CTPC User Group

 

  1. Preview of the January 22nd meeting - Note no meeting in December
  2. Secure Your Wireless (Wi-Fi) Connection - Ira Wilsker
  3. The Tip Corner – Bill Sheff
  4. The Google Redirect Virus - Penny Cano
  5. CTPC Field Trip to Microsoft in Danbury
  6. VIPRE - Susan Kennedy
  7. Microsoft Windows Telephone Scam
  8. W-Fi on the Road - Hewie Poplock
  9. More on Secure Your Wi-Fi Connection
  10. My Experience - Mike Alcorn
  11. Losing My Email Address - Mike Alcorn
 

Preview of the Next CTPC Meeting - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 6:30 p.m.

 


Details will be posted as soon as they become available.

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Ira Wilsker - Ira is a member of the Golden Triangle PC Club, an Assoc. Professor at Lamar Institute of Technology, and hosts a weekly radio talk show on computer topics on KLVI News Talk AM560. He also writes a weekly technology column for the Examiner newspaper . Ira is also a deputy sheriff who specializes in cybercrime, and has lectured internationally in computer crime and security.

Secure Your Wireless (Wi-Fi) Connection

 

WEBSITES: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/7-important-features-wireless-router
http://compnetworking.about.com/od/wirelesssecurity/tp/Wi-Fisecurity.htm
http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_do_I_change_my_wireless_network%27s_security_settings
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wi-Fi
http://www.wi-fi.org
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_chalking
http://www.blackbeltjones.com/warchalking/warchalking0_9.pdf  (Pocket War Chalking Card)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_driving

Almost all newer laptop computers as well as tablets, smart phones, video game consoles, and home entertainment systems utilize Wi-Fi as a primary or secondary method of connecting to the internet or some other network. According to published reports from several sources, the majority of home internet users have some form of Wi-Fi in their homes, and Wi-Fi is very commonly used in business, commercial, and academic environments. While the basics of Wi-Fi security apply to almost all Wi-Fi networks, home users have become especially vulnerable because many have never implemented anything more than the minimum default security settings when installing and setting up the hardware.

The Wi-Fi Alliance (www.wi-fi.org) defines Wi-Fi as any "wireless local area network (WLAN) products that are based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' (IEEE) 802.11 standards." Wi-Fi is a fancy radio device that sends and receives streams of data through the air, just as any other 2-way radio device. As consumers, we often see the presence of Wi-Fi in terms of its standard designations, such as 802.11b, g, or n (as in 802.11n), each of these terms indicating the speed, bandwidth, and channels available under those industry standard protocols. While new speeds and protocols are always being developed and tested, the fastest and most powerful of the current widely available standards is 802.11n, which is capable of a theoretical speed of 540 Mbps. A portion of the standard provides for downward compatibility, meaning that devices made for one of the newer standards, such as the "n" standard, must also be capable of communicating with lesser devices, such as the "b" and "g" standard devices.

For home use, most of us have some form of Wi-Fi access point, typically either a free standing device directly connected to the internet, integrated with a wired (Ethernet) router, integrated with some form of modem (common with cable and DSL internet services), or as a combination unit of "all of the above." In my home I have a major name-brand integrated unit that combines a broadband modem, 4-port router (four Ethernet ports for Ethernet cable connected devices), a USB port to connect a printer or other USB devices to the network, and an 802.11n wireless Wi-Fi with MIMO (Multiple-Input-Multiple-Output technology) for improved performance. Purchased from one of the big box electronics stores for about $70, my multi-function device replaced the less-capable modem supplied by my internet service provider (ISP), and offers more features, speed, and security than the one provided by my ISP.

For me, enhanced security was one of the primary reasons for replacing the older technology modem provided to me from my ISP just a few years ago. This older broadband Wi-Fi modem from my ISP incorporated the mid-speed 802.11g wireless access point, with archaic security and encryption capabilities. Being fully cognizant that home (and business) Wi-Fi networks are common targets of hackers and crackers, I wanted to harden my system from attack, and the newer integrated Wi-Fi access point offered far superior protection than did my ISP provided unit.

