her: Silence

Me: Hello?

Her: I’m here…I just don’t know what to say.

Me: What do I need to do to convince you I’m not abusing the system somehow.

Her: Well, um, how do you use all those?

Me: Well, I like iPads for their mobility and flexibility so when I write a blog post I use an iPad to do that.

Me again: You know how a lot of people have multiple screens on their computer, right?

Her: Of course.

Me: Well, I use my iPads like others do multiple screens on a computer. I multi-task so I use 3 at a time. And then when their batteries die I switch to 3 fresh ones.

Her: Oh

Her: Can I place you on hold a minute?

Me: Yes

As I waited for about 10 minutes on hold I just couldn’t stop thinking “This can’t be real…it’s gotta be some kind of a mistake. Because what company in their right mind wouldn’t want customers who love their products so much that they want to buy more of their products…it just doesn’t make any sense to me.

What I didn’t tell her was that I actually even have more iPads than I mentioned to her. I didn’t mention them out of this odd sense of shame! Sort of like ‘slut shaming’ in the recent Netflix blockbuster ‘Thirteen Reasons Why.’

The New iPad 5 Compared to My Original iPad Air

The New iPad 5 Compared to My Original iPad Air

Because, here’s the thing…I didn’t get those because I wanted more iPads, I got them because ios 8 kept incapacitating my iPads. The first time I encountered this problem I never knew that having a corrupt version of ios was even possible. I think looking back on it what was going on was that Apple had introduced iCloud Drive along with ios 8. But their implementation of it was very poor initially. iCloud had become this massive bandwidth hog that literally knocked everything else on our home network off of it whenever it wanted to. Which ironically led to my writing another post about what to do as a temporary measure when this occurred.

My biggest problem was that I didn’t want to lose the content on them by restoring them…but during the ios 8 debacle, our iClouds weren’t working much of the time, so a lot of my content wasn’t backed up. I had no means to back it up because my Windows computer (that I had built myself along with my son’s help) was currently nonfunctional. It was one more thing on my long list of tech projects that needed fixing, but that I didn’t have either the time or the skill level necessary to address myself. So, during ios 8’s reign of terror I ended up buying 3 more iPads I used as ‘stop gap’ measures to keep me productive until I could restore the ones with corrupt versions of ios 8 on them.

Yet I was confident that my being on hold meant my problem was going to be addressed and get solved.

My 2nd Support Conversation with Marty in the Apple Enterprise Department

Once again, I couldn’t have been more wrong!

A few minutes later she came back on and introduced me to Marty from the Enterprise Department. She told me that because he handled business accounts she believed that he could better help me with my problem.

What followed was painful. Marty literally interrogated me about my devices and my usage. He maintained this smug, arrogant demeanor that was intimidating…and not at all helpful. His manner was odd too.

What I did learn in early on in that conversation was that it’s not that Apple or even iCloud that can’t handle having customers who own more than 10 devices…it’s more a matter of the shortcomings of Apple IDs. Apple ID’s it seems weren’t designed for that, and they are not able to handle anymore than 10 devices per person.

Rather than subjecting you to what was an utter and complete waste of 30 minutes of my life, I’ll just skim over the highlights.

Marty didn’t understand how anyone in the world could ever, or would ever, need more than 4 devices maximum…because that’s what he has. Furthermore, he doesn’t feel that I’m doing things as efficiently as I could or should be. He compared my iPad usage to the experience of buying a new car. He couldn’t seem to grasp the concept that iPads are not cars, and that his car buying analogy was inappropriate and ill advised. His analogy seemed to have something to do with the concept that I shouldn’t have purchased my Mercedes Station Wagon with the expectation that it would be able to handle off-road terrain. This is where he completely lost me.

He didn’t even give me the chance to jump in and say…but my car does handle off-road terrain just fine because it has 4 wheel drive and it’s built like a tank. And how exactly is an iPad even like a car in the first place? He just droned on and on and on…never once giving me the opportunity to speak.

So for the next 20 minutes or so I just tried to get things done only while appropriately mumbling things like “I see” periodically on top of his discourse, until finally he grew tired of listening to himself (or quite possibly finally having realized that he’d lost me 20 minutes back ) and he abruptly decided to give me my case number and end the call. Omg I thought…finally. Oddly, he didn’t even ask me if he solved my problem, nor did I ever receive the standard follow-up email asking me to ‘Rate My Customer Service Experience!.

