Android 9 Pie is finally here for everyone who own Pixel devices. Then all other eligible Android devices will get the update. I have been running Pie on my Pixel 2 XL for over a week now and here are some of the new features Android 9 Pie bring to your device.

1. Adaptive Battery

Google has been working hard at maximizing battery usage for Android for some time now. The latest step in maximizing your battery is Adaptive battery. Android will learn over time which apps are most important to you and prioritize battery usage for them. This means apps you rarely use will not hog as much battery as they used to in previous versions of Android. With this feature on, low priority apps will see a delay in notifications to your phone. And yes, Battery Saver is still a part of Android, which helps squeeze out as much battery life as possible when your already low on battery power.

2. Adaptive Brightness

Android has always had an auto brightness control, but it only used the phone's light sensor to make adjustments.  Adaptive Brightness is another smart/learning feature for Android 9. Over time, the feature will use ambient light levels, you brightness adjustments, and the apps you use to help build better brightness profiles tailored to your phone use.

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Image - Google

3. App Actions

Android will start creating customized shortcuts, for you, in the app drawer. The customized shortcuts are based on how you use your home. For example, over time Android 9 will learn that Tuesday morning around 8 am you typical use navigation and listen to an audio book during your morning commute. This will in turn prompt Android to start providing app shortcuts in your app drawer for for those two options. Android will also provide a shortcut to a favorite artist on Spotify, or favorite music application, when you connect headphones to your phone.

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Image - Google

4. Slices

Coming later this fall Android 9 will start including app shortcuts in search results whenever you start a search on your phone. Let's use Lfty as an example. If you search for Lyft you will see app quick links for ordering a ride to work or home, depending on the day and your location. You will also see estimated costs in the shortcuts too.

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Image - Google

5. Screenshots With One Hand

For most people, taking screenshots on Android phones involves press the Volume Down and the Power button at the same time. This feature has always worked well for most. Android 9 Pie has introduced a new way to take screenshots. You can now just long press the Power button to bring up the power options. Included in those options is an option to take a screenshot. With this feature, you can now take screenshots with one hand.

6. Gesture Navigation

Android 9 Pie introduces some additional gesture controls for users. The newest is the ability to swipe up on the Home screen to see recently used apps, versus using the square overview button. If you swipe up a second time the app drawer will appear. In practice this makes navigation a little bit more intuitive with one hand. Depending on your phone you can adjust this from Settings > System > Gestures menu.

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Image - Google

7. Rotate Screen Confirmation

Prior to Pie, users had two options for screen rotation: Auto and Fixed. Those options are still present, but if you have the option set to fixed, Android 9 Pie will prompt you  with a rotation button. This button's location is where the square overview button used to be. This rotation button will appear anytime the system notices the phone's rotation has changed from portrait and landscape.

8. Per Bluetooth Device Volume Memory

One thing I personally struggle with is managing the volume of my media when switching between the Bluetooth headphones I wear at the gym and the Bluetooth audio connection in my car. With Android 9 Pie the device will remember the volume settings last used for each Bluetooth device. It's a simple feature but a powerful one.

9. Smarter Notifications

Over time Android 9 will start to learn which notifications you tend to dismiss relative to the number of notifications you get from an app. If the system determines a certain app is spamming you with a lot of notifications, and you are just dismissing them, then Android 9 will ask if you want to mute said notification. Now you will not see that particular notification anymore. Additionally, under Settings > App > Name of the App > Notifications, you will be able to see a notification count and options to change app notification preferences to mute or on.

10. Improved Do Not Disturb

In addition to silencing incoming alerts, Do Not Disturb mode will now silence all visual alerts as well. This means your phone's display will not light up anymore either. But fear not, any starred contact will still ring your phone, making sure you miss nothing important. Check out Settings > Sounds > Do Not Disturb for all the additional options.

11. Digital Wellbeing

Digital Wellbeing is Google's commitment to Android helping to improve your life and not distract from it. These tools are still in the beta phase, but Pixel owners can try them out now. One of the best benefits is being able to see how you spend time on your phone. You can see which apps you spend the most time with and you can setup limits on usage. Obviously, these limits are easy to disable. But, this is a step in the right direction to help curb phone use and focus on you.

