A virtual private network (VPN) may confuse some people. At it's core, a VPN is a private network that is made available to authorized users from the internet. Examples of a private network would be the network at your work, at college, or government locations.

Those networks have internet access, but the internet does not have access to them, hence the term private network. The private network becomes virtual when you are able to access it from the internet. The internet still does not have access to the private network, but your computer does. As far as the private network is concerned, your computer connection is at work or school.

How does a It work?

When you connect to a VPN, you are connecting to a set of servers over the internet. This process is known as tunneling. Anything you do on the internet will go through these servers. All of this data is encrypted, which provides great privacy for you.

As far as your internet service provider knows, you're connecting to some IP address. They cannot see what the data is or anything.

Why Should You Use One?

The most important, and obvious, reason is security. As we stated above, all of your internet data is encrypted once you have created that tunnel. Hackers, for example, would not be able to intercept your internet browsing activity. Hackers will often attempt to do this when you use public WiFi in places like coffee shops and airports. If you make a purchase with your credit card on public WiFi, hackers could get a hold of your credit card number. This is why you should use a VPN.

A secondary benefit, which ties into security, is privacy. Because all traffic is encrypted, all data secure and private. What you search for, watch, read, or listen to is your own business. You ISP and hackers will not know what you are doing online.

VPNs will not, however, protect you from tracking by various website trackers, such as cookies.

VPN provides encryption to network traffic. It ensures the communication cannot be easily eavesdropped/tampered with by adversaries. It does not impact application features like cookies. So yes cookies can still be set on your browser if you are tunneled through VPN.

Ximning Ou from the University of Southern Florida

In order to prevent these tracking efforts, you can surf the web with your browser's incognito/private mode. Another option would be to install an extension that prevents this, like ghostery.

Another reason for using a VPN? Virtual locations. Many providers will have servers in multiple locations. This was an option many Netflix users chose to access content that was not available in their region. Just because content has a block in your country, does not mean it is in another country. All you need to do is tunnel into a VPN server in a country that does not have the block, and you will have access.

The same works in reverse too. For example, you're traveling out of the country but your bank blocks access to users outside of your homeland. You can use your VPN to tunnel to a server located back home to gain access.

On a side note, just because using VPN allows your to potentially bypass restrictions, do not forget you are still operating under your countries laws. VPNs will make you anonymous online, not invisible. If you start doing anything illegal or suspicious. Given enough time and resources, government agencies could, in theory, still find you.

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Choosing a Good VPN Provider

Today, there are tons of VPN providers to choose from. Some providers are great, some are not. Below are some things to consider when choosing a VPN provider:

  1. Security vs Cost
    • A general rule of thumb is that more security equals higher costs to the users. Most providers charging $4.99 to $12.99 a month will provide solid balance between cost and security. Stay away from free VPN providers, because they do not have your best interests in mind.
  2. Logging
    • Does the provider keep any logs of your activities? If yes, then this data could help identify you. If no, then you have an extra layer of anonymity while using their VPN service.
  3. IP Sharing
    • Does your VPN provider run multiple users through the same IP address or does each user get their own IP address? IP sharing provides extra protection to you the user. It is harder to identify you when your IP is not unique to you.
  4. Server Locations
    • Providers with more VPN server locations allow for more flexibility. This is especially true when you need to use a virtual location, as we mentioned above. Another benefit of more server locations is that you have more options to find the fastest connection in your area. More users connected to a server equals slower speeds.
  5. Multiple Device Support
    • There is a good chance that once you sign up for a VPN service, you will be using the service on multiple devices. Be sure to double check the device limit per account or service plan.
  6. IP Leaking
    • IP leaking occurs when your computer or device connects to the internet accidentally, instead of through the VPN service. VPN providers will not advertise this. While connected to your VPN provider's server, see if your actual IP address or your physical location shows up at IPLeak. If you see either of the two, you will want to invest in a different VPN provider.
  7. Software / Usability
    • For a lot of people, manually setting up a connection to a VPN provider is complicated. Many VPN providers minimize this with desktop software or mobile device apps that streamline the process for you. Is their application easy to use? Usability makes a huge difference in using a VPN service and ensure that you will want to still fork your money over each month for use.

