Category Archives: News

Securing Your Home Network

Home WiFi is now about as common as cable television once was, and even more necessary.  Now that so many devices – phones, tablets, laptops, etc. – operate wirelessly and so much of our lives takes place online, a secure home network is the bare minimum required for protecting your information.

When you set up a new router or modem/router combo, you’ll find a sticker on the back with default passwords on it.  One is the admin password, which you have to enter in order to configure the device.  The other is the default WiFi password, and if your router offers a second or “guest” network, it may show a second default password for that.

The first thing you should change is the network name.  Usually, default settings use the brand of router or the name of your ISP, which can help potential attackers identify your network.  Change this to something unique that you will recognize as your home network.

Most importantly, you MUST change the WiFi password.  Default passwords may be used across an entire model of router, so if you leave it, anyone could attach to your WiFi network.  It’s not worth the risk to you and your data to not change this password.

Strong passwords are more important than ever, even on your home network.  Almost all devices will remember your password or connect automatically, so don’t be afraid to create a really solid password.

Wondering how to create a strong password?  It’s a pretty simple formula.  You’ll need a minimum of 8 to 12 characters, including:

  • Capital letters
  • Lower case letters
  • Numbers
  • Special characters (!, @, #, $, *, etc.)

This isn’t as complicated as it sounds.  One of the easiest ways to create strong passwords is to start with a phrase you’ll remember and then substitute other characters.  For example:

  • M3mb3rs0nly!
  • 0urF@m1lyN3tw*rk
  • N0tF0rY0u2!

You can also use a random password generator to create a solid password for your network.  And if you have a second WiFi network, don’t use the same password for both.

Every time you access the internet, your data and information are vulnerable.  The more secure your home network is, the safer you and your data will be.

We offer reliable, affordable internet service in your neighborhood!  Contact us today to learn what we can offer you!

5 Reasons to Use a Password Manager

With more and more of our lives happening online, and every new site requiring a password, it’s more tempting than ever to just use the same password across all your accounts.  But we all know that’s a bad idea.  We’ve been told repeatedly by experts and learned the hard way that using different passwords is absolutely necessary to keep your data secure.  So we have a new problem: how to keep all our passwords straight.  For that, many people turn to password managers.  Here are five reasons you should, too.

  1. No more “I forgot my password” clicks

With a password manager, you only have to remember the master password.  All your other passwords are stored in your account, so once you log in there, you have the rest of them at your fingertips.  You’ll never have to wait for that “forgot password” email again!

  •  You can use stronger passwords

The strongest passwords are long strings of random characters, which are nearly impossible to remember.  Using a password manager, you can use extremely strong randomly generated passwords, so your accounts will be even more secure.

  • They work across devices

Some of us have accounts we only ever access on our phones or tablets, and those accounts need protection, too.  Most password managers can be easily installed on a mobile device, so you can access all your accounts on all your devices without a hitch.

  • They make changing passwords a breeze

Some sites require you to change your password at regular intervals, whether it’s once a year, every six months, or every quarter.  Other sites upgrade their security features and require a one-time password change.  And, of course, if you find your account is part of a data breach, you’ll want to change your password immediately!  With a password manager, you can set up regular password changes or change a password with just a couple of clicks.

  • They’re not just for passwords

Think about all the security questions, memberships, and other easily-forgettable information you have associated with your accounts.  Password managers can take care of those, too, as well as medical information and lots of other data you need access to.

Password managers can help make your online life easier.  We can make it easier for you to get online!  Contact us today to learn about our reliable, affordable high-speed internet service.

REACH4 Emergency Preparations and Response

As Tropical Storm Barry bears down on Louisiana, we want to inform you about our network preparedness, service disruption issues, and repair response concerns should we incur heavy damages or outages. We will do our best to keep you updated on outages as they occur via Facebook or phone message on our tech support line (337-783-3436 Option 1).

