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All posts tagged Security

WiFi Security…

… and getting your configuration right can be frustrating. So I was lucky enough to receive a guest post from Dan Shernicoff (a good friend) of Brassnet blog fame explaining the whole subject. Without further ado, let’s get to it.

Having a secure WiFi network is important to your peace of mind.

Insecure WiFi can have a lot of bad consequences. It can let anyone access your network (and all of the personal data you have on your computers.) It can let anyone pretend to be you (just Google Firesheep and you’ll get an idea as to what I mean.) It can leave you open to viruses and attacks.  The good news is that it’s not hard to secure a WiFi network; you can do it with 6 simple steps.

  1. Change the SSID – The SSID is the name of the WiFi network. It’s what you see when you go to configure it.  All routers have a default name for the SSID, commonly the name of the manufacturer.  By changing the name of the SSID you make it harder for a bad guy to figure out what the password is to access the configuration and make changes on you.
  1. Set up WPA2 – WPA2 is a form of encryption that is used on all the data sent between two endpoints on the wireless network.  What that bit of tech speak means is that it takes the data sent from your computer, phone, tablet, Roku, etc. and turns it into gobbledygook that only the access point (router) and the device understand. Since WiFi is basically radio anyone with a receiver that can pick up the appropriate channel can see everything sent from the computer to the access point and back again; WPA2 makes that information unintelligible to anyone other than the intended recipient.

    It’s important that when you’re setting up WPA2 you use a strong password.  Since this is a password you’re only going to have to enter once on any given device you should make it long as well.  One suggestion might be a group of unconnected words (not a phrase) with some of the letters capitalized and the zip code of your second home.  If you want to test the strength of your password you can go to a site like to check.



  2. Disable UPnP – UpnP (Universal Plug And Play) is a network protocol designed to allow devices on the network to open ports on the router. In order to let you know why this a bad thing I’ll have to go into a bit of networking (and it might get technical) feel free to skip the explanation and just take my word that open ports are a bad thing.

    Ports are a way of letting an individual computer to manage multiple network connections at once. Every time you load a web page you are actually opening multiple sockets (a socket is just a fancy geek term for a network connection) and what differentiates these sockets is the port. One of the sockets is downloading the webpage itself while another might be downloading an image and a third is retrieving a script that’s needed for the page to work properly.  On the server side all of these sockets are going to the same port (80 being the standard for http data) and the router on the server side knows that data on port 80 gets sent to a specific port (not necessarily the same one) on a computer.  Any time a port is open data from the outside world can go to a computer on the network and there is no guarantee that the data coming in is friendly. Ideally any port that does not need to be open should be dead (i.e. it doesn’t reply, it just ignores knocks on the door.) UPnP lets applications open ports. While this is all well and good if the application that is trying to open the port is friendly (maybe that media server you decided to set up) but what if the application that is trying to open the port is a virus?  There is nothing preventing a virus author from leveraging UPnP to open ports to let more viruses in – or hackers – and even if you find the virus, the port is open and you’ll never know about it.


  3. Disable WPS – WPS (WiFi Protected Setup) is a standard that makes setting your network up easy, press a button or enter a pin and, voila, your network is ready to go. The problem with what sounds like an ideal situation (you don’t need to remember that long password you set up in step 2) is that there’s a hole in the standard that it makes it pretty easy to hack giving anyone with the skills and knowhow to do so the ability to be on your network.
  1. Disable WAN management – WAN management is the ability for someone who’s not on your network (i.e. someone on the internet) to manage your router.  That means that if you didn’t change the SSID (step 1) then someone can access your router from afar and do some not too pleasant things (like opening ports – read the techie part of section 3 for why this is bad) and in general make your life miserable, sometimes without you even knowing it.
  1. Change the admin password – This is the password to the router itself. This password is what you need to know to do all of the things mentioned above. Every router ships with a default username and password – usually printed on the label on the bottom of the router and always searchable. If the password to your router is the default (and for a number of manufacturers that’s username: admin password: admin) then your router is easily hackable with brute force attacks. Since your router is your first (and main) line of defense from hackers you want it to be as secure as you can make it and this one simple step takes care of making it pretty secure.

That’s it in a nutshell. Follow the simple steps above (and it’s OK if you just read the bullet points and not the explanations) and your network will be as secure as you can make it without a dedicated IT team and a very large budget.

The Warptest POV

There is very little I could add to this that Dan hasn’t already explained in excellent detail. Thanks Dan.

I would recommend you follow Dan on Twitter  and read his posts over on the aforementioned Brassnet blog but most likely you have already done it.

Windows 8 Shield

Let’s clarify when I say Antivirus …

I’m referring to your security toolbox that includes Antivirus, Antimalware, Firewall and Antispam.

are you secure

The good ones will check that your OS is patched and up to date with critical security patches but I’m not going to get into which the best is out there. That’s a discussion for another day.