There was a little more to the conversation, and one good thing did come out of it when I did ultimately realize that there is one older device under my Apple ID that I’m not really using…my old iPhone 4s that I keep for backup and for possibly traveling internationally because I spent a lot of time trying to get AT&T to unlock it for exactly that reason. But even removing that device will not allow me to meet the arbitrary number of 10 maximum devices that Apple will allow me to have.

Find out how many devices are under your Apple ID on ios

Find out how many devices are under your Apple ID on ios

The Reality: Apple Customers Aren’t Allowed to Use and Operate More Than 10 Devices Under Their Apple ID

I swear that I can’t go for more than 2 years time without some huge shortcoming of the antiquated Apple ID system cropping up to make my life miserable.

My 3 Biggest Apple ID Problems in Recent Years

Apple ID Problem 1

The first time a problem arose was when my younger, then teenaged son left for college. I’m sure you all know where I’m going with this. My son had kindly setup my first iPod for me several years earlier. But because he was just a kid himself he had no idea what he was really doing. He was just super excited to be doing something cool for me instead of the reverse. So, he just setup my iPod using his Apple ID. We learned when he left for college what a huge mistake that was and one that we’ve never been able to fully recover from because, guess what?

There is absolutely no way that Apple will allow you to divide your content…and by content I mean everything…your contacts, your photos, your music, your apps and literally everything else that you would use on an ios device, into 2 separate Apple ID’s. EVEN IF YOU DID IT MANUALLY ONE BY ONE!!! Because Apple ID’s weren’t built to be able to handle that.

The end resolution of that sad situation was that my son, an avid Apple fan at the time, left Apple products behind completely for Android…and he’s never looked back!

It really boggles my mind that Apple has chosen to stick with this horrible concept that serves no one well for so many years. Unless it does serve them with some ulterior motive that they just aren’t transparent enough to acknowledge. After all, Google doesn’t limit how many Android devices a person can have? Granted, they do maintain a similar 10 device limit for streaming music…so I suspect that has more to do with digital rights protection than anything. But you can have as many Android devices as you want which share your apps and your data. Certainly Microsoft wouldn’t make such a ludicrous business decision…but then Bill Gates was always a better businessman than Steve Jobs! Not that I’d really consider getting a Windows phone. I mean I’m not sure but are they still even selling those? I don’t mean to sound catty, it’s just that I really never hear about them anymore.

Apple ID Problem #2

I’ve occasionally visited the Apple Support Communities. There were a few instances I considered asking my own question, but forums intimidate me somewhat so I never had. One day I had a question too pressing to ignore. This was the first time that I actually ever asked a question in any kind of forum…both before and after.

Immediately after posting it I was horrified to discover that my real name was publicly displayed next to my question. Worse yet…I couldn’t remove either my name or the question! Since our Botnet encounter was extremely fresh then, I was completely blown away that Apple would do this. I’ve since learned that their Support Communities aren’t directly under Apple’s control…although there is a direct link between them, so go figure. But the only way you could participate in the community forums was by having an Apple ID and signing in using it. Since most people have their real names associated with their Apple ID this just seemed to me to be a terribly unsafe practice.

I’ve managed to block from memory many of the details regarding that incident, but I do remember there were hours upon hours of emails written by me to various support administrators trying to find someone who would remove my name from the question…or the whole question instead. It took days of correspondence before I found someone capable and a few more days of pleading, begging and grovelling before he finally complied. So finally the question was deleted, but I was really shaken. My name had been displayed for about a week before they took it down. I suspect at the time we had just regained our network and a tiny sense of privacy after 2 years of pure hell…which explains my slight overreaction. But our hackers seemed to know us after 2 years of having access to all of our private data…so I didn’t want my name out there at all!

The head honcho who finally remedied it told me that only real people’s names were allowed…and if I didn’t like it I didn’t need to participate. He also suggested creating another Apple ID, but back then you had to associate it with a different email, which meant at a minimum setting up another email account too. It wasn’t as simple as it appeared. An I was already dealing with 2 Apple ID’s from the situation with my son. The last thing I wanted to do after having gone through upwards of 20 email accounts that were repeatedly hacked was start down that path again. I did try to explain all this via emails…but I don’t know that I was successful.

Because overall I was met with indifference at best. At the time I had problems believing that this was their attitude and that it was impossible for someone…or anyone really…to change their display name to something else. Cyber security issues were just beginning to get national attention…so my fears didn’t seem unwarranted. In the end when I finally did prevail…it was only after I swore to promise that I would never, ever, reveal the fact that this was even possible to anyone else.