What are the Drawbacks?

One of the biggest drawbacks is internet speed. Depending on the provider, you will see reduced internet speeds. Sometimes, the reduction is small, other times its large. It all depends on the number of users connected to the same server as you, the location of the server, and the providers setup. Longer distances between you and your VPN server means longer distances for data to travel in order to reach to the internet.

A secondary, and minor, issue is that when you use a VPN as a virtual location, you can see some issues while shopping. Say you live in the US, but have a connection through a tunnel in the UK. While shopping online, your pricing may show in pounds instead of US dollars. The simple solution is to use a server in your country while shopping online.

Final Thoughts

Using a VPN is becoming more of a necessity each day. The krack attack has proven that access to home WiFi traffic can occur. Connecting to a VPN service protects you from this vulnerability. Ensuring you have a good VPN provider will help ensure you are better protected.

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It is time to take a moment for a good old fashion Public Service Announcement. The New York Times posted an article a while back about fake tech support scams. These are not new and something we, here at QCTechJunkie, have been very much aware of. But, the article in The New York Times did provide some very interesting insights into the evolution of fake tech support scams. We strongly suggest you take a moment to read it. If you are pressed for time, here's are basic run down of fake tech support scams:

The "Classic" Routine

Everyone has experienced this routine. A window pops up onto your computer screen, usually while browsing the web. The screen tells you that your computer is infected and offers up some technical support to help resolve the issue, "just click here."

Over time this routine has evolved into various other routines. A chat window on a web page, an email, a phone call, a text message, and the list goes on. Everyone has or will experience one of these "alerts." We are here to tell you that 99% of the time, there is nothing wrong with your computer. Customer support or technical support will never, ever, call/email/text/pop-up you first. They will only contact you once you have contacted them first.

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Image: Microsoft

Take a moment to think about it, please. For example, Microsoft and Apple are huge companies with millions of customers. There is no financially sound, ethical, and, most likely, legal solution to monitor, report, and resolve issues of each individual customer's device. It is just just not possible. If something is wrong with your device, you will most likely know. And if you want help, then you will have to do the work to get help. Calling tech support, waiting on hold, explain the issue, explain your troubleshooting steps, and work through their troubleshooting steps.

Take the above photo from Microsoft. The scammer cannot even take the time to imitate Microsoft properly. It's a generic windows with a ton of "Scary" sounding words. That's a big red flag all in it's own.

What to should you do?

This is the most simple section for us to write... Just ignore it. Mark the emails as spam so it get's reported. Also, ignore unknown number phone calls, delete unknown number text messages, close the browser tab, the list goes on. Doing nothing and ignoring them is the best thing to do.

Deleting your personal data, like web searches, can be a daunting activity. You need to take it seriously. If you do not, then other people have the potential to find that data. Below, we break down how to better delete your personal data.

Smartphone or Tablet

We have all been here, you're selling an old phone or tablet, or donating it to someone or some place. Regardless, the device is will no longer be in your possession. Because of this you want to be 100% sure everything is gone from said device. No body wants to find out their Facebook account was accessed from an old device being used by someone else.

Thankfully, most smartphones have made it relatively easy to securely wipe data from them. As long as your data has been encrypted, your data is protected. Most Android and iOS devices are encrypted right out of the box. Because your data is encrypted, factory resets make it almost impossible for any data to be recovered. Here's how your factory reset your devices:

Android

  1. Go to Settings > System > Advanced > Reset >  Erase all data (factory reset)
  2. Tap through each confirmation prompt to confirm the factory reset.
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Image: QCTechJunkie

iOS

  • Navigate to Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings
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Image: QCTechJunkie

Note: For either device, make sure you have all of your photos, music, or anything else backed up and securely stored somewhere.

PC or Laptop

Windows and macOS make securely wiping your pc or laptop easier, and more secure, than it used to be. By default, Windows 10 does not encrypt your data. The upside, Windows 10 can securely erase your files during a reset. Meaning that recovery programs will not be able to grab any data after the reset.

