Category: Tech Talk

Tech Talk: Configuring SSID and Password for Your Home Wireless Network

By Joseph Zhang

 

So your grandma came to visit — “What’s the Wi-Fi password?” “I don’t know, that Time Warner guy wrote it down somewhere, let me see if I can find it.” “Well, hurry up! Grandma needs to get on Instagram!” After 10 minutes of digging through that stack of paper that hasn’t been touched for God knows how many years, you find a coffee-stained piece of paper that says “linksys” and a bunch of gibberish under it.

Well, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Remember how every time you go to a coffee shop or Best Buy, pull out your phone and search for a Wi-Fi connection, it shows a list of wireless networks with names that actually make sense? This guide will show you how to do just that, customizing your home Wi-Fi’s SSID (broadcast name) and password. The whole process should take less than five minutes.

First, you need to go to your router’s control panel. If you don’t know what a router is, that’s okay; you won’t need to physically access your router in order to do this. So, grab your laptop and go to COMMAND PROMPT. If you have Windows 10, search “cmd” in that circle thing next to your start menu. If you have previous versions of Windows, either search or run “cmd” inside your start menu. If you have a Mac, best of luck to you… Jokes aside, you should be looking for something called “Terminal” on a Mac, but this guide is dedicated to Windows operating systems.

Now that you have opened up command prompt, type in “ipconfig /all” and hit Enter. You should see a list of info; feel free to pretend you are Hackerman for a second. What “ipconfig /all” does is display current TCP/IP network configurations. You need to find a section labeled as “Wireless LAN adapter Wi-Fi,” or something similar. Inside that section, find “Default Gateway.” Your default gateway should be something like “192.168.x.x”; copy that number or write it down, because you’ll need it for the next step.

Open up your browser (the thing you use to go to Google). In the address bar, up top where the url is, copy and paste your default gateway and hit Enter. Now you should be looking at an authentication page. The username and password are often factory defaults, depending on your router’s manufacturer. The most common ones are “admin” for both the username and password, and “admin” for username and “password” for password. Try these first, and if they don’t work, do a simple Google search. The last resort would be resetting your router or calling tech support.

After you have logged in, you should be looking at your wireless router’s control panel. Most modern routers have a control panel; even the lower-end ones should have one for basic configurations. If you are on this step, you are almost finished.

Inside the control panel, things are pretty straightforward. You can look through different tabs and change certain settings if you want to — just don’t mess with anything you aren’t sure about. Every manufacturer has its own control-panel interfaces; different models of routers from the same brand might have different interfaces, but they should be very similar.

What you are looking for are the wireless settings. For instance, since I have a Netgear router; the settings are under the “Wireless” tab. Once you go in, you should be able to simply change the SSID (name) and password by typing in a new one. More complex passwords are recommended, with upper- and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Changing the default router login is also a good idea — you don’t have to, but you should if you know how. After you are done changing the settings, remember to click “Apply” or “Save.” The router will want to restart after that.

After the restart, you will lose internet connection on all of your wirelessly connected devices. Reconnect to your Wi-Fi as you normally would, except this time you are searching for the network you just named, with the password you just set up.

Customizing your wireless network’s SSID and password allows easier access for visitors, makes it easier for you to add a new device and enhances security. If you have a wireless network with no password and suspect your neighbor is leeching your network resources, follow this guide and set up a password ASAP.

 

Joseph Zhang is a member of the Information Technology Senior Seminar course and is planning on a career in the IT field. You can find an online version of this article at http://www.josephzhang.net/beacon-article

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Tech Talk: Understanding Cell Plans

 

By Andrew Constantine

18iy1s5y8eff7jpgIt’s important when making a purchase in the technology sector — whether that be a phone, tablet, laptop or anything else with a chip in it, even service plans and packages for these devices (think cell plan) — to realize there is more to the item then just the price alone. This is what can be referred to as the overall value of the item. Overall value means that the amount of money and time you’ve put into making the device work the way you intend it to, in the end, is worth it.

This leads us to the most important aspect of any tech purchase: Who am I and what am I doing? What are your expectations for service and support of the product or service you are paying for?

Probably the most prominent example of this is cell phone service. I have used every national and regional carrier since I’ve had a phone: AT&T, US Cellular, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, which I currently use. This was where I got my first real lesson in overall value. The smaller carriers offer a lower price and more heavy-hitting promotional offers; however, what I was expecting was strong service in most of the state. I found that the discount carriers lacked this: while the price was lower, I failed to get the value I was expecting out of the service. After a switch to a different carrier and more per month, I am finally getting what I need for phone service.

The same thought process can be applied to probably the first thing that a new college student thinks of: the laptop. As laptops range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, the choice is not an easy one. It’s important here as well to determine what you will be using the device for and what you need to get out of it. For some programs a laptop may not be the best choice. For example, a drafting program most certainly would run better on a desktop with enhanced graphics capability. Whereas if the program you are working in has an abundance of writing assignments, an inexpensive Chromebook will most certainly fit the bill.

