TWT Newsletter, Issue #042 – Is your Wi-Fi secure?
Hello again from Top Windows Tutorials HQ. It is the 10th of November and that means it is newsletter time again. This month we look into the shady world of Wi-Fi hacking and then take a look at another new version of Windows, but this time for mobile phones. Naturally, we still have our usual tip of the month and free utility of the month too.
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In this months issue:-
1) What’s new at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?
2) Site forum update – Don’t waste this valuable resource!
3) Decorate your PC with the festive Winter Wonderland theme!
4) Is your Wi-Fi secure? Stealing data is now as easy as using a web browser
5) Tip of the Month – Got an old monitor? Put it to use!
6) Free Utility of the Month – Spotify
7) Windows phone 7 is available now
What’s new at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?
On the 1st of October, we brought you a tutorial on the Print Screen key. This special key on the keyboard can be used for taking screen shots of your computer which can then be posted on our forums to help with troubleshooting. A picture is often a much better way to illustrate a problem, so familiarise yourself with how to use this function by viewing the tutorial here.
Next, we updated our tutorials on using removable hard drives on your PC. Our new tutorials now make it easier to identify your hard drive when configuring it for use as a removable device. For more information, Windows XP users should check this tutorial while Windows Vista and Windows 7 users should check this tutorial.
Finally in October, we updated our AVG Antivirus tutorials. This free Antivirus solution continues to provide excellent protection for home users and even outperforms many of the commercial alternatives! We brought you four tutorials for the new AVG2011, visit this link to view them.
Of course, last month we also opened our site forums, but more on that in the next section!
Site forum update – Don’t waste this valuable resource!
Last month we opened our site forums and we’re delighted that several of you have already signed up. However, we want to see more people making posts and really using this valuable resource. We understand that nobody wants to be the first to post, but using our forums really is the best way to connect with us and ask those technical Windows questions that you just can’t find an answer to anywhere else on the site.
If you’ve not taken the time to check out our forums yet, grab yourself a cup of tea or coffee and sit down and watch our forum tutorials here. Once you’re signed up, start posting your comments, suggestions and tell us how we can help you get more from the site and your Windows PC.
Decorate your PC with the festive Winter Wonderland theme!
Christmas is coming and soon we’ll all be decking the halls and trimming the tree. Don’t let your desktop be left out of the festive fun, get the Winter Wonderland theme! This professionally made theme uses Stardock Softwares advanced skinning engine to completely transform Windows XP or Windows Vista. The theme includes a festive desktop background, weather gadget (so you’ll know if it’s going to be a white Christmas!), icons and complete visual style that totally transforms your desktop.
Bring some festive cheer to your PC or surprise your children by transforming their computers with this visually stunning theme. Go here for a Windows XP preview or go here for a Windows Vista/Windows 7 preview. To get your Windows desktop all decked out in just a few clicks, visit this link.
Is your Wi-Fi secure? Stealing data is now as easy as using a web browser
Wi-Fi security isn’t something we’ve talked about at great length on Top-Windows-Tutorials.com. The main reason for this is just the sheer number of different devices on the market, each with slightly different configuration options. However, the practise of ‘packet sniffing’, that is grabbing unencrypted Wi-Fi data, has been around for many years. Alarmingly, most users ignore or are completely oblivious to the dangers of using open Wi-Fi access, or consider the risks minimal, after all, what’s the chance of a trained computer hacker being around who fancies going to the trouble of stealing your data?
If a “trained computer hacker” includes someone who can run the Firefox web browser and install a plug-in, then the chances are somewhat higher than you might expect. Firesheep, a Firefox extension recently released at the Torcon security conference, has captured the collective attention of blogs, tweets and news articles across the world wide web. Firesheep really does nothing that existing tools cannot do, but it is the simplicity of installing and using it that raised the most eyebrows. Running Firesheep while connected to an open Wi-Fi access point, such as those at your local Starbucks or Mcdonalds, allows the attacker to see usernames and passwords that other users on the network are entering. For example, if Eve is running Firesheep on her laptop in the coffee shop and Bob then decides to check his Facebook account while sipping his cappuccino, Bob’s username and Password are then easily intercepted by Eve as she sits inconspicuously at her table using her own laptop. It really is that easy, the technique works for Twitter and many other online services too.
If your own personal Wi-Fi hotspot is left open, then not only are you vulnerable to anyone trying out Firesheep, you also are inviting anyone within range to come use your network. This means that people in your neighbourhood could steal your bandwidth, use your internet for sharing illegal files or even launch a more sophisticated attack on the computers in your house. Adding a simple MAC address filter, which is designed to allow only trusted computers to join the Wi-Fi connection, is normally only effective at keeping out the least determined attackers, as changing or spoofing a computers MAC address is a trivial matter.
How to protect yourself – At home – Configuring your own home access point may seem complicated, tedious and difficult, but it’s something you shouldn’t put off or ignore. If in doubt, ask a local IT professional for help. Home routers and Wi-Fi access point configurations vary widely, but here are a few guidelines:-
1) Use WPA security, avoid WEP – WEP security is strong enough to stop casual eavesdroppers, but can be broken in a matter of minutes using readily available tools and techniques. Don’t take the chance, use WPA and be secure.
2) Change your SSID name – Hacks against the WPA security standard are rarer and more complex, but changing your SSID (network broadcast name) from the default to something more personal not only makes it easier to find your network amongst your neighbours it also protects you from these kinds of attack, as unlikely as they may be.
