Strengthen Your Security

We’re probably as normal as we’re going to get with working at home, and that will put more pressure on businesses and employees to step up security. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have been around for a while, but we’ve never been completely sold on them. They can give you a false sense of security.

As we see it, they depend on too many people (and organizations) doing the right thing to work effectively. Essentially, they take you across somebody else’s network, and unless you’re the one who vetted the provider and set it up, you have no way of knowing if it’s safe. If you use a computer, cell phone or tablet on a compromised VPN, you’re providing multiple access points for anyone who’s hacked the VPN. It only takes one weak link to compromise a network, and it could take months before a security breach is found. That could be too late to prevent any damage, such as an intrusion of sensitive files or identity theft.

We’re OK with using a VPN while traveling. It’s generally good for a short period of time, and it’s likely to be used by a small group of people in your traveling party on known devices. Whether VPNs are reliably secure in certain communications environments is a debatable point. Given all that is going on today, we believe it’s better to err on the side of caution and use them in limited situations to meet specific needs.

There are much better steps to take, such as two-factor authentication and using mobile apps that store your password.

We’ve discussed two-factor authentication before. While it can take many forms, it generally works by sending a 6-digit code in a text message to a designated mobile device. You then need to enter that code on whatever device you’re using to log onto a website. The problem is that if you are near a cell tower that has been compromised, the communication involving your text message could be intercepted and redirected. It’s not likely in the United States right now; it was more of a problem with older towers. Still, it’s yet another reminder to keep your guard up at all times.

The authentication apps that save your passwords are run through Microsoft and Google, two behemoths that have an equally large stake in your security. The key factor here is that the password is stored in your device, not in the cloud. Anyone who steals your password this way must physically have your device, and they must know your username and password. That minimizes the chance you’ll be compromised – even with a lost or stolen phone.

We’re available to answer any questions you have about security on all your devices and across all networks. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about who uses various devices within your business organization or family and where they use them. We’ll help you develop a plan or policy, if necessary, to strengthen your weakest links and maximize security.

Choose the Right Router

As we add more traffic to our Wi-Fi networks in the office and at home, choosing the right router is critical for performance and security. If your router is more than a few years old, the combination of improved technology and the probable loss of full power due to wear and tear means you should consider investing in a new system. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a fortune.

How do you know it’s time for a new router? The first sign is sluggish performance, and it’s a subjective call. Whether you use your router for business or home entertainment, you can notice that data just isn’t moving throughout your location as fast as you’d like. With today’s demands for moving more data faster, your router could be worn out or not have the capacity to meet your needs.

Routers do wear out over time. Heat can damage internal components, and that slows them down. Newer routers have fresher components, and they meet better performance protocols. This is especially true when it comes to dual-band routers. Older routers tend to operate on the 2.4 GHz wireless band, where they share space with your other household products, such as cordless phones and even your garage-door opener. That creates a lot of interference that affects network performance. This problem is more likely to affect home offices and small retail systems. In some homes, whether used for home offices or as converted office space, multiple stories and thicker walls require more powerful routers to send signals where needed.

Dual-band routers work on both the 2.4 and 5 GHz wireless bands, and that gives you options. You can set some systems to run on the 2.4 GHz band and use the 5GHz band for managing bigger data capacities. Some routers even allow you to run on two 5GHz bands. For a home office, a home with multiple devices (computers, mobile devices and smart TVs), a business in a converted home, or a small retail space, this allows you to dedicate bands to specific uses. Think of it as having a slow lane, an express lane, and a lane dedicated to buses and trucks.

For a home or small office or retail use, look for a router with at least four 10/100/1000 (Gigabit) Ethernet ports to connect wired devices such as desktop PCs, network-attached storage drives and home-automation hubs. A USB port makes it easy to plug in a printer or a USB drive and share it across the network, but with two ports you can do both.

You can manage how your Wi-Fi network is being used with parental controls, Quality of Service (QoS) options, and a guest-network feature. Parental controls and QoS are for home use. The latter helps you assign network priorities for applications and clients, such as downloading files, running printers or managing streaming to TVs or devices. You can also manage priorities for gaming systems.

A guest network for a home or business lets you create a separate network to offer Wi-Fi connectivity to guests without leaving your entire network vulnerable. This lets them connect to the Internet, but doesn’t give them access to your files, printers, and other connected devices.

Wireless routers for businesses have improved tremendously. To meet the complexity and requirements of running a wireless network these days, routers now have a much more varied feature set, including hardware that is often found in computers. You can find systems with dual- and triple-band connectivity, as well as a slew of other features usually found on far more expensive enterprise-grade models.

Priorities for business users differ from most consumer users. Security, support, remote access, business-grade VPN, WAN redundancy, connectivity options and scalability are critical. However, this doesn’t mean that some consumer routers cannot be used as business routers, especially in a home office environment.

We can help you find a router that meets your networking needs and help you find the best location and configurations to maximize performance. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to answer your questions about router selection and help you with setup and settings configurations.