Mar 21

The EFF has it half right about open wireless

I’ve posted a couple of times about my wireless network – how I have it set up, how I’ve set it up wrong before,  how I’ve decided to keep it closed, how I’ve failed to actually keep it closed, etc. But guess what? I’m back with another installment of my wireless musings. I closed it up last time I wrote, but then I opened it because it was “easier” and now I’m probably headed back to be a scrooge until I find a good solution. So here’s a bit of background.

I run an internet related business and have a pretty decent connection running into my house. For business purposes I have several people / systems hooked up to one or more routers and they all use that internet connection.  Now, the easiest thing for me to do is to just leave the wireless network open so that no one needs to know any passwords to use it or anything like that. It would make that particular part of my life much easier if everyone could just connect and me not have to be involved in the process at all. But, alas, as I mentioned previously, there are some people out there who take advantage of the open access point. I really mean TAKE ADVANTAGE OF, not just USE. So, I go from trying to do something nice (leave the access point open) to just being annoyed at people for using excessive bandwidth and reducing the amount that my servers have at their disposal to do their job.

So bandwidth is one issue, but there’s also the issue of liability. It gives me a modicum of comfort know that the EFF thinks people with open routers should be treated as an ISP – you should get the same protection. But I haven’t really seen anything that says that you WILL get the same protection. To me, this means that if someone tries to do any of several nefarious activities utilizing my network connection that I may or may not be able to claim that the bits simply crossed over my router and be released of responsibility. I may open myself up to a hassle (or worse)… and for what? It also just now occurred to me as I type this that ISPs must maintain logs of usage for a certain amount of time. If I run an open access would I be responsible for maintaining such logs of usage? I would think that it would significantly reduce people’s desire to participate in providing open wifi if they had additional regulations to deal with.

I’ve mentioned two issues with the open router question. One is the bandwidth issue and the other is the liability issue. For the bandwidth issue I’ve recently read about (you networking gurus don’t get all high and mighty with me… I try not to know everything about this stuff and really I just want something that WORKS and that I don’t have to know HOW it works… you’ve probably known about this software for years) some custom firmware [DDWRT] that you can install on routers that allows for a LOT finer control. So, for example, you could set up a list of mac addresses to get unlimited bandwidth and then limit unknown mac address (likely your guests) to a different, lower bandwidth and even apply a usage cap per mac address. I don’t know if my router can accept this software, but I’m going to look into it. Doing so would at least alleviate the bandwidth hog issues and leave me to only worry about the liability issue.

I am working on finding a “hard and fast” answer to the liability question so if any of you out there have a resource for me that answers unambiguously how things would actually work then I’d like to hear from you. Ideally it would be case law, but educated discussion on the matter would be welcome also.

Feb 24

New Router – Wife is happy, Mom is happy, I am happy, apparently neighborhood is happy

So, I got a new router last weekend because my mom (she lives with me not the other way around) wasn’t getting hardly any signal in her room and my old router was a couple of years old so I figured there was probably some new tech that would do the job better.

I found the latest and greatest NetGear router, and let me just say “this thing rocks”! The signal is great! We’ve got GIGABIT WIRELESS capability. The range is great too… almost too good! lol.

I’ve noticed a couple of time where things just really seem to be running a bit slow as far as network connectivity was concerned. I often work late at night when, seems to me, bandwidth should be less of a problem, but I’ve found that since I got the new router that it was actually sometimes much slower! Crazy, right? Well, not really.

It turns out that when I started poking around in the admin panel to see what the deal was I found that there were quite a few more “connected devices” than the number of devices I even own much less operate regularly. It turns out that with the increased range I had apparently become the default ISP for several people in the area! This is kinda cool because it shows that it works way better (range wise). But it’s not cool because I want my bandwidth… I did not buy it for them. Plus, I run a business out of my house and I don’t need some knucklehead I don’t even know causing me trouble down the road by misusing my connection.

I spent the next 1/2 hour going through each and every page of the admin panel to make sure I didn’t leave any access means unsecured. This thing has two channels of wireless and then a guest network also. I only knew about one prior to going through all the settings! I thought about turning on logging so  I could see what the invaders were doing, but that just seemed wrong. They could have been simply passing through and some might have not even realized they were on someone elses account if their wireless had switched just because my signal was stronger. I value my privacy so I try to treat others as I would want to be when it comes to that. That being the case I simply secured all the wireless access options and cleared the logs. I’m hoping that now I’ll no longer be sharing my bandwidth with passerbys and neighbors… I’ll keep an eye on the “connected devices” for a few days to be sure, but I’m pretty sure I got it handled.

All in all, I love this router. If you have a router more than a few years old it’s probably worth looking at an upgrade. Just be sure to pay attention to your security settings (I probably accidently turned them off – I seriously doubt it defaulted to open but Ican’t be sure) and you’ll be pleased with your choice!

 

Jul 18

lock down you wifi! and an overview of things to come

I had a birthday recently. On my birthday I made a sort of “resolution” to try to write atleast one post per week. This is week 3 (or 4 maybe) after that birthday and I’m just writing the first one. Sounds about right for a resolution, eh?

So here’s what I thought I would do. I’m going to make a list of some things that I plan to write about so I can reference it and have quick ideas in the future.

One of the things I want to write in depth on is the dangers of leaving your wifi open. I’ve read some really scary stories lately that in retrospect could probably have been predicted. I’ll give you the short version of my recommendation right now… lock down you wifi. No matter how altruistic your motives for leaving it open to whoever wants to use it allowing them to do so is not worth the potential legal issues. I just added security (or attempted to anyway) in the last couple of weeks, and I just hope no one did anything too shady before then. I’ll give a full writeup at some point in the near future.

Another thing I’ll be writing about will be some things I’ve learned business related. It’s been another year that I’ve been running a website that COULD make money and I will share some of what has and has not worked for me along those lines. The things that didn’t work were either due to being a poor idea in general or perhaps due to poor execution. I’ll talk about advertising on Facebook, google adwords, arguing with your customers, plans for revenue streams.

I might talk about kids. They are certainly a never ending source of material. The same parents can have kids that are opposite in so many ways it can be almost comical if it wasn’t so frustrating. One child knows exactly why they do everything… the other child believes “I don’t know” is an answer to why they did anything wrong. Bill Cosby would be proud of the second.