Category Archives: News

Public Wi-Fi Should Be Safer in 2018

Wi-fi has become ubiquitous. We expect to be able to connect wherever we are, whether in a doctor’s office, store, coffee shop, or restaurant, and most every place has obliged with a public wi-fi network. Convenient, sure, but everyone knows that public wi-fi networks are less than secure, and should be used with caution.
But there is good news on the horizon! CNET reports that the Wi-Fi Alliance, the organization responsible for setting standards for wi-fi safety, plans to introduce a new security protocol early this year. Wi-Fi Protected Access 3, or WPA3, is the next version of the familiar WPA2 encryption protocol. The improvements in this latest generation protocol are designed to protect users’ passwords, traffic, and connected devices, and take away some of the worry that can accompany connecting to a strange network.
Public wi-fi networks like those at hotels and coffee shops are a favorite target of hackers looking to steal people’s personal information, because the desire to serve as many users as possible leads to minimal security. The designers of WPA3 want to make public networks more secure without users having to think about passwords or complicated sign in procedures.
Other changes to wi-fi standards are planned for release alongside WPA3, in an effort to provide a better wi-fi experience in homes with more and more wireless devices.
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Net Neutrality – A Review

With another net neutrality vote in the news, this seems like a good time to review the issue. Most people are familiar with the term, but many people aren’t clear on the details. Here are the basics in simple language.

What is “net neutrality”?

First of all, “net neutrality” is not a law. It’s a concept, much like freedom of speech. “Net neutrality” is the idea that all content on the Internet should be treated equally, regardless of whether it comes from a large company, a small startup, or an individual blogger. Basically, an ISP doesn’t have the right to limit your access to online services.

It’s a simple idea, especially because it’s the only kind of Internet we’ve ever known. But without some regulations by the FCC, there’s nothing to say the Internet has to stay that way.

With so many people cutting the cord, an ISP that also provides cable tv service might slow their customers’ connections to streaming tv providers, to encourage people to use their tv service. Large companies that have more money for advertising and partnerships might make agreements with ISPs to prioritize traffic to their own sites over their competitors, making it much more difficult for small startup companies to get off the ground.

Why do ISPs oppose net neutrality rules?

Mostly because they see it as an overly burdensome regulation. The FCC’s rules made Internet access into a commodity service – like a utility – which is not always the most profitable product. ISPs are in business to make money, after all, and regulations tend to make that more difficult.

Who supports net neutrality rules?

A lot of tech companies, including Amazon, Google, Facebook, Netflix, and many more, support net neutrality because the open Internet is what allowed them to grow and prosper. They believe other small businesses and online innovators should have the same opportunites.

The two sides disagree on what the real-world effects of net neutrality rules would be. Proponents insist that keeping the Internet open will lead to economic growth and innovation, while opponents say that is an idealistic view, and that the regulations could have unintended side effects. The controversy continues at the FCC, with another vote expected in December 2017.

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Safe Shopping This Holiday

The holiday season is fast approaching, and with it comes a spike in online shopping. More and more people are choosing to escape the crowds at brick and mortar stores in favor of shopping from the comfort of their couch. If you’re gearing up for cyber shopping this holiday, keep these tips in mind to make sure it all goes smoothly.
Before you jump into the holiday rush, take a little time to secure your setup. Update your anti-virus and anti-malware, as well as your security patches. If you plan to use digital wallets or shopping apps, put a password on your phone. Also, make sure any account alert features your credit card offers are active.
Using a debit card can be as risky as it is convenient. If a thief gets your debit card information, they can drain your bank account very quickly. Credit cards are less vulnerable, since most cards won’t hold you liable for any fraudulent charges and there’s no actual money involved. For even more security, use PayPal. You can either route your credit card payment through PayPal or use your PayPal balance so none of your bank information even gets to the site you’re purchasing from. This can also be useful if you’re trying to stick to a budget this holiday – put all your shopping money into PayPal, and only use that.
Take all the usual precautions for online shopping. Never use public wi-fi networks, make sure the site is secure as indicated by “https” at the beginning of the address, and stick to reputable sites. Also, remember that if a price looks too good to be true, it probably is; either it’s a scam or it’s a knockoff of what you intended to buy.
Keep an eye on your bank and credit card accounts so you can catch any fraud and deal with it quickly. Monitor your account alerts and check your statements weekly all the way through January.
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Caught by a Phishing Scam – Now What?