One of the first requirements of a reasonably secure Wi-Fi network is to implement the best encryption available on that particular device, such that unauthorized individuals who pick up the Wi-Fi signal will only find random garbage, rather than a useful stream of data. Since only Wi-Fi devices with the proper encryption key can exchange readable data, enabling the best type of encryption compatible with both devices (access point and remote device) will help protect the personal Wi-Fi network from intrusion. Unencrypted Wi-Fi leaves the entire network open to attack which can be used to steal personal data, passwords, user names, credit card information, and other information that can be illicitly used for a variety of malevolent purposes, including identity theft. At a minimum, an unencrypted home Wi-Fi network works like a free open network at a coffee house, where anyone can "leach" (steal or otherwise use) your internet access, slowing your connection, as the crooks are using your bandwidth. This "leaching" or theft of internet service may lead to unintended consequences, as it is not unknown for illicit drug dealers, pedophiles and child pornographers to use an innocent persons unprotected Wi-Fi in order to conduct their evil enterprises; if law enforcement tracks the bad guys, it typically leads to the innocent Wi-Fi owner, rather than the miscreant who purloined the system.

A common game of hackers and crackers is "War Driving" (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_driving) where people with Wi-Fi computers and some readily available software drive around an area picking up and recording the locations of all detectable Wi-Fi networks, and posting the locations on a GPS coordinated electronic map. Even Google compiled a massive listing of Wi-Fi networks as its specialized vehicles travelled up and down virtually every street in the country for its Google Maps "Street View" service, creating a massive firestorm with privacy and security specialists. While Google has graciously removed public access to its "war driving" database, there are a myriad of websites that post the maps and data found by amateur War Drivers, such that anyone can easily locate and tap into an unencrypted Wi-Fi system. Parallel to war driving is war chalking, war walking, war jogging, and war bicycling, which is common in densely developed urban areas. The simplest iteration of these is to use chalk on the side of a building or sidewalk to show the presence of a vulnerable Wi-Fi system, telling anyone on the street about the unfettered broadband internet access, compliments of an often unwilling provider. There is actually a standardized list of chalk symbols indicating the type and availability of Wi-Fi signals, these symbols being available from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_chalking.

Virtually all Wi-Fi access points offer some form of encryption. During the initial setup of the Wi-Fi system, the user is often requested to select an encryption method, or else "no encryption" is often the default setting, making the network accessible to anyone within range. The most common forms of encryption for Wi-Fi access points are WEP, WPA, and WPA-2. WEP (Wireless Encryption Protocol) is the oldest and least secure of the common encryption methods; while only having slight degradation in performance and speed, it is virtually useless against all except the least sophisticated hackers, with instructions on how to crack and defeat WEP being readily available on the internet. WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) is better than WEP in terms of security, but degrades performance a little more than WEP. On most contemporary home Wi-Fi access points, WPA-2 is the best of the commonly available encryption methods, but is slower and requires more computing resources then WPA; except for the most bandwidth intensive uses, the majority of users will not really notice the slightly slower performance of WPA-2.

Another security trick embodied in almost all Wi-Fi access points is the "Hide SSID" setting. SSID means "Service Set Identifier", also called "Network Name". At a minimum, the user should change the network name to some meaningless name that is not readily connected to the particular system. The reason for changing from the factory default name (often the name of the manufacturer, such as "Linksys") to a non-descript name is that there are online directories with default encryption and password settings for unmodified Wi-Fi access points; hackers can easily break into networks that are only using the factory default settings. An even better trick, if available on the Wi-Fi access point, is to totally hide the SSID, meaning that the network name is not openly transmitted, and only those in range who know the network name can connect to it. While not foolproof or totally secure, hiding the SSID is a simple way to make it more difficult for hackers to find your network. If war driving through your neighborhood, hackers may likely miss networks with a hidden SSID, while picking up the other, possibly more vulnerable neighborhood networks.