12. Wind Down

An extension to the Digital Wellbeing section is a feature called Wind Down. Many people tend to be on their phones late into the night. Phones screens have a nasty affect on your sleeping habits. With Wind Down you can setup a bedtime schedule. As your bedtime approaches your phone will begin to fade your phone's screen to grey scale, reduce the color temperature (make the screen less blue), and enable Do Not Disturb. This helps prepare you for sleep. When you wake up in the morning, those settings will revert for you.

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Image - Google

We all pay a lot of money for our internet access and blazing fast internet speeds. What's worse is a vast majority do not check to see if they are getting the speeds they pay for. The reason being is most users will not realize they have an issue because the internet just works when browsing the web. People will take notice when trying to watch YouTube or Netflix and they get stuck buffering more. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have instilled "heavy usage" hours that most people will write of issues as that. You should not do that and you should always ensure that you are getting what you pay for.

Testing Internet Speeds Is Not Hard

One of the first things you need to do when testing is check your bill and see what you are speed package you are paying for. Most ISPs will also state that your package are for "speeds up to XYZ Mbps." This gives ISPs some wiggle room on the speeds they provide to you. Typically, most ISPs will state that 20% speed difference is normal, especially during peak hours. Once you know the speeds your are paying for, you can now run some tests to ensure you do get those speeds. For this article, we will assume you are paying for speeds up to 150 Mbps.

When testing your internet speeds it is best you use a desktop or laptop with a wired connection. Most modern day desktops and laptops will have a gigabit connection.  You will want to also check that your router supports a gigabit connection as well, which most modern day routers do. It is best to consult your owners manual for both devices you use during your tests. If you do have to test via wireless, make sure your router supports wireless-ac and that your wireless device supports that connection type too. Wireless-n devices speeds tests are not reliable for internet speeds over 150 Mbps, because they only support up to that speed.

Now that you are read to test, head over to SpeedTest.net, Fast.com, and TestMy.net. These are some of the better speed test sites to test from.

Why is Your Connection Slow?

There are several factors that could impact your internet speeds. Maybe your router does not support gigabit speeds? The wire for your network is bad? Your ISP truly has some network congestion? The speed test website is having issues? The point of all this testing is to attempt to find slow spots in your network and to see if they stay constant or only occur during certain times / days of the week.

Point and case would be if you are paying for up to 150Mbps and your speed test results are showing you are only get around 80Mbps, then there is a problem. And you need to address it with your ISP, especially when you are paying a small fortune for speeds than that.

At this moment, let us assume you are currently getting speed test results close to what you pay for. A week later your speed tests start to change.

How to Use Your Test Results

You should do weekly speed checks for your network to ensure you are always getting what you pay for. There is nothing worse then not getting your money's worth.

After a speed test, compare it to what your ISP's plan states you should be getting. Is it with in 20% of that speed? If you are paying for 150Mbps, your 20% margin is 120-150Mbps. If your speed test results are within that range, then that is considered normal. Note this in a report that you keep. Now you can perform the same type of test again in about a week or so, and note any changes. When you do see come noticeable drops in speed, think about the following items to help troubleshoot:

  • Do you get the same speed results with other devices? This questions assumes you are using devices that can connect to the internet at speeds faster than what your ISP can provide.
  • Are the slower speeds constant throughout the day?
  • Have you reset to the modem? or The router? Resetting one or both can improve speeds, but not always.
  • If your modem is a separate device, attempt to do a speed test while directly connected to it, bypassing the router. If the speeds do not improve, the issue is definitely not with your home network.
  • Call your ISP and have them do some testing from their end. Compare their results to yours.

If you determine the fault is with your ISP. Give them a call and talk to them about your findings. One thing that goes a long way is to remain calm and be respectful about it. Screaming and yelling will get you nowhere. Ask them how they are going to help resolve the issue for you. Maybe they have an area wide issue? The line from the tap to your modem is bad? There are several factors that could cause the issue, but a tech on site or over the phone should help track that down. Remember, the data you have collected from your speed tests can go a long way. Never just talk about one speed test, always include several speed tests from more than one day.

Now, if the speed problem is on your end, troubleshooting can be easy or difficult. The difficult depends on you and your knowledge of the devices and equipment that makes up your network. Maybe the modem is old or does not have the rating to handle the speed your ISP provides. If that is the case, you will need to purchase a new modem. Maybe a network cable in your home is bad? Sometimes a firmware update for your router will resolve the issue.

In the end, you do not want to waste money on your internet service if your ISP is not providing you with the speeds you pay for. Troubleshooting is never a fun task, but wasting money is not fun either. Many people do not pay attention to their internet speeds, just as long as "it just works." Do not be one of those people, and always ensure you are getting the performance you are paying for.

