Home is Where the Hack Is

Don’t think your home is too small to be a hacker’s target. The recent invasion of a young girl’s bedroom through a camera system has sparked a lawsuit and some hot discussion about who’s at fault. Ultimately, you need to make you cover all the bases, and the Department of Homeland Security offers some help in making sure you know where the bases are.

DHS rightly states what we think is obvious about the two common misconceptions home users share about the security of their networks:

  1. Their home network is too small to be at risk of a cyberattack.
  2. Their devices are “secure enough” right out of the box.

Besides those misconceptions, home networks – no matter how many smart devices or dumb devices they connect – have many moving parts. In addition to cameras and smart speakers, to name just two, our networks include routers, computers, mobile devices and TVs. So, even though you may think you have a strong username and/or password for every device, there’s a possibility you can miss one key setting – or there’s a possibility that someone using your network has the weak link in your security chain that provides outside access.

The DHS checklist, which we summarize below, is a good place to start. It reiterates a lot of actions we’ve told you to take over the years, and it’s a good refresher.

  • Update your software regularly. Besides adding new features and functionality, software updates often include critical patches and security fixes for newly discovered threats and vulnerabilities. (See Understanding Patches and Software Updates.)
  • Remove unnecessary services and software. They can create security holes in a device’s system that could lead to a larger attack surface of your network environment. This is especially true with pre-installed trial software and apps installed on new computers. Remove what you don’t use.
  • Adjust factory-default configurations on software and hardware. They’re intended to reduce the troubleshooting time for customer service. Harden them to reduce vulnerabilities.
  • Change default log-in passwords and usernames. Most network devices are pre-configured with default administrator passwords to simplify setup. They’re not secure. Change them.
  • Use strong and unique passwords. Choose strong passwords and don’t use the same password with multiple accounts. (See Choosing and Protecting Passwords for more information.)
  • Run up-to-date antivirus software. A reputable antivirus software app can automatically detect, quarantine, and remove various types of malware, such as viruses, worms, and ransomware.
  • Install a network firewall. It can block malicious traffic from your home network and alert you to potentially dangerous activity. When properly configured, it can also serve as a barrier for internal threats, preventing unwanted or malicious software from reaching out to the internet. We can help you configure them.
  • Install firewalls on network devices. In addition to a network firewall, consider installing a firewall on all computers connected to your network. We can help you configure them, too.
  • Regularly back up your data. Consider using a third-party backup application, which can simplify and automate the process. Be sure to encrypt your backup to protect the confidentiality and integrity of your information. Data backups are crucial to minimize the impact if that data is lost, corrupted, infected or stolen.
  • Increase wireless security. Follow the steps below to increase the security of your wireless router or ask us for help.
    • Use the strongest encryption protocol available. DHS recommends using the Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 (WPA3) Personal Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and Temporary Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP), which is currently the most secure router configuration available for home use.
    • Change the router’s default administrator password to deter an attack using default credentials.
    • Change the default service set identifier (SSID), the “network name” that identifies a wireless network. Make it unique and not tied to your identity or location.
    • Disable Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS). A design flaw in the WPS specification for PIN authentication significantly reduces the time required for a cyberattacker to brute force an entire PIN.
    • Reduce wireless signal strength to reduce your electronic footprint.
    • Turn the network off when not in use or automatically disable the Wi-Fi at specified times to prevent outside attackers from breaching your home network.
    • Disable Universal Plug and Plan (UPnP) when not needed. Recent large-scale network attacks prove that malware within your network can use UPnP to bypass your router’s firewall to control your devices remotely and spread malware to other devices.
    • Upgrade firmware to enhance product performance, fix flaws, and address security vulnerabilities.
    • Disable remote router management to guard against unauthorized individuals accessing and changing your router’s configuration.
    • Monitor for unknown device connections to monitor for unauthorized devices joining or attempting to join your network. Also see the manufacturer’s website for tips on how to prevent unauthorized devices from connecting to your network.
  • Mitigate Email Threats. Phishing emails continue to be one of the most common and effective initial attacks. They prey on the human element – the weakest component in every network – by persuading a user to click on a link or open an attachment.