I didn’t reveal their secret either up until now. It was a long time ago in digital years at least…so probably things are different now…or are they? I probably shouldn’t assume so often! But now, I don’t feel any regret in revealing what in hindsight almost takes on tones of bullying…because I should not have had to devote that amount of time and effort for something so minor and so wrong! At the moment I’m downright angry as I’m realizing that at least twice I was treated really poorly by Apple employees (even if one was a tangential employee.)This behavior appears to me to emanate from a perceived sense of superiority which is exhibited as both arrogance and domineering. It’s not right.

Apple ID Problem #3

Trust me when I say there is one more largely distressing Apple ID incident which I just don’t have the stomach to rehash here right now. I wonder if Apple recognizes the amount of stress and frustration that’s thrust upon users? It appears that this worsens when dealing with their most loyal customers.

Bloomberg article about shrinking profit margins

Bloomberg article about shrinking profit margins

Afterthoughts

I did come to one realization about Marty’s and even the woman’s seemingly suspicious interrogations, which I now think may have had to do with digital rights and piracy. But if they had bothered to inquire, that is a complete nonissue for me. I don’t have or use any of that kind of content…it’s that simple. Other than a very, relatively small old music library from maybe 8 years ago when I got my iPod, I simply don’t consume media content at all. I don’t use my music library either because we were never able to separate my small one from my son’s larger one. So if I were to go look for some old song that I know I downloaded, I generally never find it.

What’s important to me is the data I’ve accumulated from research, drafts I’m writing and the graphics I create to accompany the work I intend to publish online. Right now I’m working on 2 huge feature articles. One is on cybersecurity. It’s a very detailed analysis of alternatives to keep people’s identities and data safe in a whole host of situations. My focus is on firewalls in their many forms which I perceive to be a topic generally not understood. The other is on the nuts and bolts of how to cut the cable and setup suitable alternatives…but again it’s extremely detailed and I cover the entire process from start to finish.

I’m learning to use a new editing app (Ulysses) which is great but it relies on having access to my data using iCloud. That’s why iCloud syncing for me is so crucial and why I wasted my time calling Apple Support in the first place. I don’t take that step lightly. In fact the last time I called them was probably 3 years ago. In the rare instances I’ve gone that route…even when calling Apple Care, my time is usually wasted. But this time, in addition to being wasted I was treated so poorly that I couldn’t ignore the message sent:

Apple Does Not Want Their Most Valued Customers Buying Their New Products

There is simply no other way to interpret the combined evidence of Apple’s choice to impose archaic and secretive limitations which they seem to go out of their way to justify along with their abusive tactics in interacting with customers under the guise of ‘support.’

Interim Conclusion

There should be no surprise about my first conclusion. I won’t be purchasing another iPad 5…even though I do love the new iPad 5 and would really benefit by having it. I’d like to give away some of my older ones, but can’t do that if I can’t have them under the same Apple ID long enough to make sure I’ve transferred everything I need to the 2nd, despite the arrogant Apple Support employee known as Marty, and his utter lack of regard for my problem, I did learn a few more things and then came up with a few workaround ideas of my own.

Here’s the big picture. Not only are Apple ID’s antiquated but Apple has some other hidden limits that they don’t share with their customers, making the entire Apple ID system convoluted and confusing. Things like ‘one computer can only be affiliated with 5 Apple ID accounts,’ and that ‘one ios device is only allowed the create 3 new Apple ID’s.’ Also that ‘computers which have been authorized to use content under one Apple ID, can only change that designation once every 90 days.’

Rereading various Apple support articles failed to shed any more light on most of these limitations. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since Marty’s one cheerful interaction was his mention of the fact that many of these restrictions are buried deeply within the fine print of Apple’s Terms & Conditions which I’ve made PDF’s of to include here. I have to admit though, I didn’t actually read to 50+ pages linked to below.

ios Terms & Conditions

iCloud Terms & Conditions

Game Center Terms & Conditions

iPad 5 Warranty

More helpful is the advice written by MacWorld’s Jason Snell. Last June he wrote a really helpful article which explains clearly and succinctly exactly what the 2 main device limits Apple currently dictates are and how to find which devices of yours that apply.

MacWorld Article by Jason Snell

MacWorld Article by Jason Snell

Workarounds

The day after my support encounter I decided to research this topic a little further. I discovered that there are some interesting and creative solutions to my problem and that despite Marty’s claim to the contrary, I’m not the only user worldwide to find myself in this situation. Other’s have been equally frustrated. So I thought I’d share what I came up with as ways to address the ridiculous data sharing limitations.