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Nearly everything on the Internet starts with a DNS request. DNS is the Internet’s directory. Click on a link, open an app, send an email and the first thing your device does is ask the directory: Where can I find this?

Unfortunately, by default, DNS is usually slow and insecure. Your ISP, and anyone else listening in on the Internet, can see every site you visit and every app you use — even if their content is encrypted. Creepily, some DNS providers sell data about your Internet activity or use it target you with ads.

- Cloudflare

On April Fool's Day of 2018 Cloudflare announced their brand-new DNS service. The statement above explains the importance of having a good DNS service. Not all DNS providers are created equal. Cloudflare's DNS service is almost 20ms faster than Google's DNS service. We here at QCTechJunkie have updated all of our devices to use Cloudflare over Google. And there is no real reason why you should not at least try Cloudflare's DNS yourself.

One reason to use Cloudflare's DNS, over the one your ISP probably has you using, is for data privacy. According to Cloudflare:

We will never log your IP address (the way other companies identify you). And we’re not just saying that. We’ve retained KPMG to audit our systems annually to ensure that we’re doing what we say.

Frankly, we don’t want to know what you do on the Internet—it’s none of our business—and we’ve taken the technical steps to ensure we can’t.

Setup Cloudflare’s DNS

Setup is easy, as long as you know where to look. In fact Cloudflare will recognize the device you are on when you go to https://1.1.1.1/. From there they will provide you with basic instructions to setup up your device to use their service. But, why do that when we will cover the major four platforms for you right here:

Windows

  1. Click on the Start menu, then click on Control Panel.
  2. Click on Network and Internet.
  3. Click on Change Adapter Settings.
  4. Right click on the Wi-Fi network you are connected to, then click Properties.
  5. Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (or Version 6 if desired).
  6. Click Properties.
  7. Write down any existing DNS server entries for future reference.
  8. Click Use The Following DNS Server Addresses.
  9. Replace those addresses with the 1.1.1.1 DNS addresses:
    • For IPv4: 1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1
    • For IPv6: 2606:4700:4700::1111 and 2606:4700:4700::1001
  10. Click OK, then Close.
  11. Restart your browser.

MacOS

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Search for DNS Servers and select it from the dropdown.
  3. Click the + button to add a DNS Server and enter 1.1.1.1
  4. Click + again and enter 1.0.0.1 (This is for redundancy.)
  5. Click + again and enter 2606:4700:4700::1111 (This is for redundancy.)
  6. Click + again and enter 2606:4700:4700::1001 (This is for redundancy.)
  7. Click Ok, then click Apply.

Android

  1. From your Android’s app list, open the Settings app.
  2. Under the Wireless & networks section, tap Wi-Fi,
  3. Long press your preferred network in the list until a context menu appears.
  4. Tap the Modify network, then tap Advanced options.
  5. Tap Advanced options, then tap IP Settings.
  6. Change Dynamic to Static.
  7. Using your router’s configuration, enter your device’s IP address and gateway.
  8. Tap the DNS field, then erase the number in the field.
  9. In the DNS 1 field, enter 1.1.1.1
  10. In the DNS 2 field, enter 1.0.0.1 (This is for redundancy.)
  11. Tap Save.

iPhone

  1. From your iPhone’s home screen, open the Settings app.
  2. Tap Wi-Fi, then tap your preferred network in the list.
  3. Tap Configure DNS, then tap Manual.
  4. If there are any existing entries, tap the - button, and Deletenext to each one.
  5. Tap the + Add Server button, then type 1.1.1.1
  6. Tap the + Add Server button again, then type 1.0.0.1. This is for redundancy.
  7. Tap the + Add Server button again, then type 2606:4700:4700::1111. This is for redundancy.
  8. Tap the + Add Server button again, then type 2606:4700:4700::1001. This is for redundancy.
  9. Tap the Save button on the top right.

Home Setup

If you want to make things easier for all your devices on your home network, you can configure your router to use Cloudflare's DNS. Doing this will eliminate the need to configure each device on your home network. Below is the general setup for most routers:

  1. Connect to your preferred wireless network.
  2. Enter your router’s gateway IP address in your browser.
  3. If prompted, fill in your username and password. This information may be labeled on the router. Default username and passwords can be found here.
  4. In your router’s configuration page, locate the DNS server settings.
  5. Write down any existing DNS server entries for future reference.
  6. Replace those addresses with the 1.1.1.1 DNS addresses:
    • For IPv4: 1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1
    • For IPv6: 2606:4700:4700::1111 and 2606:4700:4700::1001
  7. Save your settings, then restart your browser.

