The Illusion of WiFi Anonymity Is Gone For Most Comcast Users and WPA2-PSK Security Can Be a Myth

banditThe illusion of WiFi anonymity is gone for Comcast users.  Many of my acquaintances have purposely named their WiFi routers with innocuous names thinking that it helps keep them below the radar of eavesdroppers.  Unfortunately, Comcast is turning their WiFi routers into public hotspots if they use a Comcast / XFINITY provided router. 

Oops – The spotlight just went on to expose their pseudoally humble digital abodes. 

Click here to read additional details about Comcast / Xfinity hotspots:

In truth, they were always open to eavesdropping even if they were using WPA2-PSK encryption on their routers thanks to their own generous natures. 

In most cases, they gave their WiFi passkey to extended family, friends and visitors thinking that the encryption kept them safe from intruders.  (The discussion about related liability is a separate topic).

Little did they realize that WPA2-PSK is relatively easy to hack thanks to their own attitudes of sharing.  Eventually, a determined or even not so determined eavesdropper will acquire their passkey and then with some readily available software tools crack the WPA2-PSK encryption and snoop through all the traffic going through their WiFi routers.

An article on the “How To Geek” website walks us through the depressingly simple process of cracking WPA2-PSK encryption in an effort to alert us to our illusion that the encrypted protection we’ve trusted is easily mutated into a myth.

Face it, most residential WiFi users are clueless about the scope of their vulnerability even if they actively trying to do everything right.

Read the How To Geek article and then turn into the Grinch, not sharing your WiFi passkey with anyone and actively distrusting everyone … even the person looking back at you in the mirror.

Folks like Steve Gibson of Gibson Research know how to secure their home networks but most of us struggle to even stay current with the names of the security holes, threats and exposures that plague us constantly, let alone keep all the holes plugged.

 

 

How do we stay relatively safe in this ever changing security nightmare environment? 

We must incessantly read articles by respected security focused authors while at the same time actively distrusting what they are saying unless it is confirmed by other similarly respected authors.  Focus on security experts, not news organizations who rarely understand the topic in any depth and parrot security news with some abandon.

Steve Gibson and Leo Leporte talk about security in Steve’s weekly “Security Now” webcast.    

You may not understand everything Steve is talking about but he’ll clearly tell you when to gather up your skirts and hunker down by the fire.  

Leo has coined the constant security hacks and warnings in the news as “Breach Fatigue“.  He is right about the fatigue.  Nothing seems safe in the digital security world and maybe it isn’t.  We simply stop listening to security news due to the constant reports of security failures and our own inability to keep up with the recommended security practices needed to ‘be safe’.

Few if any of us will stop using the Internet though, thus we need to do our best to be as security intelligent as possible and actually practice the security instructions that we are given by folks like Steve.

Good luck.  If we opt to stay current with the best security practices and secure applications, we may end up being dragged screaming into the realm of security shows and articles by folks like Steve.  At least we are learning by being involved in that venue and actively engaging in the best security practices that we’ve learned there.

Don’t you sometimes long for the Rose Colored Glasses we have all worn from time to time?

© Article Posted 9 December 2014 by Lee R. Drew on Lee Drew’s Views

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Aging and Weather Stations

My wife and I seem to have crossed an invisible line in the sand.  We haveOld dude sign become human weather stations with a smattering of other chemical based mysteries.  

During our life, we have listened to the weather prognostications of our grandparents and parents as they pontificated on the aches and pains associated with barometer changes and cold weather and of course the little known but apparently real mosquito attracting pheromones emitted or sealed in the bodies of the aged.  I’ve always thought the last plague was fertilizer but as unlikely as it seems, it is apparently true.   I attract the pests and they never bother my wife.

We never wanted to test the veracity of our ancestors.  If they repeatedly told stories of impending meteorological disasters based on the location and strength of their pains, who cared?  Let them have their little oddities if it makes them happy.

Oh bother.  I’ve inherited my mothers rain predicting knee pain.  It even thumps on the counter beat of my heart just like hers.  My wife and I may mention our weather predictions from time to time and catch the glances between our kids and grandchildren as we foretell the future weather, but we understand their thoughts.   With decreasing frequency, we still raise our eyebrows when “old” people talk like that around us too.