Good Workaround Ideas from Ben Greiner

Good Workaround Ideas from Ben Greiner

The best workaround ideas I found are outlined in this article, which also highlights some even more randomly archaic limitations that Apple has forced upon their best customers. My favorite workaround is creating one backup that acts essentially as a template for configuring more Apple devices beyond the 10 by just using that same backup for multiple restores on numerous devices. I took the ideas in Ben Greiner’s article above as the basis for coming up with the 4 workarounds I describe below.

4 Ideas for Working Around Apple’s 10 Device Limit

These are my 4 best ideas for setting up an iPad which typically wouldn’t be allowed by Apple because you’ve reached their 10 device ceiling. Some build upon an idea I got when questioning Marty. He mentioned that you don’t need an Apple ID to use an ios device. He said that all the core apps would be on a newly restored iPad, so you could just use it ‘as is’ but not add content via the App Store, iTunes U., the Music Store, iBooks or using any of Apple’s content solutions.

The downside of course for me is that I use and rely heavily upon iCloud sync for all my own personal data. Everything from Contacts, Payment methods, Safari Bookmarks, Documents, and the most important Photos and Videos…so the Apple ID sign-in aspect is important.

But there are nuances to it. For example, on some devices that I don’t use a lot for productivity I could sign in, load the content I want onto it, and then sign out…I think that the content would remain. Also, through a convoluted assortment of Google Drive, Google Photos, Dropbox, Box, and OneDrive, I could probably, with great effort, set up something that resembles an iCloud connected device with synced data. But I’ve worked with several of these alternatives already in a limited capacity trying to make my iCloud data available on a non-connected device for an app requiring iCloud connectivity…and it’s a cumbersome process that varies a lot by cloud provider. It would require a lot of front end work and documenting the steps would be key for me to keep this working.

So, I’ve outlined 4 possible alternatives below which all have some pros and cons, but which do offer some flexibility for various circumstances.

Of the 4 Methods outlined, the reason Method 1 is best for me is because it’s the only one which keeps the Apple ID intact therefore the iCloud connection is maintained.

Best Method 1 | Create Multiples of the Same iPad

This method relies upon your ability to save a good copy of a backup that you’ll use to restore any new device from. By doing so you’ll essentially be creating multiple copies of the same device. So the difficulties of this method may be differentiating between them sometimes. For example, when you use the share extension feature of opened webpages….and see your different devices…will you still see all the devices setup in this manner displayed? I’m not entirely sure since this is only theoretical right now, but I plan to test this out when restoring an iPad to bring to my 91 year old Dad for reading ebooks.

Steps

  • Setup one ios Device as new – Maybe give it a special name like ‘Favorite iPad’
  • Put all the apps and things I would start with on any fresh devices onto it.
  • Make a backup that I save permanently in some fashion…maybe in a file outside of iTunes.
  • Use that backup file as a template whenever I setup a new iPad…restoring from this backup onto each newly restored device.Method 2 | Create A Bare Bones iPad with No Apple Content Thereby Creating a Static iPad with Non-Updatable Content

Remember Marty told me you don’t need an Apple ID to use an iPad. You’ll have all the core apps and can surf the web…you just can’t download apps or other content. Another thing I discovered is that you can have an Apple ID assigned to a device…but not have a credit card associated to that device for iTunes. You could have the credit card associated with it but then remove it, or set it up from the start without one. So you could setup a device with the apps you want while signed in…and then sign out of either the Apple ID or the Credit card on that device…leaving it fully stocked with whatever apps and content you want…but not able to get any more.

Method 3 | Enhance a Bare Bones iPad with Side Loaded Content

Use Method 2 without ever signing into an Apple ID, then Google something like ‘Side-Loaded apps for iPads and find alternative app ‘stores.’ One side loading alternative I tried and it appears to be a safe option is Tweakbox.

Tweakbox site and app for side-loading apps

Tweakbox site and app for side-loading apps

Method 4 | Jailbreak Your iPad

Since I’ve not done this I don’t know much about it other than that jail breaking voids your Apple warranty if you’re caught and you run the risk of bricking your device. But there is a huge jail breaking community with lots of information. There are complete app stores for jail breakers and it seems you can do a lot of cool things with an ios device that would normally be restricted by Apple. Perhaps one of the largest jail breaking sites is Redmond Pie where you can learn more about it and get lots and lots of great information.