Note: Configurations for your router maybe different, consult your routers owners manual for more information.

In today's world, you can post content online and within seconds millions of potential users can see your post. If you are posting a photo online, like a social media account, you may not 100% own that photo. Many social media websites have terms and conditions, that a lot of people do not necessarily read. When you create your account, you may be agreeing to handing over the rights of that photo or video. Here is a refresher on copyrights for the internet and how your ownership changes with social networks.

Copyright and the Web

In simple terms when you create something, a song, painting, video, etc, you are the copyright owner. This happens automatically, without the need to fill out forms or make any claims. If you believe what you create has potential to make millions, then you will want obtain some documentation to prove you are the creator of said work. This also applies to stuff you post on the web.

According to the US Copyright Office:

Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. 

Copyright does not protect:

  • Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, or discoveries
  • Works that are not fixed in a tangible form (such as a choreographic work that has not been notated or recorded or an improvisational speech that has not been written down)
  • Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans
  • Familiar symbols or designs
  • Mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring
  • Mere listings of ingredients or contents

In short, if you have a revolutionary idea, seek legal counsel before you start talking and posting online about it.

One loop hole with copyright is fair use. Fair use allows others to use copyrighted material in certain cases, like:

  • Criticism
  • Comment
  • News reporting
  • Teaching
  • Scholarship
  • Research

Fair use a huge grey area, something we will not dive into any further for this article. The point of this article is to provide you with a low level understanding of who owns the content you are posting online. Now that you know the basics, lets look at how terms and conditions can modify those basics on certain platforms.

The Terms and Conditions of Social Media

Thanks to the terms and conditions, once you upload those photos to the Facebook servers, you have given them a license to reuse those photos however they like. You will not earn any money from that license. The same is true for the majority of all social network. Below are some word heavy excepts from the terms and conditions of various platforms:

  • Facebook
    • non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license
  • Twitter
    • worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sub-license)
  • Instagram
    • non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sublicensable, worldwide license

As you can see, the terms are all about the same. They are also vague purposefully. Being vague gives Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook substantially more legal grey areas to work with. At the same time, that large grey area allows retweets to occur on Twitter, or Facebook to post photos to a persons news feed, and your photo showing up in a hashtag search. And these companies can do so without the need to pay you or the worry of copyright infringement.

We will stress that those terms do not negate your copyright to your photos, or videos, or etc. If a photo you post on Instagram shows up on a website, and you did not grant permission to, then you can pursue legal actions. Now remember, most social platforms's privacy policies promise to not allow your content to be seen by anyone, unless you grant that person permission.

It is worth noting that if you connect a platform to another website or service, there is a separate terms and conditions clause you will be agreeing to. The important thing to remember is that most will still state you keep the copyright to your content. The only way you lose your copyright is through licensing like Creative Commons 0

How Content You Post Can Be Used

Services like IFTTT are able to do things like copy tagged Facebook photos to Twitter because of the terms and conditions you grant to Facebook, IFTTT, and Twitter. Many third party companies will use the API's for a social platform to provide you with expanded features. The problem is figuring out the licensing and sub-licensing of your content to third party platforms. In fact some of these companies are not as ethical with your data as you would like them to be.

In theory, big platforms can potentially license your content to other platforms, for free. They have not done that yet and probably will not. The privacy policies put in place by these platforms helps protect your photos from being sub-licensed out to stock photo services and such.

In the end, we are all trusting these platforms with our data and the safety of that data. The copyright for your content always belong to you, but we all agreed these platforms can more or less do whatever they want with that content. And those terms and conditions can change, sometimes without the need of any legal notice.

How to Protect Your Content

Going through every platform available on the web would be an exhausting read. The best advice we can provide is to read the terms and conditions for any website or service you sign up for. Pay attention to the areas that talk about the licensing and sub-licensing you are granting the service. If there is something you do not want being shared, it is best to keep it offline. Or you could create your own service to host that content, but that is a whole other article.

Only use a service who's terms and conditions you are comfortable with. Some services will not sub-license out your content, like Yahoo's Flickr. Another services, Medium, has a clear clause on your content. Your content is only available for display on Medium's website. There are no sub-licensing issues, unless your choose to publich your work under any of the Creative Commons rules.