Windows 10

  1. Go to Windows Settings > Update & Security > Recovery
  2. Click Get Started, under Reset this PC, and choose Remove Everything
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Image: QCTechJunkie

macOS

By default, OS X Yosemite and newer will encrypt Mac's with a tool called FileVault. Make sure this feature is running via Apple > System Preferences >Security & Privacy > FileVault. Enable this encryption if it is not already enabled. Once encrypted your data will be impossible to recover after a full reset.

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Image: QCTechJunkie
  1. Go to Apple > Restart
  2. Hold CMD + R as your computer restarts
  3. Choose Disk Utility from the options list and select your drive
  4. Click Erase
  5. Select Mac OS Extended (Journaled)
  6. Click Erase

Web Accounts

Going through every web account and how to delete it is an impossible task. Therefore, we can provide you with some general guidelines on what you should do though. Most websites will maintain your data, post delete, for 90 or more days.

Example Web Account: Facebook

  1. From your Facebook account, open Settings
  2. Click Your Facebook Information
  3. Optional: Click Download Info
  4. Click Delete Account
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Image: QCTechJunkie

Example Web Account: Google

Google maintains a lot of data about you. Thankfully they provide you that data via your My Activity page. From this page you can adjust various data logging levels by clicking Activiy Controls. Lastly, clicking Delete Activity will take you a page where you can choose what data you want deleted from your account. If you choose to delete everything, make sure to get a copy of your data from Google Takeout.

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Image: QCTechJunkie

Example Web Account: Apple

Apple also makes things pretty painless for deleting your data they have collected. Simply go online, sign into your Apple ID account, click Request to Delete Your Account, read through the disclaimer, and confirm your choice to delete the account.

Other Personal Data

PCs, laptops, phones, tablets, and social media accounts are not the only areas that have collected personal data from you. For example, smart home speakers, like Amazon Echo or Google Home, collect data on you as well. The data Google Home collects can delete be delete from the same My Activity page we wrote about earlier. Amazon will allow you to delete your Echo's voice recordings from your Amazon Devices page.

Cloud Storage services, like Dropbox, will probably keep copies of deleted files in case you need them at some point in the future. Features like this are great when you need to recover something you realize you still need. However, this feature is not great if someone gains access to your account, because they can easily go digging around and recover those files as well. In the end, if you have something sensitive that you need to delete, especially from cloud storage, you need to make sure it's actually deleted.

Example Cloud Storage: Dropbox

  1. If you haven't already, delete the files you want to permanently delete.
  2. From the file browser, click the trash can icon to show deleted files.
  3. Once you find the file or folder you’d like to permanently delete, hover your mouse pointer over the file or folder name, and check the checkbox that appears.
  4. Click Permanently delete.
  5. Click Permanently delete in the pop up that appears.

Example Cloud Storage: Google Drive

Unlike Dropbox, Google Drive allows you to permanently delete multiple files or all of your deleted files.

Empty your entire trash

  1. On your computer, go to drive.google.com.
  2. On the left, click Trash.
  3. Make sure there are no files you want to keep.
  4. At the top, click Empty trash

Delete an individual file forever

  1. On your computer, go to drive.google.com.
  2. On the left, click Trash.
  3. Click a file.
  4. At the top, click Delete forever .

Example Cloud Storage: OneDrive

OneDrive, like many cloud storage services, will store deleted files in a Recycle Bin. From there you can restore files, if you need to. You can select Recycle bin in the OneDrive left side navigation

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Image: Microsoft
  • To permanently delete specific files or folders from the recycle bin, select those items, then select Deletein the top navigation.
  • To permanently delete the entire recycle bin at once, select Empty recycle bin in the top navigation.

Regardless of the device or web account or service, it is always a good idea to make sure your data is deleted properly. We have only listed a handful of examples and how to delete your data properly. A simple web search should help you figure out the best route for deleting your data from whatever device, account, or service you use. If anything, you will learn more about the data you leave behind, something you do with out realizing it. Trust us, it's worth the extra effort to protect yourself and your data from leaking out into the wrong hands.