Is Apple’s Demise Inevitable?

Never before has technology advanced at the rate which we’re experiencing today. We sit on the precipice of a bona fide new world. One in which the vast majority of our daily needs, both personal and professional, will be met in by complex interfaces of digital data. These already impact a broad array of our needs. Soon every aspect of people’s lives, our communications, what we eat, the media we consume, the healthcare we receive, our shopping activities, our leisure activities…literally every single aspect of our daily lives will transition to become part of the interconnected framework of cyberspace.

As much as I love my Apple devices today I simply cannot see how they’ll survive these changes. Already change is creating greater user demand for interconnected tools which are growing increasingly necessary for our day-to-day lives. Apple’s inability to function transparently, coupled with their paternalistic style of customer relations, and their need for total control points to their inevitable inability to adapt.

Stated more simply…sharing has never been Apple’s strong suit.

I fear that the handwriting is on the wall…our worlds’ greater need for universally interconnected tools will render Apple’s products irrelevant, signaling the beginning of the end for the corporation.

Taken from Apple's 2016 10K Filing

Taken from Apple’s 2016 10K Filing

What Apple’s Recent Financials Tell Us

I’ve spent some time analyzing Apple’s financials to see if my theory holds water. I needed to do this because if you were to take Wall Street recent reactions literally, you’d think Apple’s future was promising. But we’ve all learned enough to know that taking Wall Street news at face value is a slippery slope.

Apple’s profits are still deceptively solid, in fact even encouraging in 2017. But those can’t be sustained long term under the present set of circumstances. Where profits are increasing the most are in a segment Apple call’s their ‘Services’ business. The segment is composed primarily of revenues from Apple Care, App Store sales, iCloud Storage and Apple Pay.

It makes sense these would be increasing now given the market saturation of Apple hardware, but think about it. These services are dependent upon successful hardware profits. That’s where Apple has shined in the past and in the long term it’s there where Apple needs to be successful to achieve any sort of long term growth in their industry. Unless Apple were to branch out by providing services to non-Apple hardware, growth simply can’t be sustained long term. Without growth of customers for their hardware products, services profits won’t be sustained.

So while the current numbers are causing analysts to applaud Apple’s wisdom and business acumen, in reality I think this is more a situation of fortuitous riding of coattails which will reverse as quickly as it appeared.

Recent trends in Apple profits are telling and support my forecast of eventual degradation of Apple’s financial situation I think. Profit margins for Apple’s hardware have steadily declined which is a bit of an industry trend. More sophisticated technology commands higher costs to produce yet prices can’t be raised enough to offset these costs so margins overall have been going down for years industry wide.

Add to this declining sales, primarily due to customers’ blasé response to new offerings which is a direct result of a lack of innovation that’s exciting on a large scale and the concept of long term profits stagnating or declining seems realistic. So in the end services’ profits can’t help but decline, because it’s success is predicated upon a successful hardware segment.

Final Conclusion

There is only one business model under present day circumstances that might possibly turn this around. That’s a model that values existing customers. Will that be possible for Apple to achieve? Only time will tell.

This is why Apple Should Want Me to Buy Another iPad 5!

NASDAQ Price Earning's Forecast

NASDAQ Price Earning’s Forecast

Below I’ve included links to some of the financial data I used to arrive at my conclusion.

Here’s a link to Apple’s 2016 10K Filing

Here’s a link to Apple’s 2017 Proxy Statement to Shareholders

Here’s a link to Statista’s Chart Showing Apple’s Net Income from 2005-2016

Here’s 2 links to some Bloomberg analyses on why Apple’s Profit margins are Declining – October 2016 Report and Recent Problems With iPad Sales – March 2017 Report

Comment Form

I love to get feedback from my readers…so leave a comment if you feel inspired!

contact-formcontact-field label=’Name or Nickname if you don%26#039;t want your real name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’//contact-form

Posted in Apple, Apple News, iCloud, iPad, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fix iCloud Photo Sync Issues on 10.3

Image 298

Problem: iCloud Photo Sync Intermittently Stops Working for a Device

For the last few months my iCloud photo syncing has been messed up. Maybe it was a result of updating to ios 10.2.1. Most of my devices are on that version, however I just began using the new iPad 5 and that came with 10.3 installed. Prior to receiving it I had just restored my iCloud Photo syncing on all of those 10.2.1 devices using steps similar to those described below.