These are only a couple of examples, but the overarching point is simple: Resist the urge to impulse buy, buy what your friends have, buy what some article online says you need. Take a step back and evaluate what it is you’re trying to accomplish with whatever it is you’re purchasing. Appreciate the overall value of something that may be priced a bit higher but gets you so much more out of it. As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for.

Andrew Constantine is a member of the Information Technology senior seminar course and is planning on a career in intelligent traffic systems. You can view this article online at andrewconstantine.tech/beacon.

Office 365, Free 

 

By Austin Mageles

Are you a Google Docs user? Did you download free software solutions like Open Office or Libre Office so you could write your term paper? Were you thinking of purchasing an Office 365 subscription for your college career? If any of these apply to you, did you know that you get a free subscription to Office 365 right now with your SMCC credentials? No, really!

If you weren’t already aware, Microsoft Office 365 is a platform-as-a-service solution that allows a subscriber to download a comprehensive version of the Microsoft Office 2016 suite, for about a hundred dollars a year. Furthermore, you also get access to web-based versions of Word, PowerPoint, OneNote and more! Interested? Let me tell you how to get started!

First, on a Windows- or macOS-based personal computer, open your web browser and head to http://tinyurl.com/bv7yzpt. This is Microsoft Office’s login page, similar to mySMCC’s or Blackboard’s. What you’re going to want to do is enter in your school email and school password. This may or may not change the page to display some SMCC graphics, like our logo. I’ve had different results depending on different systems, so your results may vary.

Hit the enter key to log in, and you should be brought to a page displaying various elements of the Office 365 suite. Near the top of the page, look for a rectangle labeled “Install Office 2016.” As the name suggests, this will allow us to install Office 2016 for no extra charge on our computer! Click on the box and a downloadable executable should pop up. Run the small executable, and a window should pop up stating that Office 2016 is installing. The small application is actually connected to the internet and is downloading the program right onto your computer, free of charge.

Once the download and installation is finished, you should have the icons of Excel, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word on your taskbar if you’re running Windows; or if you’re running macOS, they should be in your Applications folder. Open any of these applications, and within a few seconds you will be asked to register Office 2016. Instead of using a product key, look for the option to validate from an email address instead. Yet another sign-in window should appear, and from there, use the same SMCC credentials you used to download Office 2016. Within a few seconds to a minute, you’ll be logged into Office!

If you’ve gotten this far, then congratulations! You have successfully installed and connected Office 2016 to your SMCC account. It’s awesome to have access to the entire Office 365 suite for no additional charge! Furthermore, as long as you have access to your SMCC account, you’ll be receiving updates to Office and a whole bunch more! Now you can type that essay with confidence. Just make sure to get it done ahead of time!

Windows 10 Defender vs. Paid Antivirus

By Keith Norcross

Choosing an antivirus solution is not the most exciting task, but picking the right one can prevent a big headache down the line. Windows 10 Defender is an antivirus service that is built into Windows 10. Since its release, Defender’s free service has consistently shaken up the market as a substantial competitor to its paid rivals. This article will compare and contrast the differences between the market’s highest-rated antivirus solutions and Defender; it will not cover free versions of paid services.

Let’s take a look at the pros of Windows 10 Defender. For starters, it’s free, but unlike other free solutions it has real-time scanning. This means that it is stopping attacks as they happen to your system, or at the very least doing the best it can. Another great feature of Defender is that it is built into the operating system. You don’t need to worry about being vulnerable when you run your computer for the first time, as there is an immediate line of defense. Here is a small list of a few more great features of Defender: There are no ads, it turns itself off when another antivirus solution is installed, and it re-enables itself when another solution is removed.

If we look at some of the most popular paid services on the market, we see services like Kaspersky, Avast, and Webroot. There are many more, but these are just at the top of the list. Some pros are that they offer real-time scanning and score in the top five for antivirus software in lists from several independent reviewers. Another perk is that they include bonus features, like backup and recovery tools that can definitely make life easier when things go wrong for the everyday user.

Now that it’s time to put everyone in their place, our first few swings will be taken at Defender. It ranks above the middle of the road and just below the top paid services. It’s not the best, but it is far from the worst. Defender is also rather new to the game and has yet to prove itself. There is also Windows’s turbulent past with viruses. (“Shouldn’t they make products that aren’t vulnerable to attacks?”)

Next up are the paid antivirus services. The first pitfall to a paid service is that you have to pay for it! Not only do you have to pay for it, but you have to keep paying. The paid services will also give you a lot of false positives, where you will get notifications of infection over trivial pieces of software. These can be quite annoying and frustrating, especially when there is nothing harming your computer.

One more blow to all antivirus solutions, including Defender, is that they are incomplete. It is recommended that users also find an anti-malware solution to run alongside their antivirus. If you are looking for a good anti-malware solution, I would recommend Malwarebytes. The paid version gets you similar features like real time scanning and bonus features, but manually scanning for free is fairly easy, too.