All the steps you can take are common sense, but they’re often overlooked in our hurry to get a new product or feature online. The hacker looks to exploit momentary carelessness. We can review your home or office network with a security assessment and help you implement any of the steps in this checklist. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us for an appointment.

What Are Your Biggest Online Threats in 2020?

Cyberthreats will be coming at you – and any person or organization with whom you have an online relationship – with increasing speed and sophistication. For some, it might feel like you’re living inside an online fantasy game, but it’s real life. Here’s what to look for.

Phishing and Social Engineering

There’s nothing new about phishing, where cybercriminals try to obtain sensitive information, like passwords or financial information, usually by using links in emails to install malware to breach your system. Non-profits have been major targets because they don’t have alert systems built into network infrastructures, but any business, governmental organization or individual can be hit. We’ve discussed the need to be highly aware of what you’re clicking and to exercise extreme caution. As an individual user, you have control.

At businesses, it’s a bigger chore to combat phishing. Attacks enable hackers to steal user logins, credit card credentials and other types of personal financial information, as well as gain access to private databases.

Going hand-in-hand with phishing is social engineering, which can cover a multitude of attacks such as disinformation and deep fakes spread by social media. We see this as one of the biggest threats you face this year.

Social media makes it easier to spread disinformation faster than anyone can send out the facts to repudiate fakery or misrepresentation. Deep fakes relate to fake images and videos being created by deep learning techniques. We’ve seen them in the political arena and can expect more them to be leveraged as a tool to attempt to discredit candidates and push inaccurate political messages to voters via social media. We’ll also see them in ransomware, showing targets realistic videos of themselves in compromising situations. We’ll also see more spoofing in business email with deep fakes used to add a further degree of realism to the request to transfer money.


Ransomware attacks cost billions of dollars every year, as hackers literally kidnap an individual or organization’s databases and hold all of the information for ransom. The rise of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin spurred ransomware attacks by allowing ransom demands to be paid anonymously. As companies build stronger defenses against ransomware, some experts believe hackers will increasingly target other potentially profitable ransomware victims such as high-net-worth individuals.

Third-Party Vulnerabilities (IoT, Cloud, Supply Chain)

This is a tough threat to ward off because you have some control over your vulnerabilities but not all of them. With the Internet of Things (IoT), you have control. Make sure that you change every default username and password for every device you connect to your network and have a strong network password and firewall. I have little sympathy for people whose systems are hacked because they didn’t take the proper setup steps to prevent invasion.

The cloud is as safe as you can get, especially with large, reputable service providers. They have the resources to deploy the most advanced security measures and multiple services to protect your data. Our advice here is to use a top-rated cloud service provider and make sure you have protected your network, just you would to maintain IoT security.

The supply chain is tough. With so many companies using the internet to fulfill product orders, manage vendors and customers and provide financial services, each one of them can rely on hundreds of vendors. You rely on all of them to keep your data safe, and that can make any one of them the weakest link in your security. Your best defense is to take every security precaution you can, such as keeping your software and hardware up to date, using common sense on what you click, and letting others know when you have concerns about their security.

Internal Attacks

We have only begun to see the impact insiders can have on organizations as well as national and global security. While the news focuses on dangerous insiders exfiltrating data to foreign governments and terrorist organizations, you need to focus on your business – and your business partners. In all likelihood, your biggest threats will be data theft for monetary purposes – similar to effects of ransomware – or some disruption of your business by a disgruntled or careless employee.

5G’s Unprecedented Data-Theft Speeds

5G cellular technology promises unprecedented speed to make it possible to have more effective infrastructure, autonomous vehicles, faster emergency response and greatly improved telemedicine. It will be almost entirely software-driven; you’ll need hardware capable of handling it. Because it will be software-driven, it will be susceptible to hacks. You’ll need to follow safe internet practices and hope that everyone else does, too. There’s not much you can do technologically in the grand scheme of things, but you can and should demand that large organizations and governments take steps to protect 5G networks.