Network Preparedness:

  • Backup Generators: Our two main towers in Crowley and Duson have backup generators to provide power as long as needed.
  • Battery Backup: All other towers have battery backup that will last anywhere from 18 -30 hours depending on the amount of equipment at the tower.
  • Replacement Equipment: We have backup replacement equipment for all towers should damages occur but not enough to replace ALL equipment in a worst-case scenario.

Service Disruption Issues:

  • Extended Power Outages: If power outages occur at our towers for extended periods of time, the battery system will run out and internet service will not be restored until power has been restored.
  • Antenna Alignment: Due to high sustained winds, it is possible that radio dish antennas on our tower and on your house may shift and go out of alignment. If that happens, internet service will not be restored until the antenna has been realigned. You may want to note the direction your internet antenna is facing prior to the storm so if it is shifted, you can report that to us.
  • Slower Than Normal Internet Service: Internet usage WILL BE at capacity during the storm because everyone will be home inside waiting out the storm using their devices. It will be more than PEAK times ALL DAY!
  • Lightning Damage: There is a high probability that equipment on our towers will be damaged.

Repair Response Concerns:

  • Our number one priority is to make sure ALL towers are repaired and working properly before restoring service at residences.
  • Tower repair response times will depend on favorable weather and the availability of tower crews. We won’t be the only business affected.
  • Once towers have been repaired, restoring service at your house will depend on accessibility due to possible flooding in the area.
  • Repair times will be longer than normal based on the number of customers affected. There is also a chance we may be short-handed for at time as REACH4 employees maybe flooded in, dealing with power outages themselves, or repairing their own homes.

Email Trackers and How to Block Them

If you’ve ever signed up for an email newsletter or added your email address to a website’s mailing list, your emails from that sender are probably being tracked. Mailing services like MailChimp and Postmark automatically gather some information from the emails they send, such as whether the message was opened, if any links were clicked, and sometimes even what device was used or what time zone it was in.
Many websites use this information to keep their email lists up to date. When they see that someone hasn’t opened any emails from their site in a few months, they remove that email address from their mailing list. Marketing departments and sales teams may also use email tracking software to see when a prospective client has read their emails so that they can send a follow-up email soon after to encourage the sale.
Email tracking software works by including a small bit of code, often in a single-pixel image, in the body of the message. There may also be code included in the clickable links within the email. That code relays all that information back to the sender so that they know who has been interacting with their emails or ignoring them.
If you’d prefer not to let your email-viewing habits get out, don’t worry! There are ways to block these email trackers. The easiest way is to go into your account settings and set your account to ask before displaying images or external content. This will block any hidden images that contain tracking code, but you can still allow images for the emails you choose on a case-by-case basis. Another way to block email tracking software is to use a browser extension, such as Ugly Email. Ugly Email is an extension for Firefox and Chrome which blocks many of the most common trackers. It marks tracked emails with an eyeball icon next to the subject line in your inbox to warn you, but it also blocks the tracking software when you open the message, so your privacy is protected.
Email trackers have been around almost as long as email newsletters, and most senders don’t use them maliciously. Trying to avoid all tracked emails is probably impossible, but you have every right to protect your privacy with all the tools available to you.
Affordable high-speed Internet service is available in your neighborhood! Contact us today to learn about the plans we can offer you.

Optimize Your Streaming Experience

Streaming video has become the primary online activity for many people.  Whether you’ve cut the cord on your cable or you just really love Netflix and cute cat videos, odds are that you stream a lot of video over your Internet connection.  How can you make sure you’re getting the best streaming experience possible?

Check your speed

Make sure you have enough speed for the service you’re using.  Netflix recommends 3 Mbps for SD, 5 Mbps for HD, and 25 Mbps for Ultra HD.  SlingTV requires the same numbers for mobile devices, single stream to a computer or tv, and multiple devices, respectively.  YouTube’s minimums are 2.5 Mbps for 720p, 4 Mbps for 1080p, and 15 Mbps for 4k Ultra HD.  Hulu has the lowest bandwidth requirements at 1.5 Mbps for SD, 3 Mbps for 720p, 6 Mbps for 1080p, and 13 Mbps for 4k Ultra HD.

