7-bit#, 7-bit#-not PW123 – A Password Primer

This headline depicts how passwords are written and stored in your computing environment. We won’t go into heavy details, but it essentially works this way.

When you put letters – upper and lower case – and numerals and special characters into your password, the storage system records them in a code involving 7 bits and a # symbol. Hackers have learned that if they attack your password in #s, or hashes, they have a shot at cracking your password.

When you change just one special character – or number or letter, you’re only changing one #. You’re actually making your security worse when you do that, especially if you have a really simple password and depend on a &, $ or @ to keep your passwords secure.

Here’s what you need to know about keeping them secure, and if you understand the principles, you’ll know why passwords can’t go away fast enough.

  • Don’t change just one number or special character. If someone has managed to get close to your password, it doesn’t take much run a program that swaps out 10 numerical characters and maybe eight special characters.
  • Don’t use short passwords. A computerized analytics program can run through a short combination of letters and characters faster than you read this sentence.
  • Do use long passwords with combinations of upper- and lower-case letters, numerals and special characters.
  • Do change several numbers and/or special characters when you change your password.
  • Do make your passwords illogical. We all try to keep some semblance of something we can remember because we need to have passwords for so many websites or apps. But if a hacker catches onto your logic, you’re more vulnerable.

We can’t emphasize strongly enough that password and internet security get more critical every day. Hacking and ransomware attacks get more prevalent, and the stakes are higher as we digitize every aspect of our corporate and personal lives. Governments, agencies and school boards – Livingston here in NJ being the latest – have fallen victim to ransomware attacks, and all face the agonizing decision of whether to pay up or try to recover their data. The latter can take longer and be more expensive than the ransom payment, but for some, it’s a matter of principle.

This leads us to four other recommendations when it comes to passwords and internet security:

  1. Use fake answers for the security questions that accompany passwords on many websites. So many of them involve facts that are the matter of public record, including addresses, your first car and your maternal grandmother’s middle name.
  2. Use a password manager program – and let it generate random passwords for every online account you have or ever hope to have. You just need to remember one password, and you can use it to download every password you have if and when you need to know each one.
  3. Have a real backup program for your data. OneDrive and Dropbox are good for storage, and you can recover your data file by file. A backup program such as Azure allows recovery and restoration more efficiently.
  4. Switch from passwords to biometrics whenever and wherever you possibly can. Biometrics are becoming more available, and it makes sense to incorporate them where you can.

Contact us by phone – 973-433-6676 – or email to talk about a good backup program, a password strategy and/or moving to biometrics. And above, practice safe password protection.

Technology Years and Dog Years

Dog owners are used to extrapolating their pet’s age into more human terms by multiplying their age by seven. A 10-year-old dog is roughly the same “age” as a 70-year-old person. A technology year can be more like 20 human years; your 3-year-old computer could be more like a 60-year-old person. If you have a business, old technology can hamper employee retention because there are only so many tricks you can teach an old computer.

It makes good sense to keep your technology younger and more athletic because employees feel old systems hold them back. This is especially true for employees who work remotely, including salespeople. Older systems are not as adaptable for security measures to get to protected data they need to do their jobs better. Nor are they able to accommodate the new ways innovative employees find to do their jobs more efficiently. We’ve talked to many people who have accepted less money at new jobs because they want the opportunity to improve their skills and performance levels in ways that could lead to higher pay later.

The Windows 7 end of life should give business owners with old technology reason to rethink their technology. A 5-year-old system still running Windows 7 is like a 100-year-old person who has really slowed down physically.

That’s well past the retirement age, but even more, it illustrates the problem of old technology. There are no nursing homes for old technology. The industry just doesn’t support old software and old hardware. Technology arteries harden, becoming less flexible and subject to fractures. Even if you have a Windows 10-based system, older versions of office present the same symptoms of aging. Employees are not able take advantage of new features, and that prevents them from increasing their work throughput.