Another feature that can be enabled to restrict unauthorized access to your home network is "MAC address filtering" (Media Access Control). Every device that can connect to the internet has a unique MAC address, usually a series of about six two-digit alphanumeric characters separated by periods. While MAC addresses can be counterfeited or spoofed, filtering only allows selected devices, as indicated by their individual MAC addresses, to access the network. By entering the authorized MAC addresses into the filter, and enabling the filter, only those approved devices can connect to the network. Likewise, the filter can prevent specific devices from accessing the network.

On my laptop computer and on my smart phone I can see several nearby homes that have Wi-Fi, some of which are not properly encrypted and accessible to anyone within range for any purpose, including illegal or other illicit activities. I cannot easily see networks with a hidden SSID. The unprotected household Wi-Fi networks are so vulnerable, when one neighbor had his home broadband connection out of service, and was waiting for the ISP to come and repair it, he illegitimately used another neighbor's Wi-Fi until his was repaired. Do you really want someone else using your network without your permission or knowledge? Secure your Wi-Fi, or face the possible consequences.

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Bill Sheff, Novice SIG Coordinator, Lehigh Valley Computer Group, PA, July 2012 issue, The LVCG Journal, www.lvcg.org, nsheff (at) aol.com

The Tip Corner

The Tip Corner – Bill Sheff Shift+Space Web Browser Navigation
Here is a way to make navigating pages in your web browser a little easier. Instead of using the Page Up and Page Down keys, you achieve the same results by pressing your Space Bar to go a page down and pressing Shift+Space to go a page up.

What Is Pinning and how do I do It?
Pinning is keeping items within a window in the same place for easy access. Programs, applications, web sites, etc. can all be “Pinned.” For Example: The Windows Start Menu is divided into two sections. The top half of the menu is reserved for pinned items. Since I use Excel and Word almost every day, I keep them pinned, making them accessible at the click of a mouse at any time.

How does one do this? Simply right-click on an icon on your desktop and choose “Pin to Start Menu.” That’s it.

The bottom section of the Start Menu is reserved for frequently used programs or programs that are used on a regular basis. Though this may sound the same as a pinned menu, the items on the list change dynamically based on what I’ve been apt to do lately. So if I’ve been using the calculator a lot, its icon will show up, but if I stop using it for a while and make use of something else, that icon will show up.

What happened to Normal View in Word 2007 and 2010?
If you’re using either Word 2007 or 2010 and preferred working in the Normal view, then you’re probably wondering what happened to it. If you went to the View tab of the Ribbon it is not there. Well, it was not deleted. They just renamed it Draft view. Now all those page separations are gone. Unfortunately when you reopen the file it again opens in the Print Layout view.

So how do we tame Microsoft to open in the Draft view every time? Click on File and choose Options then Advanced on the left. On the right scroll all the way down to the General section. Locate and select the “Allow opening a document in Draft view” option. Click OK. When you open a file that you saved in Draft view it will still be in Draft view.

Should I use Sleep, Hibernate or Shut it down?
The answer to this depends on who you talk to. Way back when, you shut your system down to prevent burn-in. Then came screensavers. With screensavers and less burn-in on the LCD screens it is no longer an issue. Before I put in my two cents worth, let’s pin down these terms once more.

When a computer goes into sleep or standby mode, it shuts off its display screen, video card, CPU and hard drive, so processes like anti-virus scans won’t run. It stores the computer’s last state (software opened on the desktop, etc.,) to the RAM, and so requires a small amount of electricity (called a “trickle charge”) to maintain that. Since RAM is transient memory, once the computer shuts down completely the computer’s current state is lost, including any unsaved information. So a word to the wise, SAVE before you leave.

The advantage to sleep mode is that, when you “wake” your computer, it comes back to its current state very quickly - almost instantly. So if you’re only going to be away from it a couple hours, this is quite convenient.

In hibernation mode, the computer writes everything from the computer’s RAM, including its current state, to the hard drive and then shuts down, so it functionally uses no power while in hibernation. Once the computer is brought out of hibernation, it goes straight to the computer’s current state, including all open programs. Although this takes less time than a full shut-down and start-up, it does take longer than simply waking it up from sleep, although it uses no power when hibernating, as opposed to little when asleep. Again, no programs or scans will run while a computer is hibernating.