The weather has taken such a prominent role in our lives that we’ve installed our own weather station, apparently in an effort to verify our predictions.  When and how did the weather rise to such a predominant role in the conversations between my wife and me?   Is weather foretelling indicative of aging minds who may not be involved in the daily management of young families and corporations?   

Possibly!   The topic certainly seems to be in the top ten conversation starters among folks in our generational strata.

The weather station has taken a far too prominent role in our lives.  Does it warrant the 20 – 30 daily glances at the color weather monitor in our kitchen?   What’s worse are the apps on our tablets that we never seem to close.  If the glances at them are added to the views of the monitor, the problem is glowingly evident.   We can’t control the craziness in the world news, but we can elucidate the weather factors and results in our geospatial region.  

Is all of this an indication of minds that aren’t engaged in enough ‘real’ issues to keep them busy and productive?   

In our case, No!  I still work 14 – 16 hours a day in research and my sweetheart has slowed her activity level enough to finally be as leisurely engaged as me.   

The weather still sneaks in our minds filling any unproductive cycles of our slowly calcifying brains.

Folks in our generational strata can’t even get away from the weather in their sleep.  We sort of follow the standard sleep cycles with the drop of body temperature, slowing of breathing, blood pressure drop and tissue growing to replace the failures and aging cells that day.  Our dreams however, don’t totally escape reality to allow healing of our psyche’.  The barometers in our joints and muscles don’t punch off the time clock while we sleep.  They send ever more demanding reports of pressure changes to our brain.  Soon our dreams aren’t about sugar plum fairies and puppy dog tails but rather morph into scenes of us hurting while trying to walk, work and play with our grandchildren.  The weather seems to always be on our minds.

I remember my parents and grandparents talking about the weather in the last days of their lives.   Regardless of everything else that was happening to their failing bodies, the weather was still high on the list of conversational topics.

 

Doctors know that there is a correlation between joint pain and the weather.  Some are loathe to admit it but as they age, they too switch to the weather changes cause pain camp.

Earlier this year I enjoyed a conversation with one of our six year old granddaughters.  When I stood up to help her little sister, she heard my joints pop and the low groan that escaped my lips.  Stopping me, she said, “Grandpa, you really are old!”   “Did you know that your body makes a popping sound when you stand up and that you groan at the same time?”  “What does it feel like to be old like you?”

Looking at her, I remembered a similar conversation with an older gentleman when I was her age.  He relied on two canes to walk, stand and sit.  He answered my question saying, “It hurts to be old!”   “My mind can’t believe that my body is acting so strange because it thinks I’m still as young as you!”

I answered my granddaughter with a similar statement knowing that she doesn’t have any points of reference to understand my comment more than just the surface value of the words.  Little does she know that she too is a future weather forecaster and that she has already inherited the groan gene but that it is just asleep at the present.

I’ve wondered what weather station marketers focus on when they are creating and placing their advertisements.  Are they envisioning folks in my demographic or are they seeing science minded folks of all ages?  Do they order broadly focused advertising or is the focus tightened down to a narrow demographic group or groups?  

Will my wife and I develop an abbreviated language about weather where “knee – morning” means that it is going to rain in the morning or will “knuckles – neck” mean that we are in for a two day rain storm?  

I’m a little worried that the abbreviations will actually come to pass.  Maybe if we move to a much warmer dry climate we can extend the evolution or devolution of our language.  I don’t think there is a good solution that resolves the “grandpa, you are old” comments.  My wife and I still call people old, so we haven’t matured enough to escape the name calling of youth.  

I’ve come to the conclusion that I should have invested in companies that make weather reporting equipment.  It is a much more viable industry than I thought, especially if their products are  marketed intelligently.  If they focused on a better presentation of the data in their apps and included a simple but rugged stand in their weather station kits, they would be even more profitable.   No one wants “old” people up on ladders changing the batteries annually and everyone wants a well designed infographic presentation for the data sent from owners weather station.