We can help you make sure you have the knowledge and systems in place to protect your systems from cyberthreats. Contact us by phone – 973-433-6676 – or email to discuss your needs.

Security and On/Off Wi-Fi

We’re seeing more Ring doorbells. They offer you the ability to monitor your door from anywhere through the internet and your Wi-Fi network. But some clients have told us they don’t want their network on at all times because of radio frequency waves.

We don’t share some people’s concerns about damage from radio waves. We carry cell phones in our pockets and hold them up to our ears. We can reduce our exposure to radio waves by using a headset, but nearly everyone uses a Bluetooth device, which operates on…right.

Despite a majority of scientific studies that radio waves from cell phones pose no danger to most people, some like to avoid them wherever possible. And those avoidance steps include shutting off Wi-Fi systems – routers and boosters within a home – for periods of time.

Personally, we believe that defeats the purpose of having a security device, such as Ring, which can record and store images of anyone coming to your door, even if they don’t ring the bell. But your Wi-Fi has to be on, or else you can’t identify a threat to your home.

The issue of no internet or Wi-Fi was brought home to us this past summer with 10 days left on our vacation. We saw that Ring alerts had stopped – because our internet service was down. We were able to contact Verizon while in Europe, and they were able to restore our service as soon as we got home. But during the time it was out, we lost part of our security protection. (For the record, our service was knocked out by a squirrel.) That being said, we can help you set up a program to automatically control the operating times of your Wi-Fi network. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss all the pros, cons and options.

IoT and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

At a recent technology conference in Las Vegas, I was overwhelmed by how far technology has advanced in such a short time – and by how much faster the impact of technology on our lives will grow. We are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Where are we headed? We’re headed for the clouds – the massive server and data storage networks make it possible to do everything imaginable from a phone or tablet from anyplace in the world where you can get an internet connection. This time-compressed evolution is the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Yes, it does seem strange to talk of an evolution, which is long-term movement, with the short burst of a revolution. But that’s just how fast technology moves.

In 1995, we were astounded that we had PCs on every desk. By 2005, we had democratized data in the sense that businesses of all sizes stored and sometimes shared data they gathered and used. That could be correspondence (email), financial records (banks, large retailers), or business info of all sorts, ranging from sales and inventory records to programming heavy industrial equipment. In 2015, society made a really big leap to the cloud to store and manage all the data we use for practically every aspect of our lives. Even people who never use the internet and pay cash for everything are affected by today’s technology if they drive or vote or pay taxes.

Some things I saw in Las Vegas give indications where we’re heading. Business is undergoing a digital transformation built around their customer experiences and new business models. Some one million digital devices come online every day, and by 2025, 60 percent of all computing will be in the cloud. While we each need to maintain our online security vigilance, the entire computing world needs to step its efforts because no bit of information ever goes away. Further, no matter how deeply hidden any information remains, the tools to find it and exploit it are constantly developing. The bad guys can build botnets (networks of electronic robots) to find IP addresses for any exposed device. The Boa open source server, which was used to automate a lot of web-related functions quickly and securely, was discontinued in 2005. But it’s still used in some devices, and with no technical support, bad guys are free to try to pick away at out-of-date defenses. Opening one door can lead to other doors that can be opened, and in some cases, the hackers who open the doors can’t be traced – or can’t be traced quickly enough.

It’s not just the bad guys using stealthy methods to find information. Anyone can use a Google search to find systems and get into them. Those systems can include security cameras and alarms and smart speakers. A Google search can also turn up expired security certificates, which can indicate vulnerabilities.

So, here’s some of what needs to happen:

  • The owners and operators of every server – from a single location to server farms with multiple links – must make sure their firewalls are “locked-down” and secure. That requires the installation of all security updates and patches as they become available and constant monitoring to make sure all ports are secure.
  • All device manufacturers must keep their firmware updated for maximum security. And, if the manufacturers can’t send you updates, you should get and install them on your own.
  • You need to make sure your firewalls and devices are secure through patches and strong passwords. You also should be running virus and malware scans regularly and frequently.
  • Be extremely careful and attentive when you click on a link. You can’t afford to let down your guard.

