How to Be Secure When Using Free-Wi-Fi

beach laptopMany of us who travel from time to time for work or with family, will want to connect to a free public Wi-Fi while waiting for a plane or train or even having a cup of coffee. When connecting to these open networks you need to make sure to keep your data secure. Here are a few tips to help do that.

 

 

  • Make sure the network you are connecting to is real. Ask a staff member at your location if the Wi-Fi name you see is correct. It is very easy for a hacker to create a fake network and intercept all of your data and key strokes.
  • You should also make sure to choose Public as the type of connection on your computer. Turn file and print sharing to off and to have your firewall turned on.
  • My favorite trick, which is not possible for everyone, is to connect to a VPN. This trick used to be much more prevalent but with the introduction and rise of split DNS, this trick does not work as well. Depending on your VPN connection, this works because a secure tunnel is created between you and your home office. All data that is sent and received is done so though your corporate firewall to help make your browsing safer. This of course will not be true if your company is using split DNS.
  • A simple trick to help protect you is to make sure you keep your computer updated with the latest security patches. This is something that should be done regularly anyway and is just one of many steps that should be taken to protect your data.
  • Another great trick is to use HTTPS to make sure your browsing is secured. Since not all sites use this protocol, you can download a simple extension to Chrome or Firefox called HTTPS Everywhere that will force all web pages to become secure.
  • One final way to help protect yourself, is to enable two-factor authentication. Most web sites that require logins have this feature. There are many programs that can be used to accomplish this as well.

Just remember to stay safe when browsing and to never check bank accounts or credit cards over insecure networks. As always, please post your comments and questions below or email me directly.

 

Ryan Ash

 

Ryan Ash
Network Consultant
ryan.ash@customsystems.com

 

 

 

©Custom Systems Corporation 2015

 

Father’s Day Reflections

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The dads at Custom Systems are all pretty remarkable guys. We have new dads and a new grandfather. Milestones? You could say that. Their kids range from teething to teens, college to new careers. This Father’s Day, we asked them to share some parenting insight. Here are a few of their responses.  Happy Father’s Day!

 

Advice For My Newborn Son:

Learn to drive a stick-shift.
Appreciate every day.
Love your Mother.
Stand during the Pledge Allegiance.
If it’s a fair fight, you don’t want to be in it.
If you are getting flack, it’s because you are over the target.
Safety is third.  If it were first, you wouldn’t go.
Be the master of your own emotions.
Carry two handkerchiefs: One is for you, the other is for her.
The Warrior is more comfortable facing his enemy, facing danger – than not.
Try not to make mistakes, but if you do: learn something from them.
Learn a foreign language.  Preferably math.

Advice For My Teenage Daughter:

I’ve already taught you everything I know.  Just keep being you, and you will be great!

Chase


‘Dad, Can You Fix This?’ or “You Want Me to Do What?”

If you are a techie, then you can relate to this. In my immediate and extended family, I am the Tech Guy. That means that if a family member has a question about a piece of technology, then I must be the one with the answer. Being a tech geek, I have supplied my household with PCs, laptops, smart phones, tablets, all-in-one printers, games systems, streaming media devices, and more. Along with this comes the responsibility of being the support person.

I am the go-to guy for tech answers, even when I have no idea what they are talking about. My oldest daughter will come to me and ask me how to accomplish something I have never heard of. I of course go to work to find her an answer because that is what Dad does. I now know how to modify posts on Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and other sites. The funny thing is that I had never been on those sites until my daughter needed help. My son loves his Minecraft. I now know how to create a Minecraft server with updates and mods. I still have never played the game. I am a Warcraft person. The best was when my youngest daughter wanted me to fix an issue with a school web site. I am sorry to say that I was not able to accomplish what she wanted. Mostly because of the morality involved in hacking a public school’s web site, not to mention the laws.

I am happy to say that my wife has not asked me to get the mixer on-line. It was hard enough when I had to do it for the toaster.

Craig


On becoming a father

When I was younger I was afraid to become a father. I used to wonder if I could handle it and if I would be able to provide for my child or children. As I got older and got married, I became excited to have children but was still afraid. I now have one son who is about 20 months old. All I can say is having him was the greatest moment of my life. There are days I want to pull my hair out, but every second of it is worth it. I would like to have more children now that I have him. Watching him grow is nothing short of amazing.

He is so funny to watch. I will be in my office working at my desk and he will come running in, grab my personal laptop that I leave on the ground for him, and just starting typing away. Even at 20 months he knows how to open the laptop, turn it on, and even plug the charger cord in. He wants to plug it into the wall to, but not until he is older. It is just so funny to watch the things he does as he learns new things. He wants to mimic everything he sees and be like everyone else.

Becoming a father is such an amazing gift. It is something that I hope all men someday have the chance to experience. It is one of the most trying things you will probably ever do but at the same time one of the most rewarding. I look forward to watching him grow up and become a young man, I just hope it does not happen too quickly. I want to enjoy every moment, for as long as I can.