This story concludes as you would expect.  The wonderful body given us by the Lord wears out just as He planned.  Exact dates and ages for fail points aren’t warrantied but they are guaranteed.   The enjoyment we get out of our lives is dependent on our attitudes because the vehicle that carries our spirit does have expiration dates associated with its multitude of functions.  Even with the miracles of modern medicine, expiration events will occur in our bodies.  With them we will enjoy the injection of a strong interest in the weather.  Even the non-scientific will learn to speak in terms of atmospheric pressure levels, isobars, moisture convergences and outflows much to the consternation of family and friends. 

© Article Posted 17 Nov 2014 by Lee R. Drew on Lee Drew’s Views

Do Beginning Genealogy Researchers Need To Be Experts?

There has been a continuing stream of dialog among the LDS genealogy18 community about the need for folks new to genealogy and LDS temple work to either do dedicated original research or alternately to mine the existing records on FamilySearch Tree to find possible incomplete temple ordinances for family members.

The two camps are polarized in their thoughts, although the old-school researchers seem to be more vociferous in their position on the subject.  They regularly declare that original research is THE ONLY way to be involved in securing LDS ordinance reservations. It must be the only method used to discover ancestral family members. 

They state that anyone who shortcuts the traditional research process is:

  1. Not a real genealogist

  2. Not an accurate record keeper

  3. Following a path that will lead to their destruction in both their research habits and in the accuracy of their work.

  4. Creating duplicate or false ordinance work in LDS temples.

  5. Wasting their time.  Kidding themselves.  Becoming a purveyor of junk data.

Their attitudes and words hurt the feelings newbie researchers and do as much to quash their fledgling interest in genealogy as do the ever present pressures in their lives that range from school to work and to raising a family.  

Let’s face facts.  Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy plainly stated in his 2014 RootsTech talk that less than 3% of LDS church members submit names for temple ordinances.  

He noted that “To reach the other 97 percent, we need to change how we think, how we teach and what we teach.”

He went on to say: “These numbers are a cry for change.”

There was good news in his message though: “In the last year the number of members submitting names for temple ordinances is up 17 percent over last year. It has gone from 2.4 to 2.7 percent of the members.”

His message called for the improvement of both member involvement in family history research and in church genealogy curriculum and research tools.  

He supported the call for improvement by noting that “in the United States 25 percent of Church members do not have four generations of ancestors in the Family Tree section of the Church’s FamilySearch Internet site. Internationally, 70 percent of members don’t have both parents in Family Tree, 90 percent don’t have their grandparents in it, and 95 percent don’t have their great-grandparents included.”

“These individual members already know the names of the people that are in their first four generations,” he noted. “But our responsibilities go far beyond those first four generations. We need to help all members of the Church find their ancestors.”

His message on this subject wasn’t new although it wouldn’t matter if it was or even if he was the only church leader speaking and teaching on the subject.  His assignment in the Presidency of the Seventy includes being the Executive Director of the Family History Department.  Not only is his direction in family history work consistent with the goals of the church, it is consistent with direction from the highest level of church leadership

Noting the current lackluster involvement of all church members in family history, the church through their genealogy arm, FamilySearch, has introduced numerous new methods, programs, opportunities and tweaks in curriculum in an effort to help members engage in the work.  

Obviously much of the focus is on new researchers ranging from young folks to busy adults.  They need opportunities that provide them semi-easy research tools and early successes to reinforce the knowledge that success is possible and enjoyable.  

The Family History Department recently released a program named “New Way to Find Cousins”  and video directed to them that specifically focuses on using the Descendancy View of Family Tree to find incomplete or missing temple ordinances for members of their ancestral families.

Just over a year ago, they introduced the Memories tools in Family Tree that encourages users of Tree to add photos and stories to the records of their ancestors.

The release has been followed by numerous campaigns that encourage writing and attaching memories about ancestors in Tree like the recent #meetmygrandma campaign.

Several months ago, FamilySearch released two mobile apps, FamilySearch Tree and FamilySearch Memories to make it easier for everyone to access ancestral records on FamilySearch Tree and add information to them.

The tools and methods used in the past hadn’t proven successful with the masses.  Something had to change if participation in family history research was to increase.  No matter where we reside on the family history research skill spectrum, we need to listen to the words of church leaders and take heed of the programs, tools and education that is being released by the Family History Department through FamilySearch.

