by Dan Butler
17 May 2007
Last issue we talked about routers in general and default
passwords in particular. The advice to change your default
password carries over to everything you do. Bank accounts,
online accounts, email accounts, your ISP account and many more.
Always change the default password in any account. You should
also consider your PIN numbers as passwords and change those
People have been asking me how secure credit and account
information is online. I still feel that online data is in
general more secure than offline data. Why? It is a numbers
game. How many people online know how to steal your data? A
bunch. How many people offline know how to steal your data? Many
The difference is volume. An online theft can contains thousands
of accounts at once.
The other major difference is how the stolen data is used.
When your card information is stolen offline it has a higher
chance of being used. Since you will not hear about the “major
security breach” it can be more difficult to figure out where
and when your data was stolen.
I posted three security and privacy related items on the blog
recently. One shows you a graph of the major breaches and number
of compromised accounts. Very interesting. Second some
observations on new laws in Florida concerning selling used
music CD’s. The third talks about the TSA laptop theft. Stop by
and share your comments:
This issue Al Gordon reminds me of an article he wrote on how to
secure your wireless network. It complements the article from
last issue. That article is reprinted below.
Next I mentioned a book review last issue and the review never
made it! Oops. That is below also.
Watch for an email soon with details on the Identity Theft
conference call. We will answer your questions in detail and
help you lay a foundation to protect your identity online and
off. The call will be free.
Thank you for reading.
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Note: Al gets a little technical in this article. Don’t worry it
isn’t that bad and he does talk about some things you need to
know if you have a wireless Internet connection. – Dan
*Fighting Wireless Traffic Congestion (by Al Gordon)*
It probably wouldn’t surprise you to hear that there was traffic
congestion in your neighborhood, or that you had nosey or
freeloading neighbors. It might be a little surprising to learn
that this was happening with your wireless computer network.
Wireless wonders are proliferating in the home and office like a
herd of silicon-based bunnies. Cordless telephones. Wireless
intercoms and baby monitors. Cordless headphones. Wireless
keyboards and mice. Cordless weather centers. Wireless doorbells.
For more details and photos, please see my supplemental page:
On top of which comes the spectacular growth of wireless computer
networking. Like so much in the realm of technology, wireless
started out as a rare and expensive product and quickly became
cheap and widespread. So prevalent, in fact, that the market
already is moving from its initial technology (called “802.11b”)
to a newer version (“802.11g”) that is about five times faster.
(There also are “802.11a” products aimed mainly at corporate
All of these cordless and wireless devices are basically little
two-way radios. Problem #1 is that many of them are occupying the
same set of radio frequencies and interfering with each other.
Problem #2 is that, as with all radio transmissions, anyone with
the right electronic equipment can pick up the signal.
Eric Deming, a Belkin Corporation product manager responsible for
their networking products, says that wireless traffic congestion
“is a problem we see coming, especially from cordless phones.”
Whatever device “has the stronger signal will drown out” other
equipment, he said.
I found this out myself while testing networking products and
experiencing connection problems. A check with wireless
monitoring software disclosed to my astonishment that at various
times of the day, I was picking up more than a dozen other
networks in my condominium building. And some of them had signals
almost as strong as my network’s. Two years ago, I had the
airwaves almost all to myself.
What do you do to deal with the traffic?
The first step, say the experts, is to find the best possible
location for your primary wireless transmitter, called an “access
point.” Most consumers use a “wireless router,” in which the
access point is built into a network “router,” a device that
manages traffic on your network. The access point should be in a
place that’s central to where you will be working, but as far
away as possible from sources of interference. In a home, that
mainly means cordless phones and also microwave ovens.
The next step is to actually read the instructions for your
access point/router and learn how you change its settings. For
virtually all consumer equipment this is done by using your
Internet browser to connect to a control panel built into the
access point. When you get there, you will see that device can be
set to various channels, 1-11. By default, most are set to 6 or
11. So you want to put your access point on another channel – #1
is best, because it has no signal overlap with 6 or 11.
If all that fails, you can add more access points or high-
sensitivity antennas to your network to boost signal strength.
But try the placement and channel-changing techniques first
before you spend the money on additional equipment.
Once you have learned how to change your wireless settings to
improve performance, you want to move on to deal with snoopers
and freeloaders. Another thing that shocked me when I detected
those dozen other nearby networks was that two-thirds of them
were totally unsecured — no encryption (encoding of your
transmissions), not even a change in the factory-provided network
name (called a “SSID,” it usually is initially set to the
manufacturer’s name). You want to change the network name to
something that will let you distinguish it from the others, and
you want to turn on data encryption.
Without encryption, anyone can intercept your data. More
important — because it happens more frequently — anyone can use
your network to get Internet access. Were I less scrupulous, I
could be using one of those other networks in my building instead
of paying a service provider. So unless you have some burning
desire to provide free Internet service for your neighborhood,
secure your system.
(c) Al Gordon.
In addition to his computer interests, Al Gordon is a principal
in the Boston-area strategic consulting firm, Mary Fifield
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My favorite way to look up personal information about myself and
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Get past that and you will find a useful service.
BANABU is 11 simple principles you can start using immediately
and easily share with others. I started applying these
principles earlier this year with myself and my family. We’ve
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Find out what BANABU stands for and discover more here:
Copyright 2007 Dan Butler
All Rights Reserved.
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