You may have heard about the Heartbleed bug, possibly the largest internet security flaw, ever. If not, pay attention! We are here to make it easy to understand as well as provide some action steps for you to take to protect yourself as best you can.
What is it?
In its simplest form, it is a hole in the security of so-called “secure” sites. It is the S in HTTPS, as indicated by the little padlock symbol in your browser’s URL bar.
Although this bug was just recently discovered, it appears to have been in existence for over two years without a completely disastrous (yet) effect.
Should you be concerned?
Yes. Now that the bug is public knowledge and repercussions are not yet known, you can take steps to protect yourself. Many of the bigger sites that were affected like Google and Facebook have already applied fixes to their site’s security. Others, like many banking websites were not affected at all.
For a list of affected websites and more, you can read this article.
What should you do?
Change your passwords
Maybe not every password right this minute – keep checking into sites like the one we linked to above. Their list of sites continues to grow and the status of whether or not a site has been fixed is continually updated. Until a site is determined to be either unaffected or patched, simply changing your password now doesn’t really solve the issue. But be ready to change all of them over the next few weeks.
When you do change your passwords, make them robust using a combination of symbols, letters (lower and upper case) and numbers. Also – use a different one for each website. I know, it sounds terrible, but we have a solution for you:
Use a password manager.
We recommend 1Password, available for the Mac, Windows, iPhones, iPads and Android devices. New, strong, unique passwords are your best defense against Heartbleed. 1Password makes this easy by generating secure passwords for you (if you want) and storing them in a secure (no, really) vault.
We don’t know about you, but our experience with the local cable company often goes like this:
Mr. Smith, our client, calls and says that the cable company has upgraded his equipment (insert cable box or modem here) and now his TV, internet (insert service here) doesn’t work.
Come to find out that this “upgrade” installed by the cable company has re-routed his wiring and is improperly installed for his system, or has changed his home network settings arbitrarily. This happens to us far too often and with just about every media product they offer. Several mind-numbing calls to the company for tech support and countless hours are spent troubleshooting and getting the client back up and running.
And to add to the sting, we have to charge the client a service call to fix the cable company’s mistakes.
We bet you have your own horror story to tell.
Why would anyone trust their home automation and security to the cable company? New services are being offered from everyone from Comcast to Lowe’s to Verizon that control your lights, heat, security and more all for a low monthly price. We certainly aren’t convinced that these companies are truly focused on your individual home’s security so much as they just want more monthly revenue.
We aren’t saying their products don’t work or are terrible, we are just questioning the technology choices that are out in the marketplace for critical systems. You can get along just fine without TV for a day but what about lights? Heat on a cold January day? Security for your family?
Our recommendation is to use proven products and systems with professional design, installation and certified programming. Yes, it may cost more but you get what you pay for and in the end, we think you’d prefer one less reason to call the cable company.
Sure, we all surf the internet and check email but you probably use, or have heard of, home entertainment services like Netflix streaming or Xbox games played over the internet. Increasingly our home internet services are being asked to do simultaneous tasks and all these things together use a lot of bandwidth – especially video streaming. A robust home network will allow you to do your streaming, surfing and playing without the headaches of slow load times and even worse, stalling or crashing.
What is to come.
Services like On Demand, Xbox streaming video and gaming as well as Netflix are pushing consumers to tap into the pipeline for your home entertainment needs. Watching movies on your media room system is great on a Blu-ray but soon you may be connecting to the internet instead of popping in a disc. Video rental stores are almost gone, Nexflix is changing its pricing structure, and the availability of titles in the “red box” is limited so we turn to streaming content. It is only a matter of time before the streaming video is of Blu-ray quality and every movie is available in this way.
Don’t Go Cheap!
Picture your frustration when you sit down to watch a movie and your network crashes. A $49 router could easily cost you more in the long run with constant problems, crashing networks or calls to your computer fix-it guy. Spending a little more and having your network properly designed will save you this picture of frustration.
Lastly, a properly designed network will help protect you from hackers and other malicious attacks.
Here are some components of a good network:
Robust router with a firewall for security
Password protected network
Wireless access point(s) with complete coverage throughout your house
If you get a popup or re-directed web page on your Mac that says anything about having a virus, or needing to download a free virus scanner, don’t do it. These are deceitful tricks – it is impossible for any website to magically see that your Mac has a virus. That said, if you have downloaded anything called MacDefender, MacProtector, or MacSecurity, these are the malware and are not legitimate programs. It’s easy to take care of, and Apple will have a software update shortly that will clean it off any machine that has it, as well as help protect you from getting it in the future.
There is no emergency, and no you should not run out and buy Anti-virus software for your Mac. Below is a link to information from Apple about how to check your computer, just in case. Of course if you have any questions or concerns, you know how to get a hold of us!
When you relocate your receiver, amplifiers, cable or satellite box, Blu-ray player, gaming system, etc into a remote location like a closet you should consider:
Ventilation. Home theater equipment generates heat and needs to have good airflow around each piece as well as moving cool air into the area. This is also especially true for cabinets – leave ample room. Equipment that gets too hot will degrade faster over time or just quit on you.
Use a reliable RF remote control system. Because remotes that come with typical home theater equipment are IR based and need line-of-sight to operate the piece, a good RF remote will allow you to have one remote that can be used without pointing it at your gear.
Have your electrician install a dedicated circuit (or two) to your equipment room. Electronics and amplifiers draw a lot of power and having inefficient supply really hurts performance and lifespan. It also saves you the grief of having equipment shut down unexpectedly when someone runs the vacuum!
Apple has approximately 200 million iTunes users and most likely you are one of them. A little secret you may not know is that you can distribute your iTunes music throughout your home or to a media room for as little as $99.
Apple’s Airport Express can be added to virtually any home A/V system to create a wired or wireless stream of iTunes. For every Airport Express added, you have another individual stream of your iTunes library. With very few exceptions, computer speakers just don’t do your music justice. This is a simple and easy way to bring your tunes to the room you want to listen and relax in.