SplashData compiles over 5 million passwords, that have leaked online, from 2018. From that data, they are able to build a list of the top 25 most used passwords of 2018. The sad part? The top two passwords have been the same top two passwords for five years now. No one should ever use "123456" or "password" and yet millions of people do.

We will note that several of the top 25 passwords are repeats from previous years, though their use has varied from year to year. One upside to all this data? There are a few new passwords on the list.

Sorry, Mr. President, but this is not fake news – using your name or any common name as a password is a dangerous decision. Hackers have great success using celebrity names, terms from pop culture and sports, and simple keyboard patterns to break into accounts online because they know so many people are using those easy-to-remember combinations. Our hope by publishing this list each year is to convince people to take steps to protect themselves online,” Slain said. “It’s a real head-scratcher that with all the risks known, and with so many highly publicized hacks such as Marriott and the National Republican Congressional Committee, that people continue putting themselves at such risk year-after-year.

- Morgan Slain, CEO of SplashData

This list is to help raise awareness for internet users on adapting better security measure, like stronger passwords. Strong passwords do not guarantee better online safety, but they do increase it. If you use a password that is on this list, you are just asking to be hacked.

2018's 25 Worst Passwords

 1. 123456    - Unchanged
 2. password  - Unchanged
 3. 123456789 - Up 3 from 2017
 4. 12345678  - Down 1 from 2017
 5. 12345     - Unchanged
 6. 111111    - New for 2018
 7. 1234567   - Up 1 from 2017
 8. sunshine  - New for 2018
 9. qwerty    - Down 5 from 2017
10. iloveyou  - Unchanged
11. princess  - New for 2018
12. admin     - Down 1 from 2017
13. welcome   - Down 1 from 2017
14. 666666    - New for 2018
15. abc123    - Unchanged
16. football  - Down 7 from 2017
17. 123123    - Unchanged
18. monkey    - Down 5 from 2017
19. 654321    - New for 2018
20. !@#$%^&*  - New for 2018
21. charlie   - New for 2018
22. aa123456  - New for 2018
23. donald    - New for 2018
24. password1 - New for 2018
25. qwerty123 - New for 2018

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Nearly everything on the Internet starts with a DNS request. DNS is the Internet’s directory. Click on a link, open an app, send an email and the first thing your device does is ask the directory: Where can I find this?

Unfortunately, by default, DNS is usually slow and insecure. Your ISP, and anyone else listening in on the Internet, can see every site you visit and every app you use — even if their content is encrypted. Creepily, some DNS providers sell data about your Internet activity or use it target you with ads.

- Cloudflare

On April Fool's Day of 2018 Cloudflare announced their brand-new DNS service. The statement above explains the importance of having a good DNS service. Not all DNS providers are created equal. Cloudflare's DNS service is almost 20ms faster than Google's DNS service. We here at QCTechJunkie have updated all of our devices to use Cloudflare over Google. And there is no real reason why you should not at least try Cloudflare's DNS yourself.

One reason to use Cloudflare's DNS, over the one your ISP probably has you using, is for data privacy. According to Cloudflare:

We will never log your IP address (the way other companies identify you). And we’re not just saying that. We’ve retained KPMG to audit our systems annually to ensure that we’re doing what we say.

Frankly, we don’t want to know what you do on the Internet—it’s none of our business—and we’ve taken the technical steps to ensure we can’t.

Setup Cloudflare’s DNS

Setup is easy, as long as you know where to look. In fact Cloudflare will recognize the device you are on when you go to https://1.1.1.1/. From there they will provide you with basic instructions to setup up your device to use their service. But, why do that when we will cover the major four platforms for you right here:

Windows

  1. Click on the Start menu, then click on Control Panel.
  2. Click on Network and Internet.
  3. Click on Change Adapter Settings.
  4. Right click on the Wi-Fi network you are connected to, then click Properties.
  5. Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (or Version 6 if desired).
  6. Click Properties.
  7. Write down any existing DNS server entries for future reference.
  8. Click Use The Following DNS Server Addresses.
  9. Replace those addresses with the 1.1.1.1 DNS addresses:
    • For IPv4: 1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1
    • For IPv6: 2606:4700:4700::1111 and 2606:4700:4700::1001
  10. Click OK, then Close.
  11. Restart your browser.