The dust has settled a little bit, and it is time to pick the solution that best fits your needs. I can’t decide for you, but now you should have the tools needed to make an informed decision. Windows 10 Defender is great if you are on a budget, can’t make up your mind, or are knowledgeable and cautious with your online behavior. If you don’t mind paying anywhere from $20 per year for a lower-end service, or all the way up to $60 per year for top-of-the-line protection, then a paid service might be right for you. Both have their pitfalls, but Windows 10 Defender is rapidly improving, and this only puts the pressure on for paid services like Kaspersky or Avast.

Keith Norcross is currently enrolled as an information-technology student at SMCC.

Passwords: Too Complex to Remember

By David Gavitt – CMPT 295 Student

Are you struggling with remembering your passwords, which are now required to be complex by many companies? The standard Microsoft password requirement has three rules: Passwords must have at least eight characters. They must contain at least two of the following: uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. And they can’t contain the part of your email address that comes before the @ sign.

For some, this could be a daunting task, but look no further. When creating a password, just simply think of a phrase that you like, that means something to you or that pertains to the account you are going to be using the password for. For example, let’s use the phrase, “SMCC has a beautiful campus right on the water.” Take the first letter of each of the words, resulting in “Sh@bcrotw.” Another example would be, “1 green apple a day keeps the doctor away.” This results in “1ga@dktDa.” These passwords abide by Microsoft’s password requirements, they are not easily guessed due to the fact that they are not actual dictionary words, and they are also easy to remember due to the phrase we have used to create them.

It is also important to use more than just one password for your accounts. What is the reason for this? If someone were to crack your password, they would know your login information and your password. Most likely you’d have used these credentials somewhere else, such as email or Facebook. Some may think, “Oh, I don’t care. I don’t even use my email — I have nothing to hide.” Yeah, well, if they have access to your email, they will be able to use the “Forgot password” or “Reset password” feature that will then send a link to your email so they can reset it to the password of their choice. Also, they will be able to tell what other types of accounts you have with this email, due to the old or recent mail that companies have been sending to you or updates about your page.

Luckily, some companies are providing options for dual authentication methods. This would include something you have and something you know. For example, you know your password and user account information to log in; they then would ask for an authenticator code to make sure it really is you logging in. Some companies offer mobile authenticators that will provide you with a code that will vary in size depending upon the company. For example, if you have a Steam account, there is an option to enable mobile authentication. This would mean you have to download their Steam app, which would give you your five-digit code. This is important due to the fact that your credit or debit card is often attached to such accounts.

What to take away from this: Complex passwords are not as daunting as they may seem. Think of a phrase that you can recite from memory at any given time (you can alter it slightly for use with different account passwords). Use the first or last letter of each word — some capitalized, some replaced with symbols (@ for a) — and use dual authentication when available.

David Gavitt is currently enrolled in CMPT 295 as a senior seminar student. Visit davidgavitt.com for more will information and questions regarding the article itself.

Malware vs. Process Explorer

By Ben Farmer

What if I told you that you weren’t at the mercy of how good your antivirus software is? That you could, with a little learning, search for malware yourself? We will be using a program called Process Explorer, by Mark Russinovich. Process Explorer is essentially Task Manager on steroids, without the anger issues. This isn’t a perfect method but it adds another healthy layer of security to protect your dirty browsing history from prying eyes.

The first and only thing you’ll need is the program itself. It can downloaded from tinyurl.com/khpyt3n. It doesn’t require installation, so to run it, just hit procexp.exe. Once it’s open you will see a ton of information, and it may be intimidating for the uninitiated, but if you have a look around it may all make sense. However, you don’t really need to know even 10 percent of the displayed information.

Now we need to add the VirusTotal column in order to compare processes with a database of around 60 antivirus programs. Click on “Options” at the top left, then hover over “VirusTotal.com” and select “Check VirusTotal.com.” It will prompt you to accept terms. After this, and a short wait, a column called VirusTotal will be added, and it will display some important information.

In the new column, it will show you many fractions. The fractions represent how many antivirus programs think a process is malware. Zero out of 60 would mean that a process is considered nonthreatening by all antiviruses that ran it through their database. This is much nicer than just asking one antivirus, don’t you think? If a process shows that there are a few antiviruses that think it’s a threat, don’t panic. Simply disconnect from the internet (to minimize the damage) and then Google the process name on a different device. It may be a false positive, so don’t immediately nuke it. You will find plenty of information on most processes. If it turns out to be malicious, you may kill a process by clicking on it and pressing Delete on your keyboard.

Another feature of Process Explorer is that it color-codes all processes. Each color means something different. For example, a red process means it has just ended and will soon be removed from the list. The color we are looking for is purple. If you see a purple process, it means it is packed. A packed process is compressed, usually to hide something. There are very few good reasons for a process to be packed, so that should raise an immediate red flag. In this situation, you should also research the process name and kill it if you have reason to believe it is malware.

Ben Farmer is a member of the Information Technology senior seminar course and is planning on a career in networking. He can be contacted at benjaminjfarmer@smccme.edu. Feel free to ask any questions. An online version of this article can be found at benjaminfarmer.smccme.net/beacon.