In the end, you own your content. And you need to be mindful of the licenses you grant to platforms and services on the internet.

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Having a poor Wi-Fi signal can be a real bummer. Thankfully, most people have plenty of options that can fix Wi-Fi issues. One of the best options is mesh routers. Before you make that upgrade, take a moment to see where your current Wi-Fi is failing you. From there you can develop a better solution.

Running Some Tests

First things first, run some speed tests to see your download and upload speeds. Once you have those numbers, compare them to the plan you have with your Internet Service Provider. Ookla's Speedtest (AndroidiOS) or Netflix's Fast.com (AndroidiOS) can help you here. Both will provide you with results on your download and upload speeds. Both are also very simple to use. If your speeds are dramatically different than what your service states you have, give your service provider a call.

Load a speed test app to your phone and start checking speeds around your home. This is the most basic troubleshooting you can do. Run a speed check at least three times to get a more accurate average of speed for that area. This will help you find the trouble spots, including ones you may not know about.

Now that you know where the trouble spots are, you can use an analyzer app to see what is happening. We recommend Wi-Fi Analyzer for Android. With most analyzer apps you will be able to Wi-Fi strength and channel usages. Wireless channels being used by multiple devices can cause issues with speed.

Another area to check is signal strength. This is the other culprit of wireless speeds, next to channel congestion. Signal strength is measured in dBm or decibel-milliwatts. The key is that lower negatives numbers are better than larger negative numbers. For a perfect connection, you will want -30 dBm. As long as the signal is around -60 dBm you should be fine. Anything greater than -80 dBm is bad.

Possible Fixes

While analyzing channel congestion, you might find some channels that have less activity than others. Keep in mind that 2.4GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi options have a different set of channels. Log into your router and make some adjustments. Most routers are set to automatically pick a channel, but they tend to all use the same channel. Because of this, neighborhood routers can start over lapping and cause congestion for that channel. 5GHz offers more channels than 2.4GHz, which helps with congestion. But, 5GHz does not have the same range as 2.4GHz.

In addition to switching channels on your router, you can reposition your router to help with signal strength. Ideally, you will want your router out in the open, not in a closet, and centrally located in your home. After a reposition, be sure to go around with your Wi-Fi analyzer and check to see how things improve.

Hardware Options

Switching channels not enough? Or Cannot move your router to a better spot? Then it may be time to look into some additional hardware. Wi-Fi boosters or repeaters are still an option and are relatively cheap. Place these with in good range of your main router, and they will create an additional network for your devices to join. Your mileage with a booster or an extender will vary. These devices are not ideal for streaming services.

Another option are powerline adapters. These devices will take your network and send the signal through your house electrical system. This system tends to be more costly, but is a much better option. The reason for this is the extenders in this setup will have a hard line connection to your router.

One final option is a mesh networking system. This system uses multiple Wi-Fi routers setup across your home to juggle multiple devices on your network. These devices all act as one router, but because you have more than one the coverage in your home is better. Boosters and Extenders all acts as separate networks, with separate network names. Mesh networks eliminate that problem.

On June 11, 2018 the net neutrality laws repeal went into effect by the Federal Communications Commission. This will now give internet providers, like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T free reign to throttle speeds and block websites as they see fit. This also allows them to create internet fast lanes.

A lot of people still do not understand net neutrality. Why it is important? Here the key points you need to 10understand.

1. The Internet Could Become Like Cable TV

This is the easiest way to explain net neutrality. If you have had cable TV, then you understand that many cable providers will force you to pay extra for hundreds of channels you do not want, just so you can have HBO or Starz or some premium sport channel.

Internet services providers can now adopt a similar business model. Providers can now block Facebook, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Instagram, etc. if they like. You want access to those services? Then you need to pay for an internet package that includes those services. For example:

  • Social Services Basic - $20/month - Includes access to Snapchat, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Foursquare
  • Social Services Plus - $60/month - Includes access Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit and all services in Social Services Basic
  • Streaming Services Basic - $30/month - Includes access to Sling TV, Pluto, LiveLeak
  • Streaming Services Plus - $80/month - Includes access Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and all services in Streaming Services Basic

Note: Packages only allow customer to reach services. Customer still needs paid subscription to access the service, if applicable. 