It is time for all of us to accept the direction of these programs and help in their success and stop finding reasons why they are wrong.   They aren’t wrong.  Our vision of “right” is too narrow.

I’m an old-timer in genealogy research like many of you.  I’ve been heavily involved in family history research for over 60 years.  I’ve taught family history classes for over 30 years and like other instructors throughout the church have spent much of the teaching time focusing on sources, accuracy and avoiding the bane of duplicate records.   Hopefully, the long term successful research involvement of my students or my nebulously denoted “success rate” as an instructor exceeds the 3% average of the church.  Memory tells me that is true but unfortunately, the long term active involvement research numbers are still far too low.

As a father and grandfather, I’ve taught family members how to “do” genealogy research.  We’ve enjoyed research trips to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and to libraries in other locations as well as numerous trips to ancestral sites including their residences, cemeteries, local historical societies and the rest of the commonly visited research venues.

We’ve had a good time.  We’ve found ancestral records.  We’ve been successful.  

All too often the “We” in these sentences has been the royal “We” with me sitting on the throne of royalty.  

Real success in helping them engage and actually love the research engagement has been when we’ve used similar tools and the objectives that FamilySearch is using now.

 


Sessions of dry research never stoked the love of family history in their lives, but it flourished when ancestral stories and photos were introduced.  Confidence in research success was never achieved until I purposely directed them to resources that I knew would result in the discovery of ancestral records.  

Ordinance work that they performed for their ancestors was never as sacred or internalized as it has been since they have been an integral part of our ancestral research.  Their confidence is built on their research skills and on the stories and photos about their ancestors that were found and written during the research process.

Is the LDS Church and its Family History Department asking researchers to abandon source proven records, avoidance of duplication and engage in speculation and low value ancestral information?  

Absolutely not!  

They are asking us old timers to look in a different teaching and experiential window than the one we’ve known and focused on for generations.  We are still needed to produce the stream of accurate new records, but we are too few and too relatively slow in the production of those records.  

A much broader spectrum of involvement by all church members and researchers worldwide is required for the ultimate success required by the Lord.

Come on Old Timers and Journeyman Researchers, stop hogging all of the research fun and stop trying to assume all of the research responsibility.  Share and encourage it with everyone.   Help them be successful in their ancestral quest. 

It all starts with baby steps.  Think back far enough and you’ll remember when you too wore the infant shoes of a new researcher that you’ve now bronzed and proudly display for others to see.

It’s time to realize the promises of Elijah in turning our hearts to our ancestors.  Let’s gently and encouragingly share our hard won skills and knowledge as we help new researchers successfully achieve their own goal of being successful, accurate family history research scholars who along with their families hope to be Saviors on Mount Zion.

© Article Posted 18 Oct 2014 by Lee R. Drew on Lee Drew’s Views

Everyone Should Be A Licensed Amateur Radio Operator

We live in a world that is only a few seconds away from a Medieval civilization.  Events ranging from high level nuclear blasts to Internet attacks on the components of our digitally controlled infrastructure as well as natural disasters could bring our modern society to a halt.

radio_headsetLife on planet earth can be ‘interesting’ at times as witnessed by the plethora of natural disasters that plague mankind.  In seemingly ever increasing frequency, the magnitude of the disasters has increased or at least has had a broader impact on our current society.

Communications are easily lost in the disasters.  Sometimes for days or even weeks.  They aren’t lost if you have a amateur (ham) radio and a license to operate it.

Of course your world doesn’t need to fall apart to have need of radio communication.

Recently, some of our family members hiked to the high peak of a mountain during what was supposed to be a twelve hour hike.  Unfortunately, part of the party had to remain at a lower elevation due to health issues while the remainder continued to the summit.

Several hours after the agreed upon meeting time of the parties had passed, one of the fathers in the group became concerned about the location of his children.  The adult that had lead the hikers to the summit initially took the wrong path and they spent an extra three hours back tracking to complete the summit trail.