I discovered this problem also exists in 10.3 because about the 4th day into using my new iPad 5, all of a sudden, Photo syncing on my new iPad stopped. So the steps below describe what I did to restore it. These are very similar to the 10.2.1 steps I used…it’s just that some of the Setting’s locations have moved.

What to Expect and my Disclaimer

I ran across a set of instructions one day a few weeks back at Apple’s support site which described something similar to what I ultimately did to fix the problem…but when I searched for that again I was unable to find exactly what I’d found earlier. Maybe Apple recently edited this section…I don’t know for sure. But after hours of searching and reading through all of the advice Apple does supply now, I didn’t really find anything all that helpful, or anything that worked for me.

So, this solution is essentially my own memory of what I’d read…but probably it’s different too because memory is faulty. If you can find better steps regarding how to do this on Apple’s support site, or even have come up with your own method, I’d love to hear about. I believe there are probably several different ways to approach this problem, and this method was what worked for me.

I was extremely worried about 2 things. Somehow hurting my iCloud Photo data base in some way…because I’ve heard horror stories about that. 2nd, I was worried that by turning off Photo stream and then turning it back on that would mean my iPad would need to re-download a lot of pictures, or thumbnails, or whatever it needed to reinstate everything. I also worried that this would negatively impact our bandwidth as well as take a long time on that iPad, rendering it kind of disabled until the photos were back. Both worries weren’t realized.

I had no problems with any of the roughly 40,000 photos I have in iCloud disappearing or being deleted…but if I were you I’d still proceed with caution just the same. That means making sure you have your Photos backed up somewhere else in addition to iCloud before proceeding.

This fix also had virtually no impact on our network bandwidth and it just took a few minutes for the iPad to get back it’s full iCloud…which included the additions that had been missing before because the sync wasn’t working properly.

Step 1

The First Setting to Check is the Universal Apple ID Sign-in

This is really the only part of this step that you need to follow. Go to the top menu item in Settings ios 10.3. This is a new central location for all the different places you sign into your Apple ID on ios. It shows your name and below that says, Apple ID, iCloud, iTunes & App Store.

Tap on iCloud and then Photos to arrive at the screenshot below.

My iCloud Photo Settings Detail Screen

My iCloud Photo Settings Detail Screen

  • I checked off the box for ‘**Download and Keep Originals**’….meaning I enabled it.
  • Then about a minute later I unchecked the ‘**Photo Stream**’ box

Easily Skipped – The Second Place to Check is Purely Informational

Go to GeneralStorage and iCloud Usage and under the iCloud Section tap on ‘Manage Storage‘ wait for a minute for things to populate and then tap on Photos and look to make sure that iCloud Photos are being backed up.

You could also check out the size of your Photo stream while you are there but using the section above iCloud is Storage – tap on Manage Storage and then Photos to see the size of your Photostream on this device.

Another place in Settings to check for information

Another place in Settings to check for information

You might want to jot down what this says and compare it to your other devices.

Step 2

Do a Hard Reset of Your Device

You probably already know how to do this…but just in case you don’t. Hold down both the Home Button and the Power Button until an Apple appears in the screen.

Once your device is back up go back to what you did in Step 1 and reverse it.

  • Check the box for **Optimize iPad Storage**
  • Turn back on **Upload to My Photo Stream**

Step 3 Do another Hard Reset

That’s it…hopefully when your device turns back on your iCloud Sync will be working and you’ll see some missing photos appearing in the All Photos album.

Comments

I love to get feedback from my readers…so leave a comment if you feel inspired! Especially if you’ve found something else that works too.

Comments Form

(#)
(#)
(#)

(#)

Posted in Apple, iCloud, iCloud Photos, ios apps | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

How to Secure Your Home Network

Introduction

I’m writing what’s ending up to be a very long article on Hardware Firewalls and how they can be used to help keep computer networks safe. There isn’t a lot of information about this for home owners yet there is an emerging market of devices specifically for that purpose. But it’s a complicated topic and even the types of devices made for this are really confusing and almost impossible to compare. Which is one of the reasons that the article is growing so long. It dawned on me today, that people should know how to secure what they already have too. So I began writing this as yet another section…but then I decided that this section could, and it should, stand on it’s own…especially because my firewall article is so long already!

Websites like Norse and Fire Eye show you computer attacks around the world in real time.