Power off is, duh! Off. The main reason for shutting your PC down is, of course, power savings. The amount of money that it takes to run a PC depends on how many watts you’re actually using to run your PC (this can be determined by buying a Kill-a-watt or similar device for about $30), and how much you’re being charged by your electric company per kilowatt hour. Most estimates seem to run about ten to twenty dollars per month, running 24 hours per day.

There’s also the question of stress on your computer components. Whereas having it on is harder on your components than having it off, the process of shutting down and starting up your PC puts more stress on these components than simply leaving them on.

So what it comes down to is personal preference. In my case, I leave my computer on at night to run virus scans, hard drive scans and defragging. The monitor is pretty much off by itself. If you do leave your computer on overnight, it’s a good idea to do a restart in the morning. This allows your computer to clear any information in the memory cache and in your RAM and allows your computer to run more quickly.

Windows 7 Autoplay Settings
When you connect a device or media to your computer (digital cameras, phones, DVDs, CDs, etc.) are you happy with the choices your computer gives you? For example, when you insert an audio CD, you may not want iTunes to load it – maybe you would rather import through Windows Media Player. And with a DVD should it play automatically, just like your regular family room DVD player?

Here is how to make your media do exactly what you expect it to do. Click Start and in the Search Box type, AutoPlay and hit Enter. A window will pop up. Now simply go down the list and use the provided drop-down menus to choose what each media type does when it’s inserted into your computer. When you are done, press Save. That’s all there is to it. If for any reason you want to go back to the default Windows 7 settings, hit the Reset all defaults button at the bottom.

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Penny Cano, member and instructor for the Dumb & Dumber Workshops, Cajun Clickers Computer Club, LA July 2012 issue, Cajun Clickers Computer News, www.clickers.org , ccnewsletter (at) cox.net

The Google Redirect Virus

You search Google for something that interests you and get a series of Google web pages with links to websites with pertinent information. But this time, no matter which link you click on, it takes you to a website selling something that has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of your search. Suspecting something, you do a full scan with your virus program and don't find any infection. Then you may try some of the other malware-removal programs like Malwarebytes, Spybot, or SuperAntiSpyware; they don't find anything either. But you know something is wrong. I ran into this when one of our club members became infected and came to me seeking help. Since most of us use Google search with some frequency, I thought it a good time to discuss how this Trojan and other similar Trojans work.

Incentive for Infection
Some of the other names for this Trojan are Bac-door.Tidserv, Win32.TDSS, and Alureon. It’s not new; it was first discovered in 2008 and additional variations have been created since then. Its purpose is primarily profit-making. The person or enterprise that infects your computer actually gets paid for doing so. To go undetected, it hides itself using stealth techniques, including a rootkit. Once it is on the computer, it installs itself where it cannot be detected, then deletes the original files to eliminate traces of itself. The payload then causes the user to be redirected to web sites associated with malicious schemes or ones that download and install software that is not needed or wanted. So the infector gets a kickback for each user that succumbs.

How You Get Infected
Social networking opens up a myriad of opportunities for these attackers. It can be spread by means of the KoobFace Trojan specific to FaceBook. Forums and Blogs are another source. A typical scenario involves some sensational topic with an associated link to what appears to be a video or pictures. When the user clicks one of these links, the attacker has the opportunity to deliver the infection. The same attacker may place these links on many sites on the Web. Links in e-mail provide another opportunity. When people see something they think is funny or interesting on the Internet, they feel compelled to forward the website or link to all their friends. This in turn gets forwarded and re-search forwarded. You may not know the original sender or many of the other people it was sent to. (Of course you've never received these – right?). And then there's spam with all sorts of links. If the link points to an infected site, the infection gets spread to anyone clicking on it.