Everyone was safe but with the onset of darkness at 11,000 ft. and ten miles of trail ahead of them back to their vehicles, the father at the lower elevation was justifiably worried about his children and the other members of the party.

There was no cell coverage on the mountain and thus the two parties couldn’t communicate.  Had the leader of the lost group had a ham radio, the communication could have easily taken place and the level of worry would have been greatly reduced.

The parties on the mountain weren’t the only one worried when the families didn’t arrive home on time.  The mothers at home started to worry when it became dark and their husband hadn’t called to tell them that everyone was safely on their way home.
Fortunately, the father with a ham license called the local search and rescue group on his radio and asked them to relay a message to the wives to ally their concerns.

The story ends well but a lesson was driven home for all parties in the group.  It is easy to loose communications even in todays connected world, and that the investment in radio equipment and study to get a license to operate it is well worth the time and effort.

Fires, Hurricanes, Earthquakes and numerous other events can easily disrupt communications.  Stuff happens.  If you don’t have a ham radio, emergency communications and requests for assistance will be difficult if not impossible.

Do you want your family in that situation when it can be remedied so easily?

 

Start with a Technician License that will open a fairly broad spectrum of basically line-of-sight radio communication to you.   Equipment isn’t expensive.  Get a handi-talkie for your packs and a mobile radio for your vehicles.

If you want to communicate over greater distances, a little more effort in study will prepare you to obtain a General Class License and the greatly increased number of available frequencies to amateur operators.

if you currently don’t have an amateur radio license, why not?  Having one is just good sense and a lot of fun.  Licensed operators frequently help their communities with communication service at parades, marathons, bike rides, preparedness planning and a multitude of other activities.   Additionally, they can serve their community and the public at large as a member of their local Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) group.

Ham operators enjoy an annual “Field Day” where operators test their equipment, skills and share the hobby with community and scouting groups.  Once more, hams find themselves having fun while serving others.

As hams say, “73” (Best Wishes).  We’ll listen for you on the air.

© Article Posted 7 Oct 2014 by Lee R. Drew on Lee Drew’s Views

Online Classes Really Do Work

I’ve long been a fan of online courses.  Members of our family are constantlylaptop enrolled in online courses from institutions that they would never attend otherwise.

When first introduced to the ‘free’ online courses, they questioned the effectiveness of the learning experience.  The questions ended after they completed their  first online course.  They reported learning as much and probably more than they did in typical college courses that they attended in person.

Now our grandchildren are also enrolled in online coursework as well.  Several of them enjoy 80% or more of their total coursework online even though they are in middle and high schools.  In many cases, the coursework isn’t associated with the typical educational curriculum that their school district purchased or developed but rather is from some of the top universities in the U.S., like Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, Stanford, BYU, and others.

In November 2012, the New York Times declared 2012 as “The Year of the MOOC” (massive open online courses).  Educators, legislators, employers, parents and students said, “Great, but is online coursework actually teaching people at an effective level?”

According to David L. Chandler in an article for MIT News, “Online classes really do work.”

Mr. Chandler notes research findings published in the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning e-journal by Kimberly F. Colvin, John Champaign, Alwin Liu, Qian Zhou, Colin Fredericks and David E. Pritchard of MIT, Tsinghau University in China and Harvard University, that prove that students of online courses learn as well as students who physically attend courses for the same topic.

 

If you haven’t seen online courses, below are some sites listed in no particular order that show samplings of the breadth of topics and educational institutions who offer them.

Most of the coursework listed in the above institutional list are free although in most cases you can enroll in and receive college credits for an associated fee.   Tens of thousands of online courses are available for enrolled students regardless of their physical location.

The world of education is available to almost all people now if they have access to a computer that has an Internet connection.

It’s never to late or too early to learn.  Try a course or two to get started.  You’ll be happy with the education you receive and will be inspired to continue learning for the rest of your life.

© Article Posted 25 Sep 2014 by Lee R. Drew on Lee Drew’s Views

Preparedness Tips

We live In an ever changing world.  The earth seems to be in commotion, governmentsearthquake_house make mistakes of varying magnitudes and many groups espouse the actions and words of evil that create destruction and havoc among men.