Websites like Norse and Fire Eye show you computer attacks around the world in real time. Go to Fire Eye’s Cyber Threat Map

Why You Should Secure Your Network

Every computer network has one device that acts as the gateway to the internet. This device may lead to others that together are the architecture creating your network. This network serves every internet device within your home or office. Every single device from computers and printers on down to smart light bulbs rely upon this network to function properly. If your network is hacked…then none of these devices will work. If your network is taken over by a Botnet for example, which is something  I can speak from personal experience about, then it’s quite possible that your network may not always be available for your own use…sometimes it may work for you but other times it won’t. In fact this inconsistent pattern of up and downtime is one good indication of a possible Botnet.

For sure it was our Botnet experience that made me sort of obsessed with making sure our network is secure. This happened in the early days of networks. Ours had been secured, up until the point at which one of the teenagers in our household decided our aging router needed an upgrade. He installed some open source firmware on it, which was actually great but he inadvertently removed the encrypted password needed to access our wifi in the process. He also enabled remote access, opened a port for port forwarding and only mentioned the upgrade to us after the fact. Although, frankly we didn’t have a clue about routers…so when he did tell is about it we weren’t really concerned.

Photo credit: portalgda via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Within a few months of that occurring we began having network outages and other annoying problems cropping up. Slowly over time the problems increased to the point that our network was rarely usable…and most of the computers in our house seems really virus prone as well as exhibited aberrant behavior. This went way beyond the constant popups, spammy emails and occasional virus alerts we each experienced. At the worst point we’d see computer’s wake themselves or screens just change before our eyes…it seemed more and more like something or someone other than us was running our computers a lot of the time..

If your network begins to exhibit this kind of behavior, it could be due to one of the network device’s malfunctioning or it could be that a Botnet has taken it over too. Most Bot Master’s (the hacker’s who manage the Botnet) will allow you to keep using your devices and your network, because they want to keep you from growing suspicious and taking steps to oust it. But many more Botnets today are formed with IoT or smart home devices…in that case you may never really never notice any problems at all.

In any event, preventing these kinds of things from occurring is much, much easier than it is to fix the problem once it’s arisen. That’s why it’s so important to secure your network now.

Which Device Needs to Be Secured?

My firewall article will go into much greater detail about device protection…so this post is simply about securing what you already have in place for your network.

In 2017 almost everyone refers to their main network device as a router…but it may actually be a modem too. The difference is that a modem just receives and retransmits the signal whereas a router splits it up too…often into a LAN (wired Ethernet network) and a WAN (a WiFi network.) If it is indeed a router, than the modem (the hardware that receives the signal coming into your home or building and makes it usable for your devices) is built into it. There are other network hardware devices that can also serve these functions too…like the traditional firewall devices I discuss in my longer article, these can also act as a router…so it can get confusing.

Some of the newest network security devices are much more sophisticated routers with built-in security features. And then there’s another new class of routers which provide newer, more complex WiFi networking capabilities like cloud-based mesh ones which give you much faster, less problem-prone WiFi’s capable of handling gigabyte speeds. I don’t think there’s ever been a time in which there was such a vast range of network devices available to home owner’s. Gone are the days of the $75 router…the newer ones can get really pricey…like $600+ for high end versions.

Therefore, to alleviate any confusion I’ll try to to stick to calling the device which is the subject of this post, the network gateway device. It’s the first device in your network, and it’s the one that’s connected directly to your internet service provider’s incoming signal.

It’s what you do to this device that’s the important part…not what you call it…

All network gateway device’s have settings that can be changed. Yet most people know nothing about these settings. Consequently, they never visit that device’s settings to tweak things that could make themselves vulnerable too outside attacks. Rather than my going into long explanations for each tweak, I’m just telling you what needs to be changed. You can Google more information on why if you want to know more about each individual setting.

Since your router or modem is the gateway to your entire network…securing it isn’t just a good idea, it’s mandatory and nonnegotiable. It’s something you MUST do if you want to keep you, your personal data and your devices safe.

Our network

Our network

Because this is so important Homeland Security has created a webpage telling you what things should be secured and why.

Here’s a link to Homeland Security’s great information about securing the device that provides the internet gateway to you network.

Here’s another excellent and very detailed article about the many different ways a modem or router can be made most secure…but it’s also a bit techie.

If you don’t really understand technology and networks very well, I’ve written what I hope will be the most basic steps (for what is really a pretty complex topic) for you to follow to secure your network below.

When Should You Do This?

Um..now? ASAP would make sense, really. But if you’re wondering if you need to do this if you’re renting a modem or router from your isp, the answer is YES! It’s your network! Don’t think twice…they expect that you will do this!