MacOS

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Search for DNS Servers and select it from the dropdown.
  3. Click the + button to add a DNS Server and enter 1.1.1.1
  4. Click + again and enter 1.0.0.1 (This is for redundancy.)
  5. Click + again and enter 2606:4700:4700::1111 (This is for redundancy.)
  6. Click + again and enter 2606:4700:4700::1001 (This is for redundancy.)
  7. Click Ok, then click Apply.

Android

  1. From your Android’s app list, open the Settings app.
  2. Under the Wireless & networks section, tap Wi-Fi,
  3. Long press your preferred network in the list until a context menu appears.
  4. Tap the Modify network, then tap Advanced options.
  5. Tap Advanced options, then tap IP Settings.
  6. Change Dynamic to Static.
  7. Using your router’s configuration, enter your device’s IP address and gateway.
  8. Tap the DNS field, then erase the number in the field.
  9. In the DNS 1 field, enter 1.1.1.1
  10. In the DNS 2 field, enter 1.0.0.1 (This is for redundancy.)
  11. Tap Save.

iPhone

  1. From your iPhone’s home screen, open the Settings app.
  2. Tap Wi-Fi, then tap your preferred network in the list.
  3. Tap Configure DNS, then tap Manual.
  4. If there are any existing entries, tap the - button, and Deletenext to each one.
  5. Tap the + Add Server button, then type 1.1.1.1
  6. Tap the + Add Server button again, then type 1.0.0.1. This is for redundancy.
  7. Tap the + Add Server button again, then type 2606:4700:4700::1111. This is for redundancy.
  8. Tap the + Add Server button again, then type 2606:4700:4700::1001. This is for redundancy.
  9. Tap the Save button on the top right.

Home Setup

If you want to make things easier for all your devices on your home network, you can configure your router to use Cloudflare's DNS. Doing this will eliminate the need to configure each device on your home network. Below is the general setup for most routers:

  1. Connect to your preferred wireless network.
  2. Enter your router’s gateway IP address in your browser.
  3. If prompted, fill in your username and password. This information may be labeled on the router. Default username and passwords can be found here.
  4. In your router’s configuration page, locate the DNS server settings.
  5. Write down any existing DNS server entries for future reference.
  6. Replace those addresses with the 1.1.1.1 DNS addresses:
    • For IPv4: 1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1
    • For IPv6: 2606:4700:4700::1111 and 2606:4700:4700::1001
  7. Save your settings, then restart your browser.

Note: Configurations for your router maybe different, consult your routers owners manual for more information.

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Password managers are great for everyone. They can help generate stronger passwords and keep track of them for you. But, many password managers do more than that. 1Password is our prefered password manager, but Lastpass work great too! Both of these programs can also double as a digital safe box too.

Why You Should Use One?

First off, you should already be using one. If not, then you need to get one. You should be storing all of your usernames and passwords for all of your online accounts in a password manager.  No two passwords should be the same. Additionally, you should be storing all of your "truthful" security question answers as well.

Your online passwords and answers are not the only thing you can and need to keep secure. You can store Wi-Fi passwords in your password manager too. Here some additional items, not a complete list, you can store in your password manager:

  • Animal Vaccination Records
  • Driver's License Information
  • Passport Information
  • Credit Card Information
  • Insurance Policy Documents

Information to Store In Your Password Manager

  • Employment/Work Information - Keep your username and password stored securely, no question there, but other work documents can be securely stored as well. Keep your company's 401(k) account information and health insurance information securely stored in your password manager as well.
  • Medical Records  - Having your medical records on hand is a huge deal, you never know when you will need them. The problem is you want to keep that information secure. You can scan documents, medical cards, prescriptions, and any other information that is relevant to your health. Store those items under a personal information folder in your password manager.
  • Children’s Online Accounts - Kids will not be able to remember passwords for their online accounts or school. You can store these in your password manager as well. Many password managers will even let you tag entries, so you can label the ones for your kids.
  • Proof of Purchases - Keeping receipts for purchases come in handy when disaster strikes. Other times, you will need proof come tax day when writing off an expanse. If you have a physical copy of a receipt, take a picture or scan it. From there upload the file to you password manager. You can also store emailed receipts by saving them as a PDF and uploading them to your password manager too.
  • Wi-Fi Information - Every now and then you probably have had to restart or reset your home router. Sometimes this can set the router back to the default settings, including the account to access the device to make changes. Store this info in your password manager. Bonus points if you store a backup configuration file of your router's setup for easy resets. With a backup file you can just import all of your carefully crafted settings.

This list is not all encompassing. But, they can give you an idea of all the ways you can use your password manager to store important information.

Sharing Password Manger Information

Undoubtedly, some of the passwords for you accounts will be for accounts others in your household will need to use. Router credentials, the account for utilities, maybe even Netflix login information. Sharing this information is important, especially when you use long complex passwords. Here are the basics of sharing information in Lasspass and 1Password:

  • Lastpass - Anyone you share Lastpass information with needs to have a free Lastpass account. After that all you need to do is navigate to the Sharing Center. Follow the steps one by one and you will have data shared in no time. You can choose to share the actual password or not as well. No real options out side of that. Users can view the info and that's it.
  • 1Password - Sharing in 1Password is a little more robust than Lastpass. In 1Password you have vaults and you can create as many as you like. You can also share vaults and this is where the benefits come into play. You can make a vault that is nothing but username and password information of account you will always share. Anything you do not want to share, put that information in a different, private, vault. Share vaults can have different access rights, from view only to full control. Full control can allow other users to add additional accounts the vault or update account information.

Connected devices in our home is common place, and the number of those connected devices in our home is growing. This means there are a growing number of opportunities for someone to access your home network and your devices on that network. Because of this we want to take a moment to go over some steps you can take to help make your home's smart devices safer and more secure.

Please keep in mind there is an ever growing array of smart home devices, we cannot go over specifics for each gadget. One general rule of thumb is to go through the device's documentation for initial security precautions. If your device does not have a guide, double check the manufacture's website.

Keep Your Gadgets Up to Date

Windows and macOS do a great job and downloading and installing updates. Most smart home gadgets do not. There are many reason why this could be or by default the devices does not need internet access, just access to devices on your home network.

This, ultimately, means it is on you to keep track of devices updates. This can be a pain when you have a lot of devices to deal with, but it is worth it in the end in order to safe guard your home network and the devices connected to it. Checking for updates for your smart devices can happen through the smartphone app for the device, if there is one, or by checking the manufacturer's website.

For a lot of smart home devices, updates will not release on a regular basis, unless a security exploit crops up. So, setup a schedule to sit down and run through checking for updates on all your devices. Doing this, at least, once a month is a good starting point.

If your smart home device does have an update, it could take a few steps to install. Some devices require you to connect it to your computer, which are usually for devices that do not have access to the internet. Other devices will allow you to update them via Bluetooth with an application on your phone.

An update routine extends to all of your electronics in your home, not just smart devices. Check for updates for you computers, phones, TVs, sound bars, and especially routers. Routers these days are doing better at alerting you an update is available, provided you log into their admin page. Most manufacture websites will tell you if there are updates and how you can update your devices.

Review Your Device Security Settings

Technology today is very much set it and forget. It is very nice to get up and running with new devices and then never have to worry about them. But, often some of the default settings can be too relaxed on security. We recommend that if your device has a settings menu, that you go through each option. If there are settings you are not familiar with, then check the manufactures websites for a better explanation on what the setting does.

Some key settings to look out for:

  • Internet access
    • If the device does not really need an internet connection run and does not have a check or auto update function, disable it's internet access. Only give it access when you know an update is available.
  • Password for Settings Menu / Access
    • If the device has the option to create a password to get into the settings menu or to use the device, make sure to set a password. Do not make it something easy to guess. Password managers can help out here.
    • Also, if the device already has a password to access it, change it. Default passwords for various devices have a long history of being documented online.

Once again, this routine should extend to all of your household devices. If the device or account to access your device offers two-step verification, enabled it. Also, if your device sends you notifications, like a security camera, to an email account, make sure you have a strong password for that email account. If a hacker gains access to your email, they could potentially see security snapshots and be able to determine when you are home or not.

Be Smart When Buying Gadgets

Sticking with bigger name companies for your smart home gear does have it's benefits, even though they cost more. Samsung and LG can still be hacked just as the next company, but they at least have the resources to fix flaws in their devices if one  is found. Newer or smaller companies, though having cheaper devices, may not ever fix found flaws or support could hard to work with when you run into issues. Devices that do not have a clear way of getting a hold of support is usually a sign that they probably will not fix security flaws in their devices.

In this day and age, we see many innovating smart devices, thanks to sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Always do your research when buying into these products. Look into the company and see what security measures they have in place for the device you are thinking of purchasing.

Keep in mind many new companies have a habit of starting out with a bang but then disappearing just as fast as they exploded onto the market. The last thing you want is a smart lock or voice-activated device, that does not function anymore.

Keep It In The Family

Because of the reasons stated above, it is best to get devices that all fall under the same umbrella. By limiting the number of smart home platforms you install in your home, you limit your exposure to attacks. Some smart home umbrellas include:

Once you have picked a system, we recommend you find products that work within that system. Some systems, like Samsung SmartThings and Google Home, will work with each other. But, that is not always the case.

Now, if you already have a miss mash of smart home devices, trying to get your setup under one or two umbrella's could prove difficult. Luckily, BullGuard’s Internet of Things Scanner is handy at helping to determine if any of your smart home devices are on the Shodan site. Shodan is a search site that scans the internet for any network device that is publicly accessible. Basically, if you find one of your devices is listed on that site, then someone could hack into it, so disconnect that device from the internet immediately. Then, check for updates and your security setting for that device.

Pay Attention to Your Router

The router in your home is the gate keeper to everything connected to the internet in your home. Smart devices, computers, mobile phones, game systems. Keeping it secure is the key to improving your home network security. The big three things you need to do are:

  1. Make sure the router's firmware is up to date
  2. Change the default username and password for the settings menu to something other then the default password and username.
  3. And let your devices connect to the internet only if they need to.

For example, you have a Roku plugged into your TV. The TV may have smart features as well, but they will not be as useful as the Roku is. Because of this, your TV does not need to be connected to the internet, at least not all of the TV. Remember today's TVs will get firmware updates that might fix issues, so it's good to have it connect to the internet every now and then to check for updates.

One special note about all devices that need internet access, be cautious about devices that prompt you to automatically configure your router for you. They do not need access to do that, so do not give that device the username and password to your router's settings menu. Additionally, most router's these days have a list of devices that are connected to your router, which you can control internet access too or block from your network.

Upgrade Your Router If It's Old

Router's are getting better at keeping themselves up-to-date, but you still have to do some manual work. But, if you find that your router is not getting updates or the last update is already years old, it might be time upgrade. Today, many routers are built with smart home security in mind. Many will monitor your device's network traffic and will block common routes used by hackers and malware. Some will even go as far as blocking devices that appear to have poor security settings. Two routers we recommend, that have these features, are the Asus Blue Cave ($170) or the Luma Whole Home WiFi (3-Pack) ($135). If you rent a router from your Internet Service Provider, make sure to ask them for an upgraded router. But really, you're better off using your own router.

Buy a Network Security Device

There are also devices you can purchase that are dedicated to just monitoring your smart home for vulnerabilities. These are nice options if you do not want to  upgrade your router. Some of these devices are:

We will note that a lot of these devices have not ample third party testing. So, the claims made by the manufacture are just that, with no solid user proof to back them up. You are more then welcome to try them out, bu do so with caution. If you are using a device listed above, then leave some comments below on your experiences.

In the end, the best protection of your devices is to keep them up to date. Check for software/firmware updates, password protect them, if available, and make sure they are hard passwords.

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When signing up for online bank accounts, new email addresses, or health insurance accounts, they all ask you or force you into using security questions to add an extra layer of protection to your account. The problem is that most these security questions are not very secure. The most common question is "Your mother's maiden name" and one that is easy to guess or research. In fact, if someone gains the correct access to your personal information, it can affect you credit score.

With that, we urge everyone to take matters into your own hands and make security questions more secure. How do you do that? Well, security questions often ask you questions about your life. This is information anyone can potentially figure out from your social media accounts or data breaches, like the Equifax hack. With all of that data online, figuring out the first car you bought, street you lived on when you were a kid, or favorite hobby can be easy. Basically, answering truthfully is a bad idea. Below is the best suggestion to make security questions more secure for you.

Lie

Seriously, just flat our lie on the answers. First car? List your favorite plane, boat, or motorcycle. First grade teacher? Use the name of your favorite pet or the most disagreeable phrase to describe your first grade teacher, like garbage dump. The point is, as long as the data is not common knowledge, something not searchable online or via your social media, it's a good answer. Incorrect answers are inherently more secure than truthful answers.

Keeping Track of the Lies

Here's the problem with using incorrect answers, it can be hard to keep track of all of those answers. We use 1Password to store all our passwords and security answers here in our daily lives. A password manager is an essential tool in today's world, assisting you in storing all of you passwords securely and helping you to create more secure passwords. Honestly, if you have a password manager, have it generate your "incorrect" security question answers. #$Adke@A is a much harder answer to guess than Jennifer, even though neither are the actual name of your high school prom date.

But what about security questions that have canned answers? Well, you still lie! Just note those answers in your password manager. If they give you an option to create a custom answer in addition to canned answers, then choose that option and create your random answer.

Stay safe out there!

Your Synology NAS comes with web hosting features. With Web Station you can easily host and publish your own website with Virtual Host support and additional HTTP/HTTPS settings for each single instance. You can also select the back-end server and PHP settings for each Virtual Host created. This allows you to create dynamic, database-driven websites for your personal use or business.

The problem users might run into with running WordPress on Synology, is folder permissions. By default, the Synology packaged version of WordPress will work just fine. But if you run multiple versions, you will get alerts to setup FTP settings in order to download, install, and update your WordPress plugins, themes, and core updates.

Never fear, I have a solution. Just follow the simple steps below.

1. Enable Terminal / SSH on Synology

Enable via Control Panel > Terminal & SNMP > Terminal. This allows your Synology NAS to support Telnet and SSH command-line interface services. You can also change the security level of the SSH encryption algorithm.

To enable Telnet/SSH service:

  1. Check the box next to the desired protocol (SSH or Telnet).
  2. Click Apply.

2. Log Into Synology via Terminal with Root Access

For system security reasons, Synology limted access to root. If you need to get the root permission, you will need to log in to your DSM in the command line interface , via PuTTY with any account credentials belonging to the Administrators group, and then run the sudo -i command to switch to root access.

Below is an example of the steps to get root access to a Synology NAS:

  1. Launch PuTTY to connect to the server of which the IP address is "192.168.xx.xx".
    ssh 00
  2. login as: admin: "admin" account belongs to the Administrators group on the server "192.168.xx.xx".
  3. admin@192.168.xx.xx's password: Enter the password of "admin".
    ssh 01
  4. admin@Jettlee:~$ sudo -i: Run the sudo -i command, and you may see a default message concerning user's privacy.
  5. Password: Enter the password of "admin" again.
    ssh 02
  6. root@Jettlee: You are now logged in with root permission.
    ssh 03

3. Update WordPress Folder Permissions

Synology Web Station uses a special HTTP user for it's default web folders, including it's WordPress package. If you create your own folders, like for multiple WordPress sites, the system will use your permissions instead. This is what causes the issues with installing/updating plugins, themes and WordPress. Now that you are logged into your Synology via Terminal/SSH, you can navigate to the systems WEB folder and update all of your WordPress folders and files.

Below is an example of the steps to update your WordPress folder Permissions:

  1. cd /volume1/web
  2. dir
  3. chown -R http:http [wordpress site folder name]
  4. chmod -R 775 [wordpress site folder name]

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Continue to use the above steps for all of your WordPress folders. This will effectively resolve the issues with WordPress prompting you to setup FTP in order to install/update plugins, themes, and WordPress.

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