16 Sep

The Cool Chrome Function you Aren’t Using

Everything is wirelessly connected nowadays. If you can purchase a refrigerator that sends you a message when your vegetables are going bad, why can’t you stream the audio and video of your phone or desktop to your TV? It turns out you can, and Google just made it a whole lot easier. Let’s take a closer look at how Google Chrome is working to connect all your audio/visual hardware together with Chromecast.

 

In its earliest stages, ‘Casting’ allowed users to stream a device’s screen to a TV with a Chromecast wireless adapter plugged into the HDMI port. Soon after, Google released a second, updated model that added the possibility of connecting to audio-only devices via stereo cable and faster internal hardware to improve streaming to both TVs and stereo systems.

 

Regardless of which model you had previous to last month’s update, individual apps needed to include Casting functionality, and even Google’s own Chrome browser required downloading and installing an extension before users could get the most out of the service. As an industry leader in user experience and design, the engineers at Google knew this had to be fixed. Their solution was a no-brainer, and may even be sitting in your browser this very moment.

 

The Cast feature is now built directly into every updated version of the Chrome. Just click the three stacked lines that act as Chrome’s File menu and select Cast halfway down the menu. Click the arrow to the right of ‘Cast to’ and choose desktop, followed by which Chromecast device you would like to broadcast, and voilà — your computer’s desktop will be duplicated on your Chromecast-enabled TV.

 

Assuming you’re currently connected to a trusted wireless network, we invite you to give it a try right here and now. If you’re confused about why we would suggest such a thing when you haven’t had a chance to go out and buy the necessary hardware adapter, that’s because several big-name TV brands are now installing this functionality directly into their televisions. You may have had this feature all along without even knowing it!

 

Once you’ve mastered casting your screens and audio wirelessly, why not check out all the apps Google has highlighted specifically for this Chrome feature? From NFL streaming to slideshow production, the Play Store has everything you’re looking for to step up your casting game.

 

It’s amazing how something so useful and so accessible could go relatively unnoticed for so long. There are tons of wonderful and exciting features lurking around, even in software as ordinary as your internet browser. For IT solutions big and small, there’s only one number you need to know — and it’s right at the bottom of this page. Give us a call today at 1-866-BIT-WISE, or email sales@eitnetworks.net.

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07 Nov

Simple Tips on Wireless Security

Wireless technology has never been more popular, as evidenced by the vast number of wireless electronic devices that can connect to the Internet or local network. The freedom that this technology affords is quite appealing to most. It is liberating to access files, play music, watch videos, or communicate with others online without being tied down to one desk in your home or office. As with most technological conveniences, however, this freedom comes at a higher cost. With all of this information zipping back and forth through the air, how do you protect your network from hackers or nosy neighbors? Here are some simple steps to get started.

Note: This article is geared towards a home or small office network. Many of these ideas can be used for larger businesses, however.

1. Change the default username and password on your router

Routers come with a default username and password. Cybercriminals love default settings. Fortunately, changing the login info is easy. Just access your router (by using a web browser and the router’s IP), find the login settings, and change the defaults to something unique. Concerning the password, make it fairly complex (like bUnn1es@reCute1324). Internet villains have some powerful tools at their disposal, so do not make it easy for them. You probably will not access your router that often, in which case you will not have the chance to memorize your username and password. Therefore, make sure you write them down and store them someplace safe!

2. Change the SSID (also known as Wireless Network Name)

If your router uses a default SSID (like “linksys” or “netgear”), change it. The default Pre-Shared Key (PSK) may be based on this default name, making it easier for cybercriminals to break in. If they see a list of network names, they are more likely to try to hack the ones with a default name in hopes that the PSK has not been changed. If this is the case, the network name is essentially providing a portion of the wireless password, and the bad guys can run software that attempts to obtain the rest of it.

This step man not apply to newer routers that come with a unique SSID and PSK out of the box, but it will not hurt anything to change those as well. Also, if you set a long, complex PSK (see step 3 below), you will make it incredibly difficult to hack in, even if you are still using a default SSID, but if you can deter a hacker just by changing the SSID, why not do it? Another benefit of having a unique name is that it ensures you will not share a default SSID with a neighbor, which could cause confusion.

3. Enable WPA2 security and set a strong passphrase

This is probably already enabled on your router, as WPA2 has been around for quite some time, but you should check it to make sure. The older security protocols (WEP, WPA) have been around a lot longer and have some serious security flaws. WPA2 is not airtight, but it is the best option to use at the moment. Once you have enabled this feature, set a strong, unique PSK passphrase. As an example, something like “dGup@158$*Pld” would work splendidly. Just make sure you write it down and store it in a safe place!

This example may seem excessive, but a weak passphrase can be more easily cracked by a brute-force attack (using software that repeatedly tries various passwords until one of them works). It is best not to take chances when it comes to security. As always, changing your password/passphrase periodically is a good practice.

