Protecting Data From External Attacks

Stop and read this before you make a mistake


Wannacry, Jaff, Cryptolocker, and many many more belong to a category of hacking tools called ransomware. This software works by infiltrating your system via a infected Word document, an image using steganography, a corrupt media file, or a host of other ways.

This works by using encryption algorithms that encrypts all of the data in your hard drive. More over, it also can encrypt data on ANY drive that you may be connected to. This includes USB thumb drives, attached hard drives (whether via USB or network connection), and any cloud connected drives such as Box, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or any other similar service.

So how do you protect yourself? Technology professionals know to use tools like Ghost, EaseUS, Acronis, or backup software like Crashplan, Carbonite, or even Backblaze can be used to take the data off of your hardware and place it on to either a local hard drive or some cloud based host.

Your data is protected with these tools because the imaging and cloning tools, essentially take a real time picture of your hard drive, store on the connected storage device that you then disconnect when the process has finished.

Yes these tools take a significant amount of time to run based on your drive size. Since many people have 1 terabyte or larger drive in their desktop, all-in-one, or laptop, you can start this process before going to bed at night. First make sure that you have setup your system not to go to sleep during the imaging process. Then follow the directions provided with the product you are using. Some products are free to use for personal use while others may run into hundreds of dollars but provide online data storage with its plan.

Before you disconnect the attached or networked drive, take the time to test your image/backup to insure it is holding data in a valid form. Once you have done this, you should make a hash of the data and I will cover that in a later piece. It is imperative for your data’s safety and your own sanity that the data you have stored on the drive is perfect. Any number of things can cause this data to become corrupt.

This is why I always suggest making a copy of your image and storing it someplace away from the location of the machine. What were to happen if your laptop and backup drive were stolen from your home? You would lose the original data plus the backup that you have just created. If your data is stored at some other location, they may get the laptop but you can replace that and then restore from your image, backup.

This goes for those of you with Windows systems, Mac systems, and even Linux systems.

This will be continued later this week….

Time to talk Windows 10

No Windows 10 icon from BetaNews.com

No Windows 10 icon from BetaNews.com

Julie Andrews famous song from the Sound of Music starts with “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start” and this is where I am at…starting at the very beginning.

Microsoft is touting all the greatness of Windows 10. They say it is more secure and it is more useful than previous versions but in reality, Windows 10 is nothing more than Windows Vista. Technically it is Windows version 6.4 and Vista is 6.1. That tells you that they put lipstick and mascara on a pig and called it your date to the prom. Whether or not you accept it as a date is entirely up to you.

And this is why I write this…to help you make an educated decision about either upgrading to Windows 10 or if you are already there with Win10, I can help you lock it down to limit Microsoft (and it’s partner’s) ability to spy on you.

Two things to remember while you go through this…one–Microsoft is in business to make money and not to provide you with the best or even a workable operating system. Two–you cannot trust everything you read, hear, or are handed by a for-profit company.

No–this is not paranoia but truth. Each publicly traded company’s first responsibility is to its investors…not to its customers or its employees.

So with that stated…I will start walking down the Windows 10 road during this next week. It’s my way of saying thank you for reading this.

Do you really need an 802.11AC wireless router for your home/home office?

802.11ac is the newest wireless networking standard on the market.

802.11ac is the newest wireless networking standard on the market.

They are here and on shelves everywhere… and they are the newest standard for 802.11AC wireless routers for home and small business.

Outside of having the standard set of rules for WEP, WPA, WPA2, and WPS encryption modes, it adds a stronger security framework. Take the Asus RT-AC66R WiFi router, available in most stores for around $200 (the price you pay may vary from $295 down to $165).

This particular router does stateful packet inspection, detects denial of service attacks, provides access control, parental control, network service filter, URL filter, and a port filter. All of these security features have to be understood by the end-user, though, in order to be effective.

Asus  RT-AC66U

Asus RT-AC66U

So why would the average user run out and buy one of these new devices? The answer is plain and simple and the same reason why so many people want a Bugatti over a Yugo–speed! Yes…the maximum theoretical speed of an older 802.11g wireless router is around 54Mbps. This is fast enough for most loading content from most web sites or to view streaming media over an Internet connection.

