How to Secure Your Home Network


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 / 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? 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:


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
• 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.


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.


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.

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Dashlane for ios Has Serious Problems Revealed by the Cloudbleed Incident

Dashlane Logo

I was Relying on Dashlane to Help Change my 350 Passwords following the Cloudbleed Data Leak…But Discovered It Wouldn’t Really Do that Using an iPad

I know I shouldn’t have waited so long, but I’ve had a lot going on lately and really thought using Dashlane’s Password Manager would be a breeze. I was in for a surprise when I finally got around to doing that today. The Password Manager is really disappointing but what’s even more disappointing is how difficult it is to change passwords individually using Dashlane’s ios app.

It shouldn’t be this hard. Apple’s built-in Keychain is faster and easier…but both have a lot of limitations…so I’m hunting for a better password manager that works well on ios devices. Which is sad and surprising since I’ve always been one of Dashlane’s biggest supporters.

What is Cloudbleed?

In case you missed it, Cloudbleed, which occurred a few weeks ago was another potentially massive data leak of personal information…early reports suggested it might be on the same scale as Heart Bleed.

The scare when Cloudbleed was first announced

The scare when Cloudbleed was first announced

You can read more about Cloudbleed here if you missed it.

The news broke about the Cloudbleed leak online Feb. 23rd. For several days following the first reports speculation about how bad these leaks might be ran rampant online. But in the final analysis it appears that this potential leak was more that…meaning that it had much more potential to be bad than it actually was in the final analysis.

The article I linked to above was published on March 9th by Forensic Magazine. In it they provide a much less scary analysis of what’s believed to be the final impact. This TechCrunch article published the day the news broke is more representative of the kinds of questions that were being asked in the early stages of the news stories.

While the worst doesn’t seem to have been realized, I do wonder a little if there might not have been more damaging data that got into the wrong hands than Forensic Magazine concludes. My reason for suspecting this is because I received a letter from Prana, a company that makes great lines of sustainable activewear for men and women that I’ve shopped at for several years. In their letter I was told that earlier in February, around the time that the leak may have been actively occurring my personal data as well as a large number of other people’s was hacked.

Prana immediately hired a cyber security firm to help them identify the scope of their problem, figure out the best way of contacting customers and how to proceed with securing everything again. The timing to me just seems too coincidental to not be related.

So in addition to updating my Prana account credentials, I decided to revisit other accounts and at a minimum deal with the ones that I know aren’t very secure…but ideally I was hoping that Dashlane’s recent upgrades would provide me with the tools I’d need to easily change all my user account passwords.

Some of the sites using Cloudflare

Some of the sites using Cloudflare

I wasn’t really worried because I was so certain that Dashlane’s recent upgrades would make my job pretty easy! But I was in for a rude awakening!

Dashlane has slowly removed most of its’ best features for ios users…leaving a sad shell of an app that’s just lackluster in comparison.

I used to be one of Dashlane’s most enthusiastic supporters. But the recent Cloudbleed incident forced me to recognize that it just isn’t great anymore. It’s maybe average as far as password manager apps go now or quite possibly even below average. I can’t say for sure until I check out some of the other current offerings.

Recent comparison of password managers

This is truly sad because Dashlane was originally developed for ios…and it really shined at first in terms of user friendliness, and cool features and functions. But it’s steadily gone downhill from there.

It’s quite possible however that for new users who weren’t aware of how great it used to be, Dashlane may still meet their needs. They may even love it if it’s their first time using a password manager…because there are a ton of great benefits you’ll see if you begin using one.

Recently I had the opportunity to try out LastPass on an Amazon Fire tablet because Dashlane didn’t run on it. I’d not ever tried any of the LastPass mobile apps. I had tried out LastPass in a computer in its early days, and while I thought the concept was great, the learning curve was steep and I finally gave up on it. I’d read that LastPasses’ mobile apps weren’t great either.

But I have to say, for the little bit of time that I used it, LastPass seemed to be pretty feature packed and user friendly! I was pleasantly surprised!

The Biggest Problems in Dashlane for ios

Changing passwords is almost impossible

I was pretty shocked to discover that on Dashlane’s ios version you cannot easily change a single password using the app! If you search Dashlane’s support Pages you can’t find anything that shows you how to change a single password. Actually there is one bit of help…the iPad tutorial video…but it shows you the old method in the old version of Dashlane that used to work. In fact, the method shown isn’t even possible now because they keep taking features away from the ios app and that method was one of them.

There’s are no helpful tutorials anymore for ios…it’s very hard to figure out how to do anything.

I’m pretty shocked that Dashlane has chosen to leave an old video which shows you methods you can’t use anymore available on their video tutorial webpage. Worse yet is that it’s one of the few video tutorials that’s even available for ios users now. Back in Dashlanes’s early days they offered a lot of great ios videos which taught new users how to do things. Figuring out how to accomplish even a simple task like changing a single password is very frustrating now,

After struggling to find a way to change a single password, it turns out that there is still a mechanism for doing that now…but I had to discover it on my own and it usually doesn’t work. By usually I mean that it’s never worked for me.