4. Update router firmware regularly

As routers age, they become more vulnerable to attacks. Router manufacturers issue firmware updates that can help make your router more secure, among other benefits. There is always a risk involved in updating firmware, however, but it is still a good thing to do. Never update firmware when there is an above-average risk that you may lose power, such as during inclement weather. Losing power during a firmware update could turn your router into what is fondly called a “brick.” Fortunately, firmware updates do not take long to apply, so the chances of losing power during that brief time is very slim. If you have any concerns, however, plug your computer and router into a UPS (uninterruptible power supply, not the shipping company….) before attempting a firmware update!

5. Disable WPS if not needed

Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) is a simple, convenient way to connect wireless devices to your network. On newer routers, you merely press a button on the router and a button on the device, and the router will automatically give the device a required 8-digit PIN; there is no setup involved whatsoever. Devices can only connect up to five minutes after the button is pressed, which makes it fairly secure. However, some older routers may not have this feature, which makes them susceptible to brute-force attacks. Using this method, a hacker can guess your PIN in less than a day.

There are differing opinions about WPS, but the general consensus is that it is best to disable it and set up your devices manually. This is more of a hassle, but it will undoubtedly make your network more secure. If needed, check with your router’s manufacturer to see what they have done to make WPS more secure, such as adding a lockout policy to combat brute-force attacks. Some companies have ditched the term “WPS” and have come up with something else that essentially does the same thing but with more security (such as QSS from TP-LINK).

6. Deny wireless devices access to router’s web-based utility

You do not want just anyone to make changes to your router. Go into your router’s web-based utility and find where you can change who has access. It may be in “Local Management” under the “Security” tab or something similar. Do not allow all computers on the LAN to access the router’s web-based utility. Instead, input the MAC addresses for the computer(s) you will be using for access, and only allow those computers access. A really good hacker can find a way around this, but the more roadblocks that are in the way, the safer the network is. The more steps a cybercriminal has to go through, the more likely he or she is to give up and move on to another network.

7. Disable UPnP

Universal Plug and Play is a feature that is on by default in most routers. The basic premise is that it allows programs on your computer to open ports, allowing for NAT traversal when needed. The problem is that UPnP has no built-in authentication, which could pose a security threat. For instance, if you get malware on your desktop, it could use UPnP to open a port indefinitely and send information to nefarious individuals. That could never be good! There is a lot more that can be said about UPnP, but it falls outside the scope of this article. Just know that it could be an issue. If you choose to disable it, and a needed program stops functioning, just utilize port forwarding for that specific program.

8. Ensure that your router cannot be accessed remotely

This option is usually off by default, but you might as well check it while you are changing settings on your router. It can usually be found under a tab named “Remote Management.” If enabled, it allows you to access your router’s web-based utility from any device with internet access and a web browser. You still have to input your password, of course, but it is just another way for unwanted guests to try to access your network. Also, chances are that you will never need this feature.

9. Place your wireless router near the center of your home/office

Unless your wireless network is located inside a huge faraday cage, you will probably end up with the signal bleeding out through the walls of your home or office. Placing your wireless router/access point at the center of your building, however, can lessen this problem. It may not be possible for everyone to do this, but if you do have the option, go for it! By the way, if your wireless network is inside a huge faraday cage, you can safely ignore this entire article….

10. Get a new wireless router

If you have an old router that does not utilize modern security protocols or for which the manufacturer no longer produces firmware updates, it may be time for an upgrade. Yes, this involves spending money, but it may be necessary to maintain proper network security. Unsupported routers are just like an operating system that is no longer supported by its maker; it becomes more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

Experts recommend replacing your router every 4-5 years, even if it seems to be functioning just fine. For one thing, it is better to replace it while it is working than to wait for it to quit and then have to buy a new one. When there is no rush, you can research routers to find the best option for your budget and network needs. If your router goes down, you will probably run down to the local Buy More (fictional) and hastily grab the first router you see!

There is a lot more that can be said about wireless security, but these are some simple changes you can implement to make it tougher for unwanted individuals to access your network. If you are interested in how EIT Networks can provide network security, 24/7 monitoring, and many other services for your business, call 1-866-BIT-WISE or email us at sales@eitnetworks.net.

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17 Oct

What in the World is VoIP QoS?

VoIP has become one of the most popular communication systems implemented in small to medium businesses. While there are many different systems out there offering different solutions and features one element you should really look into is what experts call QoS, or Quality of Service. Here is a quick overview of what QoS is and some important questions to ask potential providers.

What is QoS?

When you hear VoIP providers or IT experts talking about Quality of Service what they are referring to is the overall performance of a VoIP system or network. This performance is usually measured by what the end-users think of as the system’s performance and by looking at other statistics like bandwidth use, transmission (call) delay, error rates, etc.

Why is it important?