Anyhow, this depends on a variety of factors including: –

  • Personal preference
  • Hardware spec
  • Operating System
  • User Experience
  • How you use the Internet
  • And more.

Why do I need all this?

Is your data in the cloud? Is it backed up there or your primary storage? Do you keep an offline backup? Or do you not trust the security of the Cloud and haven’t found anything easier than just leaving all those documents and photos on your hard drive?

The only secure computer is one disconnected from internet or email on a permanent basis.

That’s about as useful as <insert colorful phrase here>.

Whilst your data is important to you there are two other things that through your Personal Computer (regardless of OS) can have a drastic impact on you: –

  • All your passwords: Unless you are in the habit of using a password management application or of continually cleaning your browser cache, this information is sitting somewhere on your computer. I’m particularly referring to things like Social Networking and or E-Commerce Site logins.
  • Your online reputation: This is a little bit more ephemeral but you don’t want someone malicious posting online as if they were you, accessing contact information you have or hijacking your computer to turn into surreptitious Adult entertainment server.

That’s all about what’s good for you but if you are an active participant in sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ or then for better or for worse you one part of the many.

Be Selfless, Be Thoughtful and Be Social…

Given the degree of interconnectivity your web connected presence has on social networking sites you have to ask yourself,

“What do you want to pay forward to your contacts? Engagement or malware”

As such the most social app you have installed on your computer may well be your Antivirus.

So this is you looking down at the lapsed license for your antivirus or the last scan date of 6 months ago or a questionable short link and deciding that Social is also responsibility for only passing on the good things.

gratitude - social

So be secure and hopefully all your friends, followers and contacts will feel and act the same way.. now go run your antivirus.

Apple Has A Flaw In Their Brand …

In 2006 Apple was having a fun time tweaking Microsoft’s collective nose with their “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” line of ads.

These were a brilliant series of ads comparing the young, hip, funny Justin Long as Mac versus the stodgy, starchy, clumsy be-suited, bespectacled PC.

In the video below PC get’s a virus “atchoo”:

Fast forward to 2011 and recently we have seen malware on Android and on Apple products.

The most recent of these attacking iOS has been MAC Defender / MAC Guard. I don’t need to write about what the malware does. This has been covered excellently on ZDNet here and here.

I spoke to a bunch of MAC users who were remarkably unconcerned,

“Malware? Viruses.. those are PC issues.”

In an earlier piece on Smartphone security I maintained something I’m going to reiterate here: unsecured devices (mobile, desktop or otherwise) are easy points of access for malware to compromise data in the cloud and spread to other users.

In addition, for Apple to provide a solution based on a signature file that is bypassed by the malware writers immediately after each file is released reeks of arrogance and a lack of concern for their customers or their data safety. Microsoft didn’t have an in-house solution for anti-malware. As a result they went out, found a company who made a robust Windows solution and bought them, folding it into the services they offer.

Apple’s behavior in this shows they still perceive themselves and their user demographic as in the same place as in their 2006 “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC.” ad above.

It’s the equivalent of the sex education teacher at the end of class giving out condoms they know are out of date.

What it really comes down to is a “wake up and smell the coffee” moment for Apple. If Apple has become the leader in personal and mobile computing then it stands to reason they are going to become increasingly the focus of malware. De facto, they have become a victim of their own successes. The next step for Apple is to realize they need to address this situation by offering their own robust security solution or recommending those of 3rd parties for example Panda Security who do offer a MAC solution:


The other aspect of this is, if my earlier assertion about security for cloud stored content in correct then what security solutions should we be relying on for that?

It’s 2011, is your MAC / PC / Linux computer secure?


QR Codes and Microsoft Tags: bar codes for the continuing millennia or viral marketing media spreading like wildfire?

QR Code sample

QR Code - Microsoft Tag sample

Either way these are popping up everywhere, on the back of products in supermarkets and pharmacies, movie posters, ads on buses and in magazines.

By is using an app that piggybacks on your smartphone camera you can rapidly capture and use the data inside these graphics.

I’m not going to get into arguments about which is better, supported by more phones etc. both work and are easy to implement.

The fact is, this data encoding technology in graphics is both a really neat tool and potentially an easily exploit for getting malicious code onto someone’s mobile device.

At present I have found no security application that scans Tags or QR Codes prior to any device decoding the embedded data. At the simplest level it could be a URL leading to a malicious site. I’m not going to speculate at the worst.

Your mobile device decodes these on the fly and in the case of MS Tag Reader you are connected to the internet to do this.

Recently I have been doing some testing related to these and whilst working on a novel it occurred to me this could be a great plot device using either this way or else as simple steganography .. how I use it in the novel you are just going to have to wait and see. My writing occurs in fits and starts as inspiration hits me 🙂

This “tags” on nicely to my earlier piece on Smartphone security anyhow, what do you think about Microsoft Tags and QR Codes; have you used them yet?