3) Change your routers access password from the default. You should do this even if you have a wired network too. This provides an extra layer of security against web-based attacks such as the Geo-location attack which can, in theory at least, pin-point a wireless access points physical location.
How to protect yourself – Out and About – The best strategy when away from your home is simply not to use your Wi-Fi connection, if you need the internet, use a mobile phone with internet access instead. On public Wi-Fi connections remember that everything you do, each website you visit and every password you enter can potentially be intercepted by an attacker. If you need to use an unsecured, public Wi-Fi access point regularly, then consider signing up for a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service. These services will send all your traffic through an encrypted “Tunnel”, making it virtually impossible for password sniffing programs to intercept your data. Some VPN services also offer anonymous internet surfing too. To find out more about VPN’s, click this link here.
If you want to find out more about Firesheep, the password snooping Firefox plugin, this article on net-security.org is a good place to start.
Tip of the Month – Got an old monitor? Put it to use!
Did you know that most modern desktop PC’s can use at least two monitors at once? If you check the connections at the back of your PC, you might well see two monitor connectors. Usually this means that your PC can use two monitors at once.
How can this be useful? Using two monitors can give you much more desktop space. You can have your e-mails or instant messaging open on one monitor while you browse or work on another. Running multiple monitors can help you become much more productive, most users who try it never go back to a single monitor setup again! See what Microsoft themselves have to say about running two monitors by visiting this link.
Free Utility of the Month – Spotify
Once upon a time, there was a utility for sharing music on the internet called “Napster”. Virtually any music file you could ever wish for was available on this network and many users gorged themselves on the all you could eat music buffet. There was just one small problem, most of the music on Napster was there illegally.
Fast forward a few years and a few lawsuits later, the original Napster is long gone and many music fans dream of a similar service but without the legal ramifications. Then suddenly a new music service/utility emerged called “Spotify”.
Spotify is a 100% legal way to access a HUGE library of music from popular modern artists to 50’s and 60’s legends to classical compositions. All this music can be accessed for free on a regular Spotify account, you simply need to listen to a short commercial every 3 or 4 tracks. Premium accounts are available that remove this restriction and allow you uninterrupted listening.
To get your hands on this amazing free utility, visit this link. Note:- Spotify is currently only available in the following countries:- Sweden, Norway, Finland, the UK, France, Spain and the Netherlands. It is expected to be available very soon in the USA however, so our US readers should watch this space.
Windows phone 7 is available now
While Microsoft dominates its nearest rival Apple in the desktop PC market, the reverse is true for the mobile phone and smartphone market, where Microsoft have been haemorrhaging market share to Apple since the launch of the ubiquitous Apple iPhone. Now, Microsoft is striking back with their new mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7. Will it be lucky number 7 for Microsoft in the mobile marketplace too?
Windows Phone 7, as most people expected, is a radical departure from Windows Mobile 6. There is no backward compatibility with old Windows Mobile software and the user interface is vastly different. Rather than focus on enterprise customers, Windows Phone 7 is squarely aimed at the type of modern, digital consumer the iPhone so successfully appeals to. Gone is the cluttered, tiny interface of the old Windows Mobile, replaced with a tile-like home screen which links to the most common activities on the phone. There’s a new version of Outlook Mobile with easy access to your e-mail and a calendar and day planner.
Windows Phone 7 devices also feature Bing Maps (yes, Microsoft have a map service too, it’s not all Google maps!) this includes turn by turn navigation and street level views. There’s an improved version of Internet Explorer Mobile and of course Facebook and Windows Live integration.
For gamers, there’s the exciting addition of Xbox Live directly into the Windows Phone 7 environment. This means that games you play on your phone will earn achievements just like games you play on your Xbox 360 or using Games for Windows Live service. Let’s hope that Xbox Live on Windows Phone 7 works better than the poorly implemented Games for Windows Live service on the PC.
Like the iPhone, all applications for Windows phone 7 devices must be purchased through the special app marketplace. Considering the more open nature of Windows Mobile 6, this is something of a disappointment for power users, but this move was to be expected, especially considering how successful it has been for Apple. This also means Microsoft can quality control the content available to consumers and reduces the risk of malware being introduced to the phone, though expect more technical users to figure out how to “jail break” the phone in due time.
Early impressions of the Windows Phone 7 devices seems promising, although like earlier versions of the iPhone, the devices are missing both copy and paste functionality and proper multitasking. Copy and paste is likely to follow shortly, but the lack of multitasking is likely to annoy more than just power users. Engadget reports that if you’re playing a game, for example, and then need to pause the game and lock your phone, when you unlock the phone, your game is gone and must be reloaded. This is true for any third party application.
Despite these issues and some other minor niggles however, Windows Phone 7 has launched to a cautious thumbs up from most of the technical world. Certainly there appears to be room for improvement, but what is there is a solid foundation. You can read more about Windows Phone 7 in the Engadget review here or the Anandtech review here.
That rounds off our newsletter for November. We hope you managed to survive Halloween without eating too much candy (or sweets as we like to call them here in the UK). As always, we’d like to send a huge thank you to all our readers for your support. The TWT Newsletter will return for a festive edition on the 10th December 2010 and will bring you more tips, tricks and techniques to help you get the best out of your PC, be it Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7! We hope that you found this newsletter informative and useful. If you did not then please let us know why, you can contact us by visiting this page. If you have enjoyed this newsletter, feel free to pass it on to all your friends and family, or better still encourage them to sign up for their own copy. Until next month, keep checking Top-Windows-Tutorials.com and enjoy happy, safe and stress-free computing!