It actually happened to you. You’ve always been careful about what links you clicked on, only downloading things from trusted sources, but somehow, you fell for a phishing scam. What do you do now?
1. Don’t Panic.
Stay calm. Disconnect from your Internet connection, turn off your wifi. Doing this immediately will limit the chances of any malware being installed or any other parties gaining access to your computer. Make note of the URL you clicked on, or get a screenshot of the site or the email, and make sure you know what information you entered.
2. Change Your Passwords, Scan for Viruses
Your first line of defense on any account is your password. If any of your information has been compromised, change those passwords and make sure you’re not using the same password for multiple accounts (if any one of those accounts is compromised, all accounts that share that password are in danger). Once your passwords are secure, run an extra deep virus and malware scan on your computer to make sure that there’s nothing lurking there.
3. Tell the Right People
While your scan is running, get in touch with whatever organization was used to get to your information, whether it was your bank, your email provider, your employer, utility company, etc. A phone call is best for this. Explain what happened and that you’ve changed your password, and ask about anything else you might need to do to safeguard your account and information. Your bank might want to issue a new debit or credit card, an employer might need to scan their internal network or let other employees know to keep away from work emails for a time.

Those are the concrete steps you should take as soon as you realize you’ve been caught in a scam. In the space of a few minutes to an hour, you’ve done a lot to mitigate any possible damage! Over the next few weeks, look at your credit reports from all three credit agencies, and be ready to put a freeze on your credit if any fraud appears.
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Strong Passwords Can Be Easy

Passwords are a necessary evil on the Internet. Every site requires a login, but we’re always cautioned not to use the same password for more than one site, as though anyone could remember several dozen passwords and which sites they match up to. Most importantly, perhaps, we are always reminded to make sure we use strong passwords that won’t be easily hacked, so we struggle to come up with eight or more characters, and include capital and lowercase letters, plus numerals and special characters. It’s enough to make anyone’s brain turn somersaults.
The practice of “random” passwords was recommended in a 2003 publication from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Due to a lack of current data, that publication was largely based on a paper from the 1980s, which, naturally, went out of date at the speed of the Internet. This same publication advocated changing passwords every few months, another practice that simply isn’t very practical today.
It turns out that the standard formula for a strong password might not be the best practice. Recent research has shown that longer pass phrases of four words or so are actually harder to crack than the mixed-character single-word passwords we’ve been using. Today, the NIST has changed its recommendations. They now suggest using a longer passphrase, which is easy to remember, and only change your password if you suspect the account has been compromised. Welcome to the new world of easy passwords!
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Scams Are Getting Smarter and You Should, Too!

Gone are the days when you could protect yourself by deleting emails from foreign royalty. Today’s online scams are more subtle and you need to be smart about keeping yourself safe online. Here are a few to look out for.
Social media

Some scammers try to hit people where they feel safe, where they’re surrounded by family and friends – on social media. Usually, this shows up as an email about notifications, or a warning that someone is trying to login to your account. The simple way to avoid this is to never click on links, but always go directly to the social network page for your messages and to verify your information.

Another common tactic is the random friend request. If you get a request from someone you don’t know, always try to verify who they are and how they found you before you accept.

Free Wi-Fi

Free wi-fi is a great thing that many businesses offer, but it’s also a common scammer’s ploy. They set up a wi-fi hotspot that looks legitimate, but once you connect to it, they can access your data. You can protect yourself with a little common sense. First, never do any banking or shopping over public wi-fi. Also, verify the correct name of any public network before joining. Either keep your wi-fi turned off or turn off the ability to join networks automatically.

Pop-Up Warnings

This is a common way of preying on people’s fears. Out of nowhere, a pop-up window appears saying that your computer is infected and if you click this window, it will download a program to clean it. But it actually downloads malware and possibly viruses, infecting your computer instead. The easiest way to prevent this is to install an ad blocker in your browser, or else just never click on anything in a pop-up window. A good antivirus program, kept up to date, will keep you protected.

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Tips for Cutting the Cord

Many of us have had enough of dealing with cable and satellite companies raising rates and paying for channels we never watch, and the Internet has provided us with a great alternative: cord-cutting.
Cord-cutting, put simply, is giving up cable or satellite and getting all your tv online. Done right, cutting the cord can dramatically decrease the amount you pay for your tv viewing. Done wrong, however, it can become complicated and cost just as much as your current cable bill. Here’s a few tips to help you cut the cord and get a great viewing experience at a lower price.

1. Look for shows, not channels
Change your mindset and look for individual shows, rather than channels. Hulu typically airs current programming the day after it airs, Netflix releases entire seasons at once, and Amazon offers season passes for some shows.

2. Don’t forget about free tv
Believe it or not, free, over-the-air channels still exist, and many are even broadcast in HD. Your local news and weather, as well as most PBS channels, should all be available this way. All you need is an antenna. There are indoor and outdoor versions to choose from, in all price ranges. A quick Internet search can help you determine which antenna will work best for your area, and might reveal more air channels than you thought you could get.