Check your settings

Adjust your playback settings to match your bandwidth speed and limit your data usage.  In a Netflix account, these settings can be set for each profile separately under My Profile.  For SlingTV, playback settings have to be set on each device by going to Settings, and then Connection.  YouTube playback can be changed on mobile devices to limit mobile data under Settings.  Hulu has not released any information about changing playback settings.

Use common sense

Remember a few things:

  1. Your stream can only be as good as your hardware. If you don’t have an HD TV, you won’t get any benefit from streaming in HD, so don’t bother using all that bandwidth and data.
  2. Using multiple devices at once changes your available bandwidth speed. If your Internet connection is 25 Mbps and 2 people are streaming on separate devices, both streams are getting about 12.5 Mbps.
  3. If your Internet connection has a data limit, even a high one, it pays to keep track of it. Most ISP’s that use data limits offer alerts by email or text at certain milestones like 50%, 75%, or 90%.

 

For affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service in your neighborhood, contact us today!

Deleting Your Search History

We’ve all become very aware of privacy concerns and the need to protect our information online in recent years. We’ve learned to create stronger passwords, to ignore phishing scam emails, and to clear our browsing history regularly. But there’s another layer to online privacy that you may not have thought of yet: your search history. If you’ve ever noticed that after you’ve searched for some product you suddenly see ads for that product or similar things on every page you visit, you know what this is about. Every time you Google anything, that information is collected and used to target advertising from various retailers, among other things.
That thought may be discomforting, but don’t worry! According to a tutorial from The Next Web, there are two ways that you can clear your Google search history.
1. Go to myactivity.google.com and make sure you’re signed in with your Google account.
2. Choose “Delete activity by” from the left-hand sidebar.
3. In the form provided, first choose your date range, then go to the drop-down menu labeled “All Products” and choose “search”.
4. Click “delete”.
You can also delete your search history directly from the Google search page.
1. Go to the Google homepage while you’re logged into your Google account.
2. Click on “Settings”, then “Your data in search”.
3. Choose either to review your search history, delete your search history from the last hour, or delete all your search history all the way back to 2005.
Deleting your search history will keep you from getting so many search-based ads and prevent Google from building a profile of you for targeted advertising. It’s just another way to keep your information and activity private, which is more important than ever as so much of our lives happen online.
We provide affordable, reliable high-speed Internet service in your area. Contact us today to see what we can do for you!

A New Way to Monitor Your Passwords

We all know the importance of keeping your passwords secure and changing them regularly. We also know that you shouldn’t use the same password for multiple sites, but with every website requiring a login, using a different password for everything can seem impossible. Unfortunately, more and more, it seems to be a question of when a site may be breached, rather than if it will be. So how can you know if your passwords have been compromised?
Mozilla has recently launched a new service called Firefox Monitor. All you need to do is enter your email address and it will check for possible breaches using the trusted Have I Been Pwned database. You can also sign up for notifications in case your email address ever turns up in the future. In addition, Firefox users will receive notifications when they visit a site that has been breached in the past.
An important feature of this service is the fact that your email address is not shared even with the Monitor’s partner database. Each request is encrypted on Firefox’s side, and only part of the encrypted entry is sent. HIBP replies with all its entries that include that part, and then Firefox matches up those responses to your information. Nothing ever passes through any third parties. For a more in depth look at this new service, check out this report at Engadget.

We offer affordable, reliable, high speed Internet service in your area! To learn more, contact us and find out what we can do for you.