So you end up having to generate your own password, changing it manually…and then adding it to Dashlane as well as also updating it in Apple’s Keychain. That’s a lot of effort required on the user’s part for what is supposed to be the best password manager around!

You can use the new Password Changer for batch changes which should be great…but it doesn’t really work either. It’s success rate is about 20%…meaning if there are 8 I try to change…2 will be changed. But for those there’s no way to set your preferences for password generation…so you’ll end up with these horrible combinations of mostly symbols.

How Dashlane markets password changer

How Dashlane markets password changer

I think it’s this same lack of ability to change your preferences for auto-generated passwords that causes the automatic method to fail. Dashlane seems to be stuck in the mode of only generating 14 digit passwords containing only symbols…which doesn’t meet most websites password requirements.

I found an old email I wrote to Dashlane over a year ago complaining about this problem, but they never addressed it. Worse was that they gave me a lot of runaround and explanations that didn’t pertain to my problem…by asking me to jump through all sorts of hoops to test out things that didn’t matter which, if I had complied with, would have wasted at least a half days’ time for me.

So that’s the biggest problem. You can only use Dashlane to automatically change a few passwords…pretty much only if the site will accept a 14 digit password containing all symbols.

You can use the search bar to find passwords but don’t bother categorizing them because you can’t search for them that way…that function is broken. You can’t search alphabetically anymore either…it’s broken too.

If a password is not on that batch list and it doesn’t fall within the 20% that work, you can forget about changing it at all as far as Dashlane is concerned. You’ll need to change it yourself and then go in and add it to Dashlane. Then also change it in Apple’s keychain too.

Other deficiencies…it used to save receipts but doesn’t anymore. It used to save your password history…but no more. It used to let you login easily to any account using their browser…but now, you’ll need to copy and paste the web address to do that.

If you use Dashlane on a computer you can see all of the passwords that are reused or have other security problems and change groups of them. There is no way of finding this in the ios app. For example, I’ve reused an old password from my pre-Heartbleed Days about 50 times. But I can’t see those in the ios version…and since I no longer use a computer at all, I need to find an easy way of identifying and changing those passwords. I suspect a different password manager may be the answer.

Support was awful and it has improved a little bit. But really I can’t see the point of bothering with Dashlane anymore if you use mostly ios devices like I do. It really doesn’t do very much for $40 and what it does do is anything but user friendly…which it used to be too :-(

So I’m back to looking for a new password manager. Below are a few of the reasons why.

Why you should use a password manager

Just to be fair, here are things that Dashlane is still good at on ios:

  1. It’s good for sharing passwords with someone else who also has Dashlane.
  2. I like being able to sign into the app using Touch ID instead of having to enter my PIN or master password.
  3. I like having a master data base of my passwords but then Apple’s Keychain gives me that too and it’s free.
  4. I like being able to save information in secure notes. The only other tool I thought I had to do this was Evernote, but I need to use a computer to encrypt the information…it can’t be done on an iPad…although once encrypted it can be viewed on an iPad. But I just remembered that when Apple updated the Note’s apps they added that feature! I’ve never used it but will give it a try!
  5. It gives me a faster way to look up my credit card numbers than Apple does…but then Apple will almost always fill in my credit card information for me automatically so I don’t really need this feature very often.
  6. Dashlane is great about sending me email alerts for important new security problems online like Cloudbleed.

Dashlane ios support

Link to Dashlane’s support articles for ios…a lot of fluff but not a lot of content…and notice there’s not an article on how to just change one password…without using the Password Changer which only works for a few websites!

Here’s a link to Dashlane’s videos webpage and the iPad video I mentioned above that shows the old app. In about the middle of the videos page are all of their video tutorials. The iPad video is really old…the iPhone video is short and not very useful and those are the only 2 videos for ios devices at all! Even the Android OS has more…3…despite the fact that Dashlane came out with their Android app at least a year after their original ios version.

Surprising study of IT managers


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.

Posted in Dashlane, Dashlane's New Password Changer, Tech Tips | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Use Different Colored Fonts & Sizes in Apple Notes for ios

I used to use Evernote exclusively until ios 9 when Apple revamped their ios  Notes App. Back then Evernote for ios only used one font size and color. So I created a workaround that I used a lot up until Evernote 8 came out for ios last fall (2016.) This is a sample font sheet I created for a post I wrote about how to use different colors and sizes of fonts in Evernote for ios.

Evernote Font Cheat Sheet


When ios 9 came out and I learned about all the new features of Apple Notes I began using the app more. Especially because using split screen multitasking view was also a brand new feature, and the ability to take notes while I was researching things ended up saving me a lot of time.