Peer-to-Peer networking for the downloading of pirated software (music, movies, and programs) and shared files is another source of infection. The supplier of the illegal software (or files) is often anonymous. Who's to say the name of the malware file was not changed to that of a popular song, for example. When the pirated “song” is downloaded the user is really downloading the Trojan. It is much safer to pay for legitimate content.

Hacked websites can actually be legitimate or well-known sites that have malicious software unknowingly installed on them. Web forms are particularly vulnerable if the system they are on is not properly secured. Those crazy looking letters that you are asked to type into the box below (don't you just hate them?) are a security measure to keep attackers from gaining access to the forms.

Avoiding Infection
Be careful about clicking on links on Web sites and in e-mail. Sometimes, if you pause your cursor on a link, you can see where the link actually leads. Be cautious clicking on links in e-mail, particularly spam and those that have been forwarded multiple times to multiple people. Some virus programs have link-checking as a built-in function and rate links on Web pages. This is particularly useful when following search engine results. If advertisements occur in pop-ups, do not click on them or follow the links they offer. Buy your downloaded software from known sources. Pirated software is often booby-trapped with malware. Keep your Windows Operating System up-to-date. Windows Update provides patches that can lessen the risk of the system being compromised.

Removal
I found three removal tools online:

However, since this Trojan hides in areas outside the operating system and makes itself undetectable by normal means, I highly recommend that you take your computer to someone familiar with its removal if you experience these symptoms.

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Ben Wilson, CTPC Program Chairman

CTPC Field Trip to Microsoft Danbury, CT November 27, 2012

This past summer we learned that Microsoft had opened a retail store in the Danbury mall here in CT. I visited the store and found the staff and management very professional, pleasant and anxious to work with potential customers training them on new Microsoft products. Nancy John Store Manager was very receptive to our bringing a group from our local Computer club in for a briefing on Windows 8 and the Surface tablet.

We talked to a number of our members and found them to be very enthusiastic about going on this visit. Carolyn Bignatti, Community Development Specialist made an appointment to have the briefing in the theater in the store. John Bottelsen gave us an excellent two hour briefing on Windows 8, the Surface tablet and the Windows phone. Of course, we had been advised by a number of “experts” to refrain from upgrading to Windows 8 and stay with the time proven Windows 7. John was able to demo Windows 8 and talk to us in an enthusiastic and professional manner about the excellent features in Windows 8 and also gave us practical solutions to the startup training that alleviated most of our concerns. Our group was most pleased with the depth of the instruction and practical tips John presented to us. He also spent some time discussing the other services provided by Microsoft Danbury such as technical support, new system recommendations, installations etc.

Unfortunately, the day of our trip, we had mixed rain and snow which reduced our numbers willing to dive the 17 mile trip. However, our group was most complimentary of the Microsoft personnel that worked with us and look forward to going again for another Microsoft briefing (weather permitting) in the future.

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Susan Kennedy, Member, TUGNET, California, www.tugnet.org/newsletter, newsletter (at) tugnet.org

VIPRE

Presented at the Southwest Technology & Computer Conference, San Diego, by Dodi Glenn (with Kathy Wattman, Vipre Product Manager)

What, you ask, is VIPRE? The name is an acronym for Virus Intrusion Protection and Remediation Engine. More simply, VIPRE by GFI Software Inc. (formerly Sunbelt Software) is a product line that includes both a stand-alone antivirus program and a more comprehensive internet security suite.

Dodi Glenn, Product Manager for GFI, started by asking us "What is malware? What dangers are out there?" Malware includes adware, bots, dialer programs, keyloggers, rogue anti-virus programs, rootkits, and spyware along with the usual viruses, worms and Trojans. He described malware as having "gone wild" with a huge increase in recent years. The purpose is no longer to damage people's computers; the motive today is almost 100% financial. Cyber criminals want access to your computer, your passwords and account information, and thus to your money! Besides stealing from your accounts directly, crooks make fortunes in selling credit card information. Much of this criminal activity originates in Russia and China.

Top threats include various forms of Java script. Some of the threats he named are the System Restore Rogue and S.M.A.R.T. Repair that may harm your hard disk drive.