2. The Internet is a necessity, like electricity and water.

You might not physically need the internet to survive, but for most of us it’s become an absolute necessity. We rely on the internet for work, to communicate with family and friends, and to organize our lives.

Just like electricity, natural gas, sewage and water, the internet has become an necessity in everyday life. Companies and people rely on the internet for communications, organizations, automation, and work.

Internet services providers, the majority of them, are companies that care about profits, not you. Everyone has the basic right to water, electricity, and natural gas at their homes. Because of this there are regulations for the  price of those utilities. Given the importance of the internet, it has become a utility as well, shouldn't it be regulated like the rest of our utilities? Control should not be with companies that are more concerned about their profit margins.

3. Protections from Online Censorship

The one key point of net neutrality is that it stopped internet providers from blocking websites the provider disagreed with. Since the repeal of net neutrality, internet providers can censor anything on the internet they like.

When censorship is in place, this can slow innovation. AT&T had Apple blocking VOIP services because they did not want users using more data to make phone calls customer otherwise could not make, like international calls. Internet providers could also censor websites that compete with any of the media properties they own. Or they could censor websites that review their service poorly.

4. Internet Investments increased since 2015's Net Neutrality Laws

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai makes statements all the time that the 2015 Net Neutrality laws stifle innovation and made it hard for companies to invest in their internet infrastructure. The FCC's repeal is in direct response to those statements.

Here's the problem with Ajit's statements, Free Press had reported that investments for internet infrastructure have indeed increased since 2015. The report shows that internet services providers had spent more money expanding their networks since the Net Neutrality laws than any of the years prior to those laws. Even the majority of internet providers saw their revenues increase, outpacing the U.S. economy revenue growth rate.

The point is Ajut's statements are flat out lies. The net neutrality laws gave internet providers clear standards they needed to meet.

5. Net Neutrality Did Not Start With Obama

Obama may have been president with the 2015 net neutrality laws were passed. Net Neutrality practices and laws started development back in 2003. An example of this was when rural phone company made an attempt to block customers from using Vonage to make phone calls. This company received a fine from the FCC for anti-competitive behavior.

It's because of this that Ajit Pai and Donald Trump are not destroying something Obama did, but something that has been growing, for over a decade, into the free and open internet we all rely on.

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Password managers are great for everyone. They can help generate stronger passwords and keep track of them for you. But, many password managers do more than that. 1Password is our prefered password manager, but Lastpass work great too! Both of these programs can also double as a digital safe box too.

Why You Should Use One?

First off, you should already be using one. If not, then you need to get one. You should be storing all of your usernames and passwords for all of your online accounts in a password manager.  No two passwords should be the same. Additionally, you should be storing all of your "truthful" security question answers as well.

Your online passwords and answers are not the only thing you can and need to keep secure. You can store Wi-Fi passwords in your password manager too. Here some additional items, not a complete list, you can store in your password manager:

  • Animal Vaccination Records
  • Driver's License Information
  • Passport Information
  • Credit Card Information
  • Insurance Policy Documents

Information to Store In Your Password Manager

  • Employment/Work Information - Keep your username and password stored securely, no question there, but other work documents can be securely stored as well. Keep your company's 401(k) account information and health insurance information securely stored in your password manager as well.
  • Medical Records  - Having your medical records on hand is a huge deal, you never know when you will need them. The problem is you want to keep that information secure. You can scan documents, medical cards, prescriptions, and any other information that is relevant to your health. Store those items under a personal information folder in your password manager.
  • Children’s Online Accounts - Kids will not be able to remember passwords for their online accounts or school. You can store these in your password manager as well. Many password managers will even let you tag entries, so you can label the ones for your kids.
  • Proof of Purchases - Keeping receipts for purchases come in handy when disaster strikes. Other times, you will need proof come tax day when writing off an expanse. If you have a physical copy of a receipt, take a picture or scan it. From there upload the file to you password manager. You can also store emailed receipts by saving them as a PDF and uploading them to your password manager too.
  • Wi-Fi Information - Every now and then you probably have had to restart or reset your home router. Sometimes this can set the router back to the default settings, including the account to access the device to make changes. Store this info in your password manager. Bonus points if you store a backup configuration file of your router's setup for easy resets. With a backup file you can just import all of your carefully crafted settings.

This list is not all encompassing. But, they can give you an idea of all the ways you can use your password manager to store important information.

Sharing Password Manger Information

Undoubtedly, some of the passