Why use a VPN on Public Wi-Fi Networks

Ithaca is a traveling community. The vast majority of our student population travels to and from Ithaca. Our business community and many individuals travel regularly for business. Virtually everyone who travels with a laptop, pad, or other mobile device usually ends up on some type of public Wi-Fi network. Getting to your data without exposing your private information to others takes effort. VPN technology is a good solution. The VPN discussed here is from Norton, but there are many other good ones as well.

If you’ve ever wondered if it’s safe to use public Wi-Fi, you are not alone. In fact, according to the Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report, 6 in 10 consumers believe using public Wi-Fi is riskier than using a public restroom. And it is. Surfing the Web or transacting on an unsecured Wi-Fi network means you’re placing your private information and anonymity at risk. That’s why a virtual private network, better known as a VPN, is a must for anyone worried about online security and privacy.

What is a VPN?

A virtual private network gives you online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network from a public Internet connection. VPNs mask your Internet protocol (IP) address so your online actions are virtually untraceable. Most important, VPN services establish secure and encrypted connections, guaranteed to provide greater privacy than even a secured Wi-Fi hotspot.

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Researchers Discover a bug in WiFi Encryption

Nearly everyone with a laptop, "pad" or smartphone regularly uses public and private Wi-Fi access points. Many have what's called WPA2 Security on them. We all dutifully setup a relatively complex password to get on these WiFi systems. Once done, our machines automatically connect to these networks when we're in range.  Perfect, easy, and secure - well not quite.

Several months ago, a vulnerability in WPA2 was discovered. Most of the big guys (Microsoft, Apple, etc.) quicly patched their operating systems, some even before the WiFi access point manufacturers. If your systems were automatically updated, you were likely fine. The non-technical press recently caught on to what's been going on and the articles started flowing and so did the phone calls and emails to us about the condition of clients WiFi systems. 

This article from the FTC does a good job of reviewing the issue in a non-technical fashion. Be cautious as always about how you access WiFi networks, particularly public ones.

You’ve read recent news stories about a vulnerability discovered in the WPA2 encryption standard. (Some reports refer to it as KRACK – Key Reinstallation Attack.) Should this be of concern to your business? Yes. Does it warrant further action at your company? Absolutely.

If you or anyone at your business uses a smartphone, laptop, or IoT device connected to a Wi-Fi network, the information sent over that network could be at risk. Researchers have found a bug that lets attackers “break” WPA2 – the encryption that protects most wireless networks – leaving data you send exposed.

The bad news is that this isn’t just a problem with a specific device or manufacturer. It’s a problem with the encryption standard nearly all Wi-Fi devices on the market use to scramble communications, prevent eavesdropping, and deter tampering. The upshot is that if anyone at your business uses a device to connect to a wireless network at work, at home, or on the road, this bug means they can’t rely on that connection being secure.

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In-Flight WiFi

In April 2011, we wrote about one of our first airline flights where WiFi was available. A novelty for many at time and many were amazed that it worked at all. Like so many novelties, in-flight WiFi is now a necessity. Here's an update on the technology and on ways to get the most out of WiFi in the skies.

When traveling in a pressurized cabin about 35,000 feet above the ground, one doesn’t give much thought to the engineering marvel that is the aircraft. Airplanes defy gravity and challenge physics. Yet these amazing feats don’t get much attention. What most passengers are concerned about is the Internet connection in these magnificent machines — and a slow one can infuriate the most patient traveler.

Thousands of people go to work each day to make the machinery behind air travel better each day. The airline industry is constantly evolving and introducing new technology to attract more customers. In recent years, one of the services added to air travel was in-flight Wi-Fi.

Technically, it’s an excellent thing to have. With in-flight Wi-Fi there are more passengers carrying out their business, updating social media statuses, watching movies, and focusing less on the length of the flight and other discomforts that come with the journey.

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The Key to iPhone Data Recovery

Our friends at Drive Savers have successfully recovered lost data from hard drives and other devices for our clients over the years.  At times, their brilliant engineers and techs have been successful when we doubted that any data could be recovered. We're starting to see more iPhones and iPads coming in with data recovery issues.  This article, written by Drive Savers director of engineering, Mike Cobb discusses the one absolute key to successful data recovery from these devices. 

iPhone 6Hundreds of broken, damaged and malfunctioning iPhones are sent to DriveSavers every month for data recovery. Despite having the best smartphone success rate in the industry, we aren’t able to recover all of them. Many factors are involved, some of which we’ll go into here.

To obtain the best results in recovering an iPhone, DriveSavers engineers must carefully coax it into a semi-functional state, at least briefly, in order to extract the important data.

Every single phone that comes in the door may require hours of inspection and testing to locate the point or points of failure. In many cases, hardware engineers will have to micro solder multiple jumpers and leads in addition to cleaning corrosion and other forms of damage to get a device to power up.

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Configuring Wireless Routers

When you buy a wireless router it is not secure and its default configuration will allow unwanted users that are in the vicinity of your router to connect to the internet and “steal” your wireless router internet connection. They could also gain access to your PC or network and steal files and folders of data. Manufacturers leave the configuration “open” so that the user can easily set up the router and get it up and running quickly. However, there is a risk if the router is not secure.

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