A few threats created by governments have escaped into the world at large. We probably all know of the Stuxnet virus, believed to have been created to wreak havoc with Iran's nuclear program, but coming along today is Duqu, first spotted in September 2011. Another is Flame, a program developed by the CIA, NSA and Israeli military, to attack nukes in the Middle East. For those of you who are fluent in high-level "geek-speak," GFI produced a video (33 minutes) on their analysis of Flame at http://vimeo.com/44382073; it's pretty heavy on the technical stuff.

Another type of threat involves social engineering, and many of these come out of India. One example spoofs Microsoft's tech support center, where a person calls on the telephone to tell you of a problem with your computer that he can fix if you just allow him remote access. The Better Business Bureau published an article you can read at http://tinyurl.com/7noulky. You can also see videos on this threat on YouTube by searching for Microsoft Service Support Center.

Where does this malware come from? Today it's mostly social networking (e.g., Facebook), online games, and email or through "portals" you access either for games or chatting in forums. Malware (including spam) gets into your email through hacked web sites you visit, instant messages (such as posting on Facebook), and what are known as "exploits" in valid programs such as PDF, Java script, and Flash Player.

One threat few recognize is the "lost" flash drive. If you find a flash drive dropped in a parking lot or lying on a library table, for example, the natural instinct is to plug it in to a) see if the owner's name is available or b) just to see what might be on it. Don't do it! That drive may have been left intentionally because it was deliberately infected with malware (such as a keylogger or remote dialer) that will infect your computer when you try to access the info.

Some other good anti-malware programs that Dodi recommends (many free) are:
How can you prevent these threats from getting to your computer?
Some other tips Dodi offered include:
A new threat is those ubiquitous QR codes that are popping up everywhere. The Norton security program warns of bad QR codes.

Following these tips will not protect you 100%-nothing can, but they will go a long way to keep your internet experience safe.

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Microsoft Windows Telephone Scam – BEWARE!!

This really happened to a user group member in California.

One of our members (I'll save him embarrassment by calling him "Jim") has just been the victim of a phone scam involving Microsoft. Not the "real" Microsoft.

Fearing viruses on his computer, Jim allowed the "Microsoft tech support" man on the phone to enter his computer electronically to check. The caller "found" red flags next to items on the computer that indicated viruses and offered to fix the computer -- for a charge. Jim felt uncomfortable with this and said no. The "Microsoft" scammer said he would block the use of the computer if he was not paid. Jim hung up.

Unhappily, Jim discovered afterward that the scammer had indeed done something while connected to the computer so that Jim could not use it or the internet. Luckily, there was no financial or other sensitive information on the computer that could also have been taken by the scammer. If it had, that would have been another story. A very sad story.

However, not so luckily, Jim will not be able to use his computer again for a couple of days until it has been reformatted and all the programs reinstalled.

So, fellow members, this is an updated warning. It CAN happen to you. Jim wants you to know about and to learn from his awful experience. Here is a link at Microsoft that describes various scams using its name: http://www.microsoft.com/security/online-privacy/msname.aspx

From the Windows Secrets newsletter (a href="http://windowssecrets.com/">http://windowssecrets.com/):
“Everybody’s Event Viewer has red and yellow flags. Check yours right now and you’ll see them:

On the left of the Event Viewer window, expand the Windows Logs/System branch. See the ocean of colored flags? They’re mostly harmless, although they look alarming — which is why Windows makes it difficult to find them. It’s good fodder for a flimflam.”

Links to Microsoft Telephone Scam articles/information:
Note from Judy: I’ve been on the phone with Jim Evans, APCUG Director, when he’s been called by one of these scam people. He’s using Skype with me so I was able to hear what the person was saying on his regular phone plus Jim’s responses. This has happened twice within the last six weeks or so. The last time, he was really leading the caller on but was having trouble understanding what he was saying. Conclusion, you’d think the scammers would have a better grasp of the English language before they call. The Microsoft telephone-based scams have been around since 2008.