We also highly recommend an onsite security audit if you have any hint you may have an exposure. We can check all connections for everything on your network – home or office – and trace back anything that looks like a possible security issue, apply a fix and test it. Security issues never resolve themselves and fixing them involves looking at a variety of complexities.

If your computers or devices are running slowly, if you clicked on an email or link you think shouldn’t have, or if you think you’ve been hacked, call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to set up a security audit. None of us wants to give up our technology; we just need to make it as safe as possible.

Security Not Top-of-Mind at CES

It’s fair to say I was disappointed when talking to IoT device manufacturers at CES in Las Vegas last month. Security was not the big thing on their minds. And except for a TV screen that you can roll up like paper (which I couldn’t see at the show), there wasn’t anything I wanted to bring home and install.

The lack of emphasis on security was baffling, especially when you consider that a lot of companies at CES were talking about AI (artificial intelligence) and 5G networks. The latter are the newer, faster wireless data networks that will play an important role, along with AI, in the next generation of the IoT, especially autonomous vehicles (AVs), which are expected to be an established mode of transportation in the next 10 years. We’re simply going to require more data at a faster speed to make AVs work.

However, it seems that AI – and maybe 5G – was more concerned with what we’ll be running to the store to buy instead of how we’ll get there. Samsung, which makes refrigerators, among other appliances, started to show off Bigsby, its version of Alexa. And when you combine it with a smart refrigerator, this new power team can create a shopping list for you. You can even use voice commands for your washing machine. OK…

There is still a big push to get more devices into the home, and we certainly have more than our share in ours. We find the ones we have to be either great conveniences or highly useful. We just wish that the manufacturers were paying more attention to security, especially with hacking and information theft so prevalent. However, nothing stood out like that TV that rolls up. I really would have liked to be able to see it, even if I couldn’t buy it.

On the other hand, one of the more ridiculous things I saw was either a blanket or mattress pad with dual temperature control and a discounted price of $2,000. Sony also had a Walkman that weighed 5 pounds and had a heftier price tag: $2,500. Sony said there’s a market for it: audiophiles who want high-quality sound.

Speaking of sound, I took note of Panasonic’s automotive offerings, though none was available for consumer purchase. Rather, it seems that the automotive manufacturers are going to rely more on electronics manufacturers and the mobile operating systems to provide the devices and infrastructure for in-car infotainment systems. As part of that trend, we note that Toyota is dropping its plan to introduce a proprietary infotainment system.

We applaud Toyota’s decision for three reasons:

  1. In-car systems from the automakers don’t work well.
  2. Each in-car system has its own way of displaying and using information, and that can be confusing for people who drive multiple cars, including rental cars, where roads and a car’s system are unfamiliar.
  3. Because they are built into the car, it’s difficult to update them in a timely manner.

Just about all manufacturers offer connectivity to either Apple or Android in-car systems – or both – throughout their product lines. Our devices are already customized for driving directions and play lists, and we know how to use them. We also can make our devices secure in the same way we update our OS and applications on our computers.

I think some exciting new products and changes in the way we use technology are a year or two away, but that doesn’t mean we should sit on our hands. If you need a new IoT product now, we can help you we can help you select and install one for today – and make sure it’s secure – and see how it could fit your future needs. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about it.

Cybersecurity Scorecard

Cybersecurity has dominated our conversation for the past year, and a report from SonicWall, which provides security tools worldwide for networks to email and everything in between, shows where we’re making progress and where new threats lie.