Who Shouldn’t Do This?

No one! Everyone who has a network…literally everyone…needs to do this!

Unless you’re a kid! Then talk to your parents and help them to do it if they are unsure. But don’t do it all on your own…because one tiny mistake could cause huge problems you had no idea about. Even though your parents don’t know as much as you do about all this tech stuff, trust me when I say, they do possess certain knowledge and skills that you just don’t have yet. So, your combined wisdom should be used if they can’t manage this on their own!

Parents…read my article about how our network was invaded by a Botnet if you want to understand why you should do this with your kid rather than leaving it up to them to do alone!

Steps to take to Secure Your Network Gateway Device

Step 1 to Secure Your Network:

Change the device’s login name and password.
FYI, my router’s login name was: admin & the password was also admin

I changed both so that hacker’s couldn’t get into my gateway device’s settings and essentially take control of it, (which, by the way, is exactly how our network was taken over by a Botnet many years ago.)

Here are 2 links that explain how to login to your router:

Link 1: CNET’s article on defending your outer.

This is the easiest and fastest method. But sometimes it doesn’t work because you can’t figure out what your brand of router is using for its IP address or it’s been changed. If that’s the case, then use the 2nd link’s steps to connect to it.

FYI, oftentimes this is written on a sticker that’s on the bottom or the back side of the device, but if there’s no sticker the 3 most common IP addresses are:

  • 192.168.1.1
  • 192.168.0.1
  • 192.168.100.1

Link 2: If following the steps in Link 1 doesn’t work for you then follow the steps described in this Link 2.

Step 2 to Secure Your Network:

Make sure your wireless network requires a password to join it and that the password uses strong encryption. Currently the best encryption for this is WPA2 Personal.

Here’s a link to linksys showing how to do this on many of their routers, but the Homeland Security site above also gives good advice for this.

Step 3 to Secure Your Network:

Disable any features you’re not using which make your router vulnerable to outside attacks.

Disable all of these settings

• Remote access or remote management
• UPnP (Universal Plug and Play)
• WPS (WiFi Protected Setup)
• Telenet
• SSH
• HNAP
• Port forwarding

These should all be turned off.

If you’re unsure about turning any of these off and are worried that doing so might hurt something else that you’re using….then just think about it like this instead.

If you didn’t turn these services on..who did? Some, like UPnP may have been turned on by default by the maker of your device. But if you’re not using those services, you shouldn’t leave secret doors for hackers to use to gain access to your network. Just turn them all off and write down what you changed.

If turning them off causes any unforeseen problems, you can go back and just turn them on again. If you think that this may happen because other people also help in maintaining your network…maybe a spouse, a teen, or your internet provider service people…then write in a note to yourself about exactly what changes you made so it’s easier to change back again…although I highly doubt you’ll need to do that.

Step 4 to Secure Your Network:

Write down the new login name and password and tape it to the bottom of the device. Maybe even include the IP address that worked for you.

While you don’t want this information to get lost…don’t worry too much about it. If it does get lost you can just reset the device, bringing it back to its defaults. In fact, under Step 1 above, the 2nd link step’s tell you exactly how to do that.

Congratulations!

If you’ve successfully made it all the way through this guide…congratulations, you’ve just taken some really huge steps to secure your network! Steps, which the majority of people don’t take because they don’t think they need to or because it’s too confusing and complicated. But really it’s not, if you just know what to do, right?

If you want to learn more about ways to keep your network safe and secure come back to vsatips in about 2-3 days and look for my new Firewall article. Or you can subscribe to receive an email about it too. The subscribe form should be somewhere below thison the bottom right side of the screen.

Comments

I really love getting feedback from my readers!

Therefore I try to make it as easy as possible for readers by not requiring you to add your email address, unlike most comment sections you’ll encounter on blogs. I’ve gone a step further though because you don’t even need to include your real name. You do need a name of some kind…but that can be whatever you want it to be.

I’ve done it this way because it’s your actual feedback that’s really important to me. I’m not really interested in collecting readers’ email addresses which is usually done for the purpose of creating a subscription mailing list.

contact-formcontact-field label=’Name, nickname or just first name is OK’ type=’name’ required=’1’/contact-field label=’Email required ONLY IF you want me to email you back’ type=’email’/contact-field label=’Website if you want to share your website with me and my readers’ type=’url’/contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’//contact-form

Posted in Computer & network security, Network Tools | Tagged , , | 1 Comment