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Hewie Poplock, APCUG Director, Vice President, Central Florida Computer Society, http://www.hewie.net, Hewie (at) Hewie.net

Wi-Fi On The Road

In the past, finding free Wi-Fi away from home was difficult, if not impossible. However, most of the fast food restaurants and many other locations now make Wi-Fi available. If that is true, and it is, that should be the end of my article.

However, in a recent column by a local newspaper, there is a growing issue of quality of that Wi-Fi. I have found McDonalds’ connections consistently good. It has the AT&T name and their hotspots seem to be maintained.

I recently stopped at a Burger King, which had a sign advertising Free Wi-Fi. After I ordered my food and sat down, I could not find their hotspot. When I approached the employees, including the shift manager, my response was, “Oh, it doesn’t always work.” I guess this was one of those times.

While I was there, I noticed a man who was bringing in his laptop and a printer to use the Wi-Fi to send a report to his boss. He set up on the floor as there was not a table near the electrical outlet.

Once he was set up, he also approached the employees about getting on line, without any more help than I had received. I told him where the nearest McDonalds’ was located.

That brings me to my point. While many of these restaurants have Wi-Fi, the quality or the consistency of it working is not always reliable. To compound that, one of my friends pointed out that he recently stopped at a McDonalds, only to discover that his laptop battery was dead, and that particular location had no electrical outlets. The manager stated that they may be doing a remodel of the location and hopefully they will add some outlets.

Our computer user group has some meetings at a couple of local Denny’s Restaurants, which also advertise inside & out that they have free Wi-Fi. One of our special interest groups meets at one Denny’s every month and has been doing so for several years. For several months we could no longer use their Wi-Fi, if were available at all. The manager kept telling us that a third party took care of it and she reported it. A district manager from the franchise happened to be in the building the same night as one of our meetings. He promised it would get fixed. A few months later, when it was not, we contacted him again. He actually fired the 3rd party and hired someone else. We now have WiFi and he has happy customers, who were about to go elsewhere.

Merely offering free Wi-Fi to customers is not enough. Having it work consistently gets you repeat and happy customers. At a minimum, every shift manager should know how to reset a router, if they receive complaints. Certainly they should show the customer a concern and see that it get repaired by doing a follow up. It’s called training.

I also carry an extension cord and strip in my car, in case there is but one outlet and it needs to be shared, or it is not near an open table.

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Mike Alcorn, CTPC Newsletter Editor

Addendum to Ira Wilsker's article in this issue

I was just reading the latest Windows Secrets newsletter and Fred Langa has a very interesting, if scary, article about how my whizbang new wireless router could still leave me open to hacking attacks.

Fred’s article appears in the free version of issue #366 dated 12/13/12 and available at: http://windowssecrets.com/

The newest routers, such as those discussed above by Ira Wilsker, utilize Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) to make setup simpler and easier.

Integral to WPS is the use of a 6-8 digit PIN used to gain access to the router.

Fred points out that you may have a strong 20-digit password but the hacker needs only to hack your PIN to get into the router and see your password.

Currently, the only sure way to avoid this risk is to disable WPS - easier to do on some routers than others. Fred notes that quite a few routers will tell you they have turned off WPS when in fact they have not, leaving you vulnerable. Fred notes that turning off SSID broadcasts of your network name actually renders WPS unworkable thus protecting you. This is currently his preferred solution. I just did that on my new router.

Isn’t technology wonderful?

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Mike Alcorn, CTPC Newsletter Editor

My Experience

We moved from Connecticut to Virginia in the Fall of 2002. I immediately called my local cable provider (Cox) and ordered high-speed Internet access. They installed a cable modem. I installed a Linksys router. All-in-all I was a happy camper. Things worked well for years.

Until the Fall of 2012 when we returned from our annual summer sojourn in Nova Scotia. While we are away I turn off the cablemodem/router/desktop. On our return I powered everything up and found: NO INTERNET This also meant no phone as we rely on a VOIP phone only.

I tried the obvious things such as powering off the cablemodem, but no Internet. I decided the cablemodem was likely the problem but needed to call Cox. I went to see my next door neighbor and he very kindly allowed me to access his own secure WiFi network. He also allowed me to plug my phone modem into his wireless modem. So, now I had Internet access as well as phone service.