Ryan


 

 

Raising a grandson

The real challenge in raising a grandchild after you’ve raised your own children is that sometimes you just want to scream, I have already done this once! But that doesn’t help the child.  So you wait for those moments when he surprises you with something that makes you proud. Like when he got the Assistant Principal’s Award for the student that showed the most growth socially and academically over his high school years. He was as surprised as we were. He wasn’t expecting any awards, other than an acknowledgement of his work in teen counsel.  He’s graduating from high school this month and plans to enlist in a branch of the service in September.  And that’s when you say to yourself, maybe he will make it after all.

Dale

Unlimited Gmail Addresses for Inbox Organizing

Did you know you can use unlimited email addresses in your Gmail account? I would be willing to bet a lot of you out there have a Gmail account.  In my opinion, Google’s Gmail is the best email client you can have.  Like so many other email providers, Gmail is free to sign up for and use.  It has many features that can be very helpful.  One of those features is the ability to use an unlimited number of email address for yourself.  I know this sounds far fetched but it’s true.  Let me explain.

By adding punctuation, like a period or plus sign anywhere in the front part of your address you can create an additional email address for your inbox.  The front part is anything in front of the @ sign.  By adding a period it will change your email address just enough that you can use a filter to move messages to that email address into folders or even directly to the trash. Here are a few examples of what I mean:

john.doe@gmail.com works just the same as johndoe@gmail.com. What’s more, you can add a plus sign and any word before the @ sign (e.g. johndoe+mostlikelyspam@gmail.com) and messages will still be sent to your inbox.

Now you may be asking, “Why in the world do I care that I can have unlimited email addresses”?  Well, the answer to that is simple.  Here are a few reasons why this can be a good thing.

The next time you sign up for a newsletter or a website makes you enter in your email address, use an address like johndoe+spam@gmail.com. That way, you can filter out everything sent to this address to a low-priority label or folder. There are a couple of different ways that Gmail allows you to mark messages as unimportant, or categorize them.

Depending on how in depth you would want to go, you could even add a specific word for everything you sign up for: johndoe+website1@gmail.com for example. This might eventually become more trouble than its worth, but it does give you the ability to know how many emails a certain provider is sending you or even if they are selling your email address.  You can also set up filters to send all of a particular email directly to a specific folder or straight to the trash.

There are many ways you can use this filtering to help keep your inbox more organized. I have only outlined a few, but the sky truly is the limit.

I hope you have found this interesting. If you’ve found another way this can be useful, let us know on one of our social media channels such as Twitter or Facebook.
Ryan Ash

 

Ryan Ash
Network Consultant
ryan.ash@customsystems.com

©Custom Systems Corporation 2015

 

Solid State: When a good SSD goes bad.

In July of 2013 I was looking to replace my traditional hard drive for new solid state (SSD) drive. I spent a lot of time reading reviews online, comparing performance and prices. Eventually, I decided to buy an OCZ Vector 256GB SSD. At the time, SSDs cost about $1 per gig, so I spent about $260. (You could buy the same drive now for almost half that – $130.)

Until recently, I was really enjoying my SSD drive: Windows booted in about 20 seconds, programs opened immediately, copying large files was very quick. To be fair, I put a LOT of wear and tear on the drive between installing/uninstalling, testing new software and tools, Visio changes, and creating a few blog videos. Plus I would often use the drive to copy data from another failed drive to a new one.
Then it happened: I was in the middle of a remote support session with a client when The Blue Screen of Death appeared. Embarrassed, I told the client I would call back in a few minutes. (Fortunately, I had a backup laptop, and was back to work in the time it took my old laptop to boot up.) Once the support call was complete and resolved, I set my attention on figuring out what went wrong with my primary work laptop.

The laptop rebooted fine (sigh of relief.) I had run a backup of my laptop only three days before, so I felt confident that if this turned out to be a hardware problem, I would still be able to restore my data to another drive or to another PC. Regrettably, I did not get a chance to read the error message that was displayed in the BSOD – which is usually a big help. Next step was to review any windows updates that were recently installed, and try to remember if I had manually installed any new programs or attached any new devices. The only suspect I could find was a video driver update. Instead of uninstalling it, I used System Restore to go back to the day just before the update was installed. After restore, the laptop seemed to work fine for a few days. Then I started to notice a few problems: boot-ups were taking considerably longer, the system would hang if I had more than three programs open, and things just seemed to take longer: opening and saving documents, etc. I never saw another BSOD, but I was beginning to get nervous anyway. So I found my original hard drive, used a drive replicator to copy my SSD back to the old hard drive and swapped out the drives. Since then, I haven’t had any problems. Yes, the laptop runs slower with the old hard drive – but at least now it is stable and not failing. Though Murphy’s Law says that my laptop will crash as soon as I post this blog.

I was aware that SSD’s have a limit to the number of times you can write to them, the OCZ Vector was a great SSD while it worked, and I plan to do some more testing on the drive/update firmware/call their support when I get time. All in all, I would say getting a good two years out of it is acceptable. But I am currently looking for a different brand. Let me know if you have any suggestions or questions.

 

Chase

Chase Reitter
Network Consultant
Custom Systems Corporation
chase.reitter@customsystems.com

©Custom Systems Corporation 2015