An 802.11N wireless router will get your data transferred over your home network’s connection at speeds around 100-150 Mbps throughput. To give you an example of how fast that is, consider downloading the latest drivers for your computer from the manufacturer’s website. There is a 250 MB file and your average download speed on the connecttion to the manufacturer’s FTP server is somewhere between 1-2 Mbps. If this were a straw being used to slurp down a shake, then think of it as you are using 1/64th of the straw for the shake and the other 63/64 parts are empty waiting for another shake, a soda, some beer, or whatever it is you wish to fill that up with.

That is one way of looking at bandwidth.

The reason why it is so much faster is that 802.11AC uses up to eight (8) MIMO (multiple in/multiple out) connections and each connection utilizes up to 180MHz per connection. Couple this capacity with using 256-QAM, a method for twisting the signals so that they can handle 256 different different signals that are being twisted/manipulated of each of these 256 streams and you come up with the capability of hitting close to 7Gbps bandwidth. To give you an idea of what that is, if you paid a small fortune and ran fiber optic data lines inside your home, you will be using close to 10Gbps and that is maximum theoretical speed.

If you home cable modem tops out at 20Mbps then that leaves a large amount of bandwidth of your network untouched. And since, right now, nothing inside your laptop, desktop, tablet or smart phone can come close to using all of that bandwidth, and given that the full potential of this technology has been touched, we have a ways to go before this is going to be incorporated in your computer or personal device.

Currently the Asus RT-AC66R is one of the fastest AC standard routers on the market and it tops out at speeds between 1300 and 1700 Mbps. This is a long way away from its maximum potential of 8 MIMO streams at 180MHz but instead it currently is using 4 MIMO streams at approximately 80 MHz for a combined total of 1750 Mbps. The limits now are the routers and the wireless cards in our computers and smart phones.

So do you need one of these devices? Maybe not now. Most of the best uses for this bandwidth will occur within the local network as the end user begins transferring video and photo files from one machine to another and the realization that what today takes 45 minutes to move will take approximately five minutes in the next two years or so. Right now, AC wireless cards are planning on being used in notebooks, desktops, and smart phones sometime in 2014 and 2015. So save your dimes, save your time and learn how to use a cable connection on your laptop to take advantage of the next to 3 Gbps data transfer speeds of a hard wired network connection.

If you have questions, let me know!

When is enough access for electronics companies?

It started with Netscape 2. You would visit a site and in order to remember your settings and other information that would be annoying to reenter over and over again, so the web site would place a cookie on your computer which stored all the details of your previous visit(s).

Then came tracking beacons and phone home applications that were placed on your computers. Now we have the case of Amazon’s reading device, the Kindle, which not only tracks your reading habits; it’s not happy enough with that ability. Now Amazon has the ability to remove content it does not think you should have.

Today, MSNBC has a story¬†about a 17 year old advanced placement class student who lost all of his work and his copy of George Orwell’s 1984 when Amazon discovered that it had been selling an illegal (pirated) version of 1984. While it is not the teen’s fault that Amazon was lazy in checking the authority of the person offering the electronic copies of the novel for sale, it is also not up to Amazon to simply turn on its tracking devices and wipe the book off of you e-reader.

What bothers me is the level of control companies have over our lives. OnStar can turn off your car while you’re driving it. Microsoft has the ability to turn off your PC while you are using it. Music “rental”..ahem subscription sites, remove your ability to play music that you have paid them for. Other sites, like Yahoo music, go out of business and then turn off their authentication servers which prevent you from playing back material that you have paid for and thought you had every right to listen to.

The truth is, since Microsoft came up with the idea of licensing, your ability to enjoy media in a format that you have paid for has been significantly diminished. Media companies have retained more control than ever over your movies, music, and reading material. If you want to break this trend, you’re going to have to sacrifice.

Quit buying entertainment. Quit going to the movies. Quit wasting your money supporting businesses just because you might like what they have to offer. When you make a purchase you are supporting their bad policies that make honest people into criminals.