Stuff happens and in the current condition of the world, it will continue to happen.

Given that knowledge, we need to constantly be prepared for disasters of one type or another.   Here are a few tips that focus on physical preparedness.

    1. Get plastic car keys made at AAA or a locksmith. Carry the card in your wallet or purse.
    2. Sweat pants / shirts are ideal emergency clothing. Cut arms, legs short if used in summer.
    3. Put a dryer sheet in each baggie containing clothes, towels, etc. Stops stale smell.
    4. Put a flat bed sheet sheet in each pack. Use for privacy, shelter, triangular bandage, etc.
    5. Use small plastic bags for inserts in a pillowcase. Blow up, tie off with elastic. Saves space.
    6. Rotate storage water every 6 months. No Clorox® in storage water. Use a few drops in the water you are going to rotate to clean out the container. Swish and dump on flowers. Replacement water is already treated by the city.
    7. DO NOT store water in plastic containers by sitting them on cement or near any household chemical. The chemicals will leach through the plastic and contaminate the water. Store it up on wooden pallets or other similar platforms.
    8. Packaged water keeps for 5 years.
    9. Beef MRE’s are the best tasting. Shelf life in 60-degree temperature is 10 years.
    10. Replace all batteries in your equipment yearly. Write on calendar for the change out date.
    11. DO NOT store water in colored plastic bottles. The color will leach out and contaminate the water.
    12. Make a carrier for liter-sized bottle out of strapping. Loop over shoulder, loop horizontal 6” above bottom of first loop, last loop at 90 degree angle starting on 2nd loop, sewn at bottom of first loop and then ending on the opposite side of 2nd loop. Liter bottle fits inside and can be carried over shoulder.
    13. Keep 2 flashlights in your vehicles. The odds of one failing are very high.
    14. Put a jacket and blanket in your car for each person it will carry.
    15. Keep 6 liters of water in your vehicle in a box. Each bottle should not be more than ¾ full to avoid splitting the bottle if frozen. The box will keep the bottles from rolling around and punctures.
    16. Port-a-potty: Line the 5-gallon bucket with plastic bags. Put a supply of the bags in the bucket along with Purell®, hand wipes, etc. as well as a snap on toilet lid.
    17. Get dry chemicals for the port-a-potty. The chemical foams up and has the consistency of thick soup when reacting to urine and feces.
    18. Keep Band-Aids in your wallet and purse. You never know when you will need one.
    19. Secure the water heater in your home. Get heavy strapping from your appliance store. If the water heater falls over during an earthquake, the gas line will probably break and your home will be destroyed by fire.
    20. Use Quake Wax® to secure your vases, etc. It comes in a jar and the objects and can be moved if needed but will not tip over during a quake.
    21. Use rubber grip liner material under TV’s, microwaves, vases, on the back of pictures, etc.
    22. Use Velcro® behind pictures to secure them to a wall along with earthquake proof hangers.
    23. Use Velcro® under blinds to keep them anchored on the bottom. This will stop most glass from entering if it breaks and will keep you from being hit in the head with the blinds.
    24. Use cords, bungee’s, etc. to keep your food storage items on the shelves. String from post to post at the desired height(s).

Posted 16 Sep 2014 by Lee R. Drew on the Lee Drew’s Views Blog

LDS Church Expands Use of Digital Devices

As a techie, it is enjoyable to watch your church embrace and even lead the pack in the use of technology, tech devices and social media.tablets&phones

The LDS Church recently announced that they are moving much more of their missionary proselytizing to tablets and devices.

The majority of tools that missionaries and members use in their weekly lives and church assignments are being mirrored in apps for use in the daily digital / technical / social activities of church members.

YouTube Video Tutorials and Tools for your own video uploads:

 

 

Elder David F. Evans Discusses Expanded Missionary Efforts

Additionally, numerous apps have and are being released that cover most activities a youth and adult member of the church can want.

Times have changed for members of the church because leaders frequently engage in both their techy hardware and software themselves.  They expect missionaries and members to use their technological power for good constantly.

We are reminded to look at thing as “they really are.”

Posted 15 Sep 2014 by Lee R. Drew on the Lee Drew’s Views blog