Decoding Internet Error Messages

We’ve all grown so used to information at our fingertips that it can be disorienting when we try to pull up a website only to be greeted with an error message. Is it our Internet connection? Is the site down? Has the site disappeared from the Internet? Who knows?
Don’t worry. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common error messages you might find.
1. HTTP Error 404 – Not Found
This is probably the most common error message you’ll see, and it means that the page you’re looking for just isn’t there. This could be a glitch in the website, or the page may have been permanently removed from the Internet. No need to worry about your connection if you can still reach other sites.
2. HTTP Error 400 – Bad Request
Another common error message, this one means that your request for the webpage didn’t make sense somehow. Check your typing for mistakes, and maybe check your Internet connection just to make sure you can reach other sites.
3. HTTP Error 403 – Forbidden
This one is a bit less common, but you may find it occasionally if you click on a part of a site that isn’t supposed to be open to the public. It’s not dangerous – it won’t give you a virus or malware – it’s just telling you that you can’t go through that particular door.
4. HTTP Error 401 – Unauthorized
Again, this doesn’t mean anything dangerous. This error means that you don’t have the right login credentials (or you’ve tried several times and now you’re locked out).
5. HTTP Error 500 – Internal Server Error
This error always means the problem is on the website’s side, not yours. The site’s server is overwhelmed, or misconfigured, or down for maintenance, or something else. No need to worry, just try again later.
We offer affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service in your area. Contact us today to learn what we can do for you!

How To Clean Your Laptop

If you’ve recently been spring cleaning, why not add your laptop to the list before you stop for the summer? Studies have shown that keyboards can house as many germs as a toilet seat, while trackpads can be as germ-ridden as paper money. But how do you safely clean such an expensive and sensitive device?
First, make sure everything is turned off and unplugged. Disconnect any externals, like a mouse, separate keyboard, or speakers.
Let’s start with the outside of your laptop. Using a very diluted solution of water and dish soap, wipe down the exterior of your laptop with a damp sponge or cloth. Make sure you wring it out well and use as little water as possible! Then go back over everything with a dry microfiber cloth to make sure you leave no moisture behind.
Next, you’ll want to clean your screen. Because it’s more delicate, start with a dry microfiber cloth. If that doesn’t do the trick, dampen the cloth with water only. If that still isn’t enough, try that diluted soap solution, or you can buy commercial screen wipes. Again, keep everything as dry as possible, and follow with a dry cloth.
Now for the keyboard. Here you won’t use any water at all. First, use a vacuum brush or a can of compressed air to remove debris and dust, tilting your keyboard to get the most crumbs, etc. to fall out. Then, dampen a cloth with rubbing alcohol, which evaporates faster than water, and wipe down the whole thing. You can use cotton swabs and alcohol to get into any small areas, but don’t get anything into the keys. Remember – keep it dry!
Lastly, clean the trackpad with a damp cloth. You can use alcohol or water, whichever works best for you to break up the accumulated oils. Follow with a dry microfiber cloth, and enjoy your sparkling clean laptop!
We offer reliable, affordable high-speed Internet service in your area. Contact us today to learn what we can offer you!

Unexpected Often-Hacked Passwords

We all have to keep so many passwords these days, it’s little wonder we tend to default to simple, easy-to-remember terms. Unfortunately, this is what makes so many passwords vulnerable. Every year, lists of frequently compromised passwords are put out, and more people find that their favorite passwords are neither as secure nor as unique as they thought.
According to a list of the worst passwords of 2017, the top 50 weakest passwords included some interesting terms. There were, of course, usual culprits like 12345678, password, letmein, login, and welcome, all in the top 15. Starting in 16th place, however, things got more fun with starwars, and dragon came in at number 18, showing that even geeky fandoms don’t necessarily make for strong passwords.
In spots 20 through 25, we found master, freedom, and trustno1, which would seem to indicate that even patriotism is fairly easily hacked. After that, the list goes into a series of names: robert, daniel, andrea, matthew, and several others, including joshua, which is likely used frequently as a reference to the movie War Games. A bit further on, the list goes into cars, sports, city names, and even a few profanities.
The surest way to create a strong password is to use a phrase instead of a single word, because the more characters involved, the harder it is to hack. And make sure to use numbers and special characters in your passwords, as well. Password managers are a great way to make sure all your passwords are strong, without the stress of having to remember them. It’s worth it to keep your personal data safe.
We offer affordable, high-speed Internet service in your area. Contact us today to see what we can do for you!