First, the good news. In data gathered in the past year from the SonicWall Global Response Intelligent Defense (GRID) Network, the good guys and the bad guys made advances. The most notable of the advances the company found were:

  • The number of new POS (point of sale – mostly credit and debit cards) malware variants decreased by 88 percent since 2015
  • SSL and TLS encrypted traffic increased 34 percent year-over-year
  • Major exploit kits Angler, Nuclear and Neutrino disappeared
  • Unique malware attack attempts dropped to 7.87 billion from 8.19 billion in 2015

On the other hand:

  • Ransomware attacks grew 167x from 2014 to 2016 to an astounding 638 million attacks during the year
  • SSL/TLS encrypted malware was exploited 72 percent more often in 2016 than in 2015
  • Internet of Things (IoT) devices were compromised to launch record-setting DDoS attacks
  • Despite significant efforts by Google to patch vulnerabilities, Android continued to be exploited by cyber criminals

SonicWall notes that the technology to solve many of the new challenges cyber criminals threw at victims in 2016 already exists.  SSL/TLS traffic can be inspected for encrypted malware by NGFWs (next-generation firewalls), which are hardware- or software-based network security systems that detect and block sophisticated attacks by enforcing security policies at various levels. For any type of new advanced threat like ransomware, it’s important to understand that all network-based solutions should block network traffic until a safe verdict is reached before passing that traffic through to the intended recipient.

In 2017, there are two areas that SonicWall joins us in telling you to be particularly on-guard: ransomware and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Companies in the United Kingdom were 3x more likely to suffer ransomware attacks than in the United States, but don’t breathe easy. The US experienced the highest number of ransomware attacks in 2016 because of large volume of business.  While we as individuals and small businesses depend on companies like SonicWall to provide the tools to detect and stop ransomware, we need to follow strict security procedures – all of which should be well-known to us by now:

  • Install updates for all of your software for operating systems and apps. They contain the security patches and bug fixes that shore up the breaches in your systems.
  • Be extremely careful about the emails you open and the links you click.
  • Back up your data continuously to a system that is either not always online or that uses authentication. This will help ensure that you don’t accidentally revert to an encrypted back up if you’re hit.

The IoT has been massively compromised because of poorly designed security systems by device manufacturers. To protect yourself, SonicWall reminds you to make sure your devices are behind next-generation firewalls that scan for IoT-specific malware and that you segregate IoT devices on a separate zone to make sure they don’t affect the rest of your network if they’re compromised. To that, we add that you immediately change user names and passwords – and that you make those passwords strong. Some 70 percent of IoT breaches worldwide are in the US.

More protection was made available for Android mobile phones and devices, but they still remain vulnerable to overlay attacks. SonicWall recommends that companies using Android devices keep the option to “install applications from unknown sources” unchecked and both options to “verify applications” checked. They also recommend you avoid rooting and that you install anti-virus and other mobile security apps – and that you enable “remote wipe” in case your device is stolen or compromised with ransomware.

If you’re interested in a deeper dive and more technical explanations, we invite you to read SonicWall’s whitepaper on cybersecurity.

We can help you with a cybersecurity audit for your office or home and for all mobile devices. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us for an appointment.

Who’s Watching? Internal Software and the IoT

Connected homes. Connected cars. Doing more over the internet. The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing faster and faster. And that begs two questions: 1.) Who’s watching? 2.) How do you pull the shades on prying eyes?

The answer to the first question is unnervingly simple: It could be anyone in the world.

The short answer to the second question is: Shore-up your security.

As I walked around CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas last month, I looked at all the devices that are connected to the internet. I thought about all the internal software in those devices – and wondered who’s upgrading that software for security?

Software is at the heart of every device in our house that’s connected – usually wirelessly – to the internet. While we continue to encourage you to change the username and password for every device you have, it’s still possible for hackers to use an open “back door” to get inside the internal software for, let’s say, the camera systems inside and outside your house. We all need to make sure that the companies who provide all these great connected devices are updating their software security. It’s no different than the security patches issued by all software publishers.

In the absence of device manufacturers pushing out software updates, you should make it a habit to visit their websites to see if any updates are available for your products – and to download them and install them right away.

It’s also important to know what’s in your house – even if it’s wired. We visited a house that somebody was buying, and we found a mound of wires in the basement. Not only did the new owners not know what all the wires were connected to, the old owner didn’t know about all of them, either. We found the whole house had been hard-wired, and that there was an old security camera system. We connected all the access points in the house to relieve the pressure on the new Wi-Fi system we installed, and we set up the camera system and made sure it was secure. But had we not been there, nobody would have known how everything was supposed to work and if anything had been exposed to a security breach.

Automobiles, by the way, have internal software, too, and you generally need to visit a dealer to have that checked. It has been demonstrated that hackers can break into certain parts of your car’s computer system and affect your car’s operation. While there’s likely not a widespread benefit that makes economic sense for doing this, you could be an isolated, totally random victim of someone who’s just playing around with the idea of hacking a car.

If you have any questions about the security steps you need to take for your devices, gather all the information you can find about the product and call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us with your questions. If need be, we can help you find the correct software updates or get the information you need to ask the right questions when you contact your device manufacturer.

Off to CES Next Month

I’m looking forward to going to CES – the Consumer Electronics Show – in Las Vegas next month. It will be my first time there; I had to make sure I did the planning needed to make it happen. I plan to look closely at home automation and AI because both will play growing roles in our lives.

We already have a lot going on. I was an early adapter of Doorbot, which we now know as Ring. It’s the camera system that works in conjunction with your doorbell and smartphone to let you know who’s at your front door. You can talk with the people at the door whether you’re in the next room or the next country. When I installed Doorbot, it paid immediate dividends when I could tell delivery people where to leave packages. It helped me serve my clients better.

As Ring, the product has evolved into a security camera. With a wide field of vision, it can activate as soon as someone gets near your home and take a clear picture of everyone at your door. It’s also instantaneous. With a standard alarm system, any thief knows he has 5 to 10 minutes before the police respond. Now, you have a way to identify the person. You can use it in conjunction with other camera systems to see who’s there, and you can use it along with electronic door locks that you can remotely control to let someone into your house.

We have more automated systems in our homes. Nest is the first one you think of when it comes to having a thermostat that you can set or change through an Internet connection, and there are all sorts of lighting systems that you can automate or reset.

We’ve added Google Home, and it can do searches – just like Siri, Alexa and Amazon Echo – and turn on lights in various rooms in the house to light the way without having to turn on switches. If your hands are full, it’s more than a convenience. More systems likely will come to market that analyze movements in your house and either reset HVAC or lighting as you need them or let you know what’s happening in your house while you’re away. We have all these systems today, but AI will tie them together to give you faster access and coordinated control from a single device.

I’m also interested in seeing what’s new for cars. It’s only a matter of time until cars become driverless; we’re likely to see driverless trucks a lot faster. Driverless vehicles will be the ultimate in AI as a consumer application, and we make great strides toward that every year. More and more cars have a variety of systems to analyze a car’s position and traffic conditions to warn you or take a programmed action – such as apply the brakes. What will be the next steps in the home automation/AI arena?

We’ll let you know what we find out. In the meantime, if you have any questions about systems installed in your home or car that you control from a device, we urge you to make sure you have changed all the default usernames and passwords that came with them. That’s crucial to keeping outsiders from entering and controlling your space. If you need help in configuring or reconfiguring your systems to maximize their performance and security, we’re there for you. Just call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us. And be sure to read Network Strength and Costs.

Network Strength and Costs

With more and more devices in our homes – more than you think – you need to strike a balance between speed and cost. Keeping your network strong and secure is a given, but you should look at what you can hardwire into your gateway to maximize speed and free up wireless capacity for devices and systems that can’t be wired.

Many people have looked to simple solutions such as EERO, which plugs repeaters into power outlets in homes and offices. It’s known as a wireless mesh system, and it’s a technology that hasn’t won us over. The modules are repeaters, and the problem is that each time you repeat, you cut signal strength, and that diminishes the speed of the network to deliver signals to the target computer, TV, tablet or smartphone.