QoS is not just used for VoIP systems, in fact it has been something even traditional phone providers strive for. Think back to your original landline service, chances are that 99% of the time call quality was perfect, or near perfect. This is because traditional phone network providers invested in physical networks and connections that offer high QoS, all of the time. If you switch from one provider to another, there is a good chance that quality doesn’t change.

With these well established physical networks, you are going to have to pay more though. Most traditional phone systems are more expensive than VoIP, because the network providers have to physically maintain their transmission network (phone lines, switches, etc.). This high-maintenance cost is also the reason why there are only a couple of phone providers in your area – it’s just too costly for small companies to launch a traditional phone network.

The Internet, more specifically broadband connections, have enabled VoIP and therefore lead to a high number of VoIP providers, largely because you don’t need to own the transmission network (in this case the Internet) to launch a VoIP platform. Because of this, the QoS amongst providers varies drastically.

What this means for you is that you should be taking a provider’s QoS into account when looking for new VoIP systems. To help you ensure that you are getting the best possible, here are three questions you should ask each prospective provider:

1. How much of the network infrastructure your system uses do you own?

Almost every VoIP provider will rely at some point on public Internet in order to transmit their services. Essentially, the less infrastructure a company owns, the higher the risk that quality will be lower. Conversely, using more public systems means lower prices, so it really is a trade off you need to think about.

For businesses that rely on phone systems, one of the best options is to look for facilities-based providers. These companies own all, or most, of the network that carries VoIP calls and can therefore offer better services and quality.

2. How much traffic will run over public Internet?

This answer will vary amongst providers. Some of the most popular solutions amongst really small businesses and home users like Vonage will use almost 100% public Internet for their traffic. Other companies will use a mixture or public and private networks, often using public for more affordable services and private for high-end users.

For example, cable providers who offer VoIP calling will often use public Internet to carry lower-level traffic, while high-end business plans will often run on private networks. The reason to ask this question is because traffic that goes over public Internet networks will be subject to bandwidth sharing. If there is a high demand for bandwidth in the general area, call quality may drop.

3. What level of quality can you guarantee?

Good providers will be able to guarantee a QoS that is comparable, or even better, than traditional networks. This is especially important for businesses who are looking to switch to a full VoIP solution. What a provider should do is run a few tests on your network and then give you a quality assurance. If it is too low, then look for another provider.

Want to know more about how VoIP can benefit your business? Get in touch with us first at 1-866-BIT-WISE.

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22 Feb

Public Hotspot Security Tips

Connecting to wireless hotspots is common nowadays as people travel more, use more portable devices, and are allowed the freedom to work from anywhere. However they can be terribly unsecure. Here are tips you can use to securely connect to hotspots.

Wireless internet access, or WiFi, is now so common that it can be found virtually anywhere—in airports, shops, restaurants, and other public spaces. The near ubiquity of these wireless “hotspots” can be a great boon for many of us who need Internet access to check on emails for work or updates from friends on our favorite social network.

Unfortunately not a lot of people know about the risks these wireless hotspots potentially pose. Here are 8 ways to ensure you can surf securely from wireless hotspots:

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07 Nov

How To Optimally Position Your Wireless Router

The performance of a Wi-Fi home network greatly depends on signal strength of the wireless router or wireless access point(base station).

If a given wireless client falls out of range of the base station signal, obviously that network connection will fail or “drop.” Clients situated near the edge of the network range will likely experience intermittent dropped connections. But even when a wireless client stays within range consistently, its network performance can still be adversely affected by distance, obstructions, or interference.

To position your wireless equipment for optimal network performance, follow these guidelines:

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03 Nov

Public Wi-Fi Networks Pose Security Risks

These days, more and more people are on the go, and many of them bring their work with them. While connecting to public and open-access Wi-Fi hotspots is indeed convenient, using open networks also pose risks that endanger your security.

While connecting to public and open-access Wi-Fi hotspots is indeed convenient, using open networks also poses risks that endanger your security. The open nature that allows anyone to use the connection also enables unscrupulous people to gain access to your private information. The whole act of stealing information from people who are using public Wi-Fi networks is called ‘sidejacking’.

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31 Oct

Secure Wi-Fi Hotspot via Outsourcing

Allowing others to share your internal Wi-Fi connection may seem to be a cost-effective business solution, but it may also pose a serious threat to your business’s network security. Outsourcing your Wi-Fi is the best way to ensure that your network remains dedicated for business use while allowing clients to access a separate network for their own needs.

Many businesses have seen the demand for free Wi-Fi at their establishments jump drastically, as more and more people feel the need to be online as often as possible for personal and business purposes.

In response to this demand, one of the most common solutions is to allow clients and customers to use the business’s existing internal network. Some companies provide a password, while others simply leave the connection open to all. However, a better solution is to have an outsourced service or company provide the Wi-Fi hotspot you allow others to use for free.

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