I called Cox. They couldn’t see the modem either so they scheduled a service call for the next day. I asked them to be sure to have the service tech put a new cablemodem on the truck.

The service tech showed up the next day at the promised time and immediately started telling how he knew the cablemodem was the problem (which, indeed it was): it was 10 years old. He allowed as how 4 years is a long lifespan for one of these units! He also told me something I hadn’t given proper consideration to: technology marches on and those of us using 10 year old technology are missing out (upload\download buffers in the newer routers mean less stutter in your reception, etc. etc.).

Before replacing my cablemodem the tech checked and replaced a lot of parts between my modem and the Cox box in the street (more than half a dozen items, some inside my house installed by me). Then he looked at my Linksys router and started chuckling again. While not as old as the cablemodem it was old – 802.11b technology when the world is up to ‘n’. I agreed to have him replace it with a newer, faster unit.

Now, I really am again a happy camper though I must admit that when I stream Netflix movies, and talk on my VOIP phone, I don’t really perceive that things are faster\better. But, I know they work and should continue to do so for another ? years, or until the march of technology makes them obsolete – whichever comes first.

As a concluding thought I would suggest you research cablemodems and wireless routers on your own. I suspect you can find more options, and somewhat better prices, that those offered by your cable tech. Ira Wilsker’s article on this issue of the CTPC newsletter discusses some of the technological reasons you might want to buy your own equipment. However, it is nice to know that the cable tech option is there when you really need it.

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Mike Alcorn, CTPC Newsletter Editor

Losing My Email Address

I’ve had thealcorns.com as a personal domain since April, 2000. My primary reason for setting it up back then was the fear\certainty that we would one day move and my Connecticut Cablevision email would go poof. Then, how would people and organizations find me at my new email address and what connections would I lose without even knowing it?

Services like Gmail and YahooMail either weren’t available then or at least not on my radar screen and a personal domain with email forwarding seemed simple and likely to last forever (or at least as long as I needed it).

The service that I bought offered webspace but I was really interested only in their email forwarding to one or more addresses of my choice. As an aside I can tell you that the service offered me several hundred email addresses. Had I cared to, I could have used a different email for each financial service I used (for example). Then, when I got spam from a particular email address, I could figure out which service had sold my email and decide what to do next.

Imagine my surprise this past October 15th to learn that my email address was no longer operable. Much more than just spam simply stopped coming.

I thought about why this could have happened and realized I had been receiving emails from a company I hadn’t heard of. Thinking they were spam, I deleted them without reading them (many of you might block such unknown emails and so never see them). As I thought back, I thought perhaps this company and my domain name registrar were related. A quick check of my registrar’s website confirmed my fears. There had been a merger\takeover and I had apparently been ignoring pay up or else emails.

Now, I faced the or else. I called support at my registrar and was told that some 45 days after the expiration of my registration period on August 30th, my domain had gone into what is called a “redemption period” and it would cost $99.99 (plus the annual fee) to reinstate it. I politely said ‘No thanks’.

Then I thought for a few minutes about all those lost connections. I checked a few websites to confirm that the ‘redemption period’ was real and really something you do not want to ever fall into. Then I called my registrar back and ponied up the $99.99 plus the annual fee to get my domain back.

It took 4 days but I was back in business. I would like to think this could never happen to me again, but I’m not so sure.

Many of us probably have 3-5 year registration periods. Credit cards expire over such a long period. Registrars can change ownership\names\emails in the interim. Spam blockers can cause unexpected grief. We can simply forget.

If you have a personal domain you should at least check the “whois” database to see when your subscription expires and then make some effort to put that date on a calendar as a reminder to pay somebody.

If you are using an email address tied to a particular ISP, now might be a good time to change to a service such as gmail, yahoo, hotmail, etc. If you are like me, it would likely take a year or two to discover all the places you would need to update your email to avoid the risk of losing contact after moving away from a localized ISP.

Forewarned is forearmed.

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