3. Don’t rush it
It can be tempting to cancel your cable service first, but don’t! Take your time, do your research, find the right streaming devices and services for you and your family. Get your new setup ready, and then just stop using your cable box for a week or so. You may have forgotten about a particular show or sports event you wanted to see, and it can be a nice safety net while you adjust your new tv experience.

4. Look for tv that you already pay for
Maybe you signed up for Amazon Prime for the 2-day shipping, but did you realize it includes Amazon Video? Look into what programs are available there, and what shows you can access with a season pass. If you already use Netflix or Hulu, check their listings for shows you normally watch on cable. Get the most out of services you already have.
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Maximize the Speed You Have

Everyone wants the fastest Internet speed they can get, but higher speeds can be prohibitively expensive, or unavailable in some areas.  No matter what your connection speed, these tips will help you get the most out of your bandwidth.

First, if your connection has recently seemed to slow down, try rebooting your modem and router.  To do this, just unplug them from the power for several seconds.  This can help by clearing out any old data and refreshing the configuration.  Remember that no hardware is meant to be constantly on, and a quick reboot can give you a fresh connection.

If you’re using a wireless router, there could be interference in your home.  The most common consumer routers operate on 802.11b/g/n, which is in the 2.4GHz range.  Some cell phones, cordless phones, and even microwaves can interfere with that range, but you can easily avoid this by keeping your router well away from other appliances and turning off the data on your cell phone when you’re at home (as a bonus, using your wifi will save you some data).

Take a look at where your router is located, too.  The farther it is from your computer, the weaker your connection will be.  Also, if there is a kitchen or bathroom between you and your router, the pipes and insulation in the walls can cause the signal to reflect and weaken.  The best place for a wireless router is a central area of the home, so the signal can cover as much area as possible.

Make sure you know who is using your connection.  Keep your wifi password protected, and change it frequently if you give the password to guests.  The more people using your connection, the less bandwidth each person gets, so it will run more slowly.  This goes for any heavy users in your household, too, so you might want to make arrangements for streaming and downloading so that no one is inconvenienced.

We offer fast, reliable Internet service in your area!  Contact us today to see what we can offer you.

Tips for Dealing with Data Caps

If your Internet provider imposes a data cap on your service, you’re probably concerned about running over your monthly data allotment.  When you reach your limit, your speed may be throttled or you might lose service altogether until your billing period rolls over.  However, there are some simple steps you can take to keep your data usage under control.

  1. Keep an eye on your usage.

If your ISP uses data caps, they should provide a way for you to monitor your usage.  Check their website or your account for a data tracker.  You can also track your usage on your own, but it’s more complicated, and the ISP will always go by their own records.

  1. Schedule any large downloads.

Most ISP’s that use data caps include some kind of free zone outside of peak usage hours, usually overnight, when usage won’t count toward your data cap.  Using a download manager to schedule system updates or large file downloads for these hours will preserve your data allowance for the things you need to do online every day.

  1. Stream wisely.

Streaming video doesn’t have to eat up your data.  With most streaming services, you can adjust the playback settings in your account.  The difference between high definition and normal quality isn’t that much on your screen, but you’ll see a big savings in your data usage.

  1. Use click-to-play plugins in your browser.

Click-to-play plugins are optional additions for browsers, such as Chrome and Firefox, which prevent Flash content from playing automatically.  Since most Flash content is ads, you won’t notice any difference in your web browsing experience, but you will see how much less data you use.

We’re proud to offer affordable, high speed Internet service in your area.  To learn more about our services, contact us today.

Which Speed Test Should I Use?

Now and then, everyone questions whether their Internet connection is working as fast as it should, so most people are familiar with speed tests.  There are plenty of them to choose from, but are all speed tests created equal?  Well, yes and no.

The most well-known speed test sites are probably and  These are both good free test sites, and they are both powered by Ookla, so their results should be similar and reliable.  These sites test the speed of your connection between your location and another server.  The biggest difference is that automatically chooses the nearest server based on your IP, and allows you to choose your test server manually.

Have you ever noticed, though, that sometimes those speed test sites seem to take forever to load?  The natural assumption is that the lag is evidence of just how slow your connection is, but that might not be the case.  A good way to tell is to try an HTML5 site, like or  Because these sites don’t use Flash or Java, they load faster, work better on mobile devices, and put less load on your system.

If your primary concern is whether your connection will allow Netflix to run smoothly, there’s a speed test made just for that. is a service-specific speed test, which measures your speed from your device to the Netflix servers.  This won’t give you an accurate idea of your overall connection speed, but it will confirm your ability to stream.

For more speed test options, and pros and cons of each, see this great article from Lifewire.  For fast, affordable Internet service in your area, contact us today!