Our clients who have invested in Office 365 subscriptions are benefiting from an improved work environment. Employees are “playing around” with newer, more powerful tools to do their jobs better. The Microsoft Teams tool is a major upgrade over Skype for Business. We’ve seen employees use Teams to set up meetings, share screens and use other collaborative tools, including video conferences, to get more work done faster. Any business that relies on field technicians, for example, can let them use these tools on their cell phones to chat with office-based resources and solve their customers’ problems faster and more efficiently.

If you have Office 365, all these advanced tools are part of your package. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to help you determine the tools and features that are best for your business and to help you set them up with your employees. We can also help you make sure your current hardware has the capacity to help you make use of your new tools.

‘30’ and New Routers

Thirty seems to be the magic number for wireless devices connected to your Wi-Fi network. Many homes can easily have 30 or more devices and getting proper signals to all of them can be like trying to squeeze 10 lanes of traffic into four. Moving to a router that encompasses Wi-Fi 6 capabilities is an electronic way to expand your in-home “information superhighway” to the 10 lanes you need for your devices perform as designed.

Accommodating 30 wireless devices is hardly overkill. In fact, it may be the minimum capacity for the average home. Think about what you might have and what you could have.

At last count, we have 64 wireless devices in our home, including our mailbox. Yes, the USPS mailbox that’s located at the bottom of our steep driveway. I really don’t feel like making several trips down to the street – and back up the driveway – just to see if the mail has been delivered. I can also remotely see every time the mailbox is opened, which can alert us to possible theft.

Even without a connected mailbox, many homes have Alexa devices or smart speakers in multiple rooms, or you may have Sonos speakers in multiple rooms tied to your entertainment center. If you’ve cut the cable cord, you’re streaming video to TVs or other devices – many of them in 4K. Family and friends could be using the internet simultaneously from your network on computers, tablets or phones, and then you may have number of smart devices for home security and convenience. Oh, don’t forget that 5G cellular standards are just around the corner, and they’ll generate a lot more traffic on your network.

If we learned anything from the movie Back to the Future, it’s that you can never anticipate where technology can go. Things that were thought to be way into the future then have been commonplace for several years.

Wi-Fi 6 comes with several upgrades that will significantly improve wireless capabilities. In operation, they improve efficiency by dividing the allotted radio spectrum into smaller units and adding new data channels to handle even more data. Other enhancements include smarter traffic management and less wasted battery life on connected devices. As a result, you’ll get better wireless connectivity, smoother performance and faster speeds for every device on your network.

You can expect the individual changes in Wi-Fi 6 to add up to a maximum throughput of over 10Gbps under ideal conditions. Right now, we consider 1Gbps to be the gold standard. Wi-Fi 6 will be able to keep a step ahead of the diversity of devices in homes to allow simultaneous 4K video streaming, gaming and use by a wide variety of smart home products, such as door locks, thermostats and remotely controlled light switches. And if you have a house full of gamers, we don’t need to tell you how bigger, faster Wi-Fi networks can make life better.

As our population advances, Wi-Fi 6 could even lead to more devices and systems that can help the elderly age in place in their homes. And it could make artificial intelligence (AI) a more effective enhancement for new technological tools. Who knows where it could lead?

As we write this, Wi-Fi 6 routers are just coming on the market – with Wi-Fi 7 lurking in the wings. Here are some router replacement tips to help you take advantage of the still-new Wi-Fi 6 technology.

First, think about if you really need it now. Most of the devices you now have may not be able to take advantage of Wi-Fi 6, even though it will improve your network’s performance. If you don’t find your devices are choking your network, you could wait. There’s also pricing. Even though you’ll see a lot of “special” prices during the holiday shopping season, prices are likely to come down later.

Second, even though the new routers are fast, their speed is still limited by the speed your ISP (internet service provider) delivers. It’s like having a really great road and a not-so-fast car. You won’t be able to go fast enough to take advantage of the possible thrills and chills.

Third, look for things like mesh net capability, the number of ports and the speeds of the ports. Then, try to imagine the number of devices you might add in the next few years and what you’ll ask them to do. You’ll need to think about those things to do a more accurate cost/benefit analysis.

Finally, consider the age of your current router. If it’s more than five years old, it may not be able to support better security measures, and that may be a more important consideration than pure speed.

We can help you decide about your router and replacement options. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your needs.