You might think you don’t have that many devices on your network, but you’d be surprised. In our house with four people, we have a dozen computers, tablets and smart phones, several automated systems for the doorbell and for turning on certain lights. We also have a Sonos sound system with seven speakers around the house. I haven’t added in smart TVs, which many households have. Most of them use a USB antenna to connect to their home wireless network, and then people use the wireless network to stream movies and shows – especially if they’ve cut the cord on cable TV.

Depending on your provider, you can get Internet connections ranging from 15 megabits per second (of data transmission) to 1 or 2 gigabits per second. Many users in moderately connected homes have service ranging from 50 to 300 megabits per second (mbs). The faster the speed, the more data it pushes through per second. However, your TVs, computers and devices on your wireless network may not be getting the full speed you’re paying for because of repeaters and the number of devices using the network at a given time.

You can maximize wireless performance and your Internet costs by hardwiring some computers and smart TVs and then determining how much speed you need to support your wireless devices. Wired computers and TVs will get the full benefit of your connection speed, and you may not need as fast (and expensive) a connection as you think.

To use our house as an example, we have a 150mbs connection, and we use it more for downloading large files than for streaming movies and shows. With hard wiring, it works fine. If I would double the speed to 300mbs, it would cost $90 per month more. That’s $1,080 more per year, and I wouldn’t get the full performance because of the wireless penalty.

With smart TVs and streaming becoming more popular, TV manufacturers are heading off potential problems with customer satisfaction by including Ethernet connections in their units. Taking advantage of the hardwiring capability can help you avoid problems elsewhere in your home.

In the office, hardwiring as many components of your system to the network is essential. Hardwiring grantees your computers and peripherals will work at the speeds you’re paying for, and it will free up wireless capacity for the devices that you must have, such as phones and tablets.

Regardless of whether you have a home or business network, remember that your service speed can be increased or decreased without a visit from a technician. You can see how one connection speed works and then have your provider raise or lower it from their service center.

We can help you by installing the wiring and connecting your equipment. We can also help you analyze your system’s performance to find the right combination of speed and cost. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to set up an appointment to discuss your needs.

Behind Last Month’s Internet Breakdown

We’ve harped for years about the inherent conflict of convenience vs. online security. That conflict reared its ugly head during the distributed denial-of-service attacks, using – maybe – millions of computers to hit some of the world’s largest and most popular e-commerce and news websites.

Investigators have been able to pin part of the cause on hackers using IP addresses commandeered from millions of home devices, commonly called IoT (Internet of Things) – such as interior and exterior security cameras, doorbell and baby monitors, thermostats, etc. – that are increasingly popular with consumers. Too many people install them on their Wi-Fi networks and never bother to change default user names or passwords. That just leaves the door wide open to have their devices hijacked and used for malicious purposes.

From our point of view, it’s what happens when we get lazy and sloppy because we are so tuned into convenience. And, a DDoS attack can be the least consequential problem for you, personally. The hacker can gain control of your device and peak into your house at will – and even change your thermostat settings.

Users are not the only sloppy parties in this turn of events. The device manufacturers share the blame because they don’t require you to reset your user name or password as part of the installation process. After all, they don’t want the blame for your inconvenience, and we think that’s wrong. They can require you to reset user names and passwords as part of the installation process.

You can help prevent these DDoS attacks by making sure you change user names and passwords for the devices during the installation process. You can further protect your privacy by making sure your Wi-Fi network has a good, strong password. Too many people leave the default user name and password on their routers, too.

We should note that businesses, including professional services providers, can be just as lax as home users. We’ve had client systems hacked because their system administrators did not set up stronger log-in credentials.

We strongly urge everyone to have somebody look at their networks and IT systems and procedures once or twice a year. This may not be a comfortable analogy for some people, but even though you brush your teeth and floss every day, you still maintain better health when you visit the dentist once or twice a year for a cleaning and exam.

If you avoid the visit because of expense, it’s costlier – and more painful – to fix the problem instead of preventing it. What would be your cost for system downtime and repairing security breaches? Contact us by phone – 973-433-6676 – or email to find out what our security audit would cover for you and to set it up. In today’s world, you can’t afford to overlook any possible weakness.