I loved the new fonts sizes and I discovered one odd quirk to their system which allowed me to used even more fonts than were normally allowed by using an iPad mini. For some odd reason the font weights are different on the mini…so the regular font is lighter and the bold is less bold…which effectively gives me 4 font weights instead of the normal 2. This was about a year before Evernote came out with Evernote 8, their huge upgrade which gives ios users 8 different font colors and 3 sizes. Evernote’s news was a huge one for the note taking world!

It appeared to me that there was absolutely no way to use a greater variety of fonts and sizes than in Evernote…but I was wrong!

You Can Add Colored & Different Sized Fonts Using an Apple Computer

We have a Mac computer that we don’t really use very much and just basically got to backup our iCloud photos and data. One day I was searching for a note on my iPad which I found, but there were several other notes in the same folder and I couldn’t figure out which folder they were in. I still haven’t figured out if there’s a way to determine which folder a note is located in…because on the Mac I couldn’t find out anything more than I could on my iPad.

While I didn’t answer my primary question I did make a different discovery. I figured out that I could select some text and change the font itself, the size and color of it. That was an exciting discovery! So I spent about 15 minutes creating a Font note that contained a variety of fonts, colors, and sizes. Then I went back to my iPad to see how the note looked.  It looked the same as it did on the Mac computer!

Even more exciting is that those different colors and sizes can be pasted into other Apple notes and they retain the same formatting!

This was exciting because any other method I used to paste fonts into Apple Notes, the fonts wouldn’t be retained…the words pasted in would revert to one of the standard Apple note fonts.

Below is an example of the note I created on the Mac computer.

Apple Notes Colored Fonts

One Thing I Tried But I Don’t Think Will Work is Uploading my Font Note for Other’s Who Don’t Have Apple Computers to Download & Use As a Sample Sheet

I used a similar method for getting different font colors and sizes into Evernote. You can read about that here and see the colored font cheat sheets I created for that post. The problem is that Apple Notes doesn’t export in it’s own format to anything that can be used for uploading to my website. I can convert to a PDF but then the fonts won’t retain their formatting. So if anyone can figure out a way around this please let me know in the comments section below and I’ll create a downloadable cheat sheet for Apple Notes.

Colored Highlights

Since Apple Notes doesn’t use any kind of highlighters this trick isn’t possible for Notes. But it does work for Evernote and it’s still pretty helpful because even with the advent of Evernote 8 there is only one highlighter color…yellow. Here’s a link to my post about how to use many different colors for highlighting in Evernote. The post includes some downloadable highlight sheet sheets to save you time.


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.

Posted in Apple, Apps, ios, Tech Tips | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How to Share a Password with Dashlane

The Best Thing About Dashlane is You Can Share a Password Safely

Sharing account credentials safely after our home network was taken over by a botnet posed a real problem for me. One of my kids would call and want to know how to logon to an account we used as a family and there was no good way to send them the Password. Emailing it is an awful idea, and texting it isn’t much better. Both methods are especially unsafe if you need to share both the username and the password.

Compounding the problem even further was using unique random passwords that were long enough and included things like symbols to meet the security requirements of so many sites today. That’s why when I learned that Dashlane had a method of doing this safely I was immediately interested.

We’ve been using Dashlane to share family credentials for a few years now, and I have nothing but praise for the concept.

The one criteria that needs to be met is that the person your sharing the password with must also have a Dashlane account. Since my kids were way too savvy to want to spend their money on a Password manager, it took some convincing. But they ultimately caved because we had something they needed…our password!

Anyone can open an account with Dashlane. It’s free and they don’t need to actually use it.They just need the account so we can share our passwords with them.

How to Share a Password

Open Dashlane and find the password you want to share. There are too many platforms that Dashlane works on for me to include screenshots of this…but if you’re using Dashlane you should already know how to find a password.

Scroll to the bottom of the password and look for the words ‘Share Password.’

Tap or click on ‘Share Password.’

A box will popup with the password for you to share.

Limited User Rights means they can only use the password…not change it.

The box will include a default sharing message you can edit and change if you’d like. Dashlane will fill in an identity for you that can also be changed. If I wanted to change ‘Fake Person’ I’d tap or click on it and a little rolling bar with all my identities would appear that I could roll by flicking my finger on it and stopping it on the one I wanted to use.

The type in the name of the person you want or share with. Dashlane will use your contacts to display possible email addresses for you to select from. Pick one and change the ‘user rights’ if you want the recipient to be able to change your password…I don’t advise this! But apparently if you did, the password would be synced between both your accounts.

Full User Rights gives them the ability to change the password.

Full User Rights Sharing
Then tap send and your done!

Your recipient will get a notification within Dashlane and if they have notification badges turned on in ios a red number will appear by the Dashlane app icon. As soon as they open Dashlane a message will popup showing them the password you’ve shared with them and asking them to accept it.

It’s free and it’s easy so everyone can use it to share passwords!

Go to Dashlane’s website


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.

Posted in Dashlane, ios, Password Managers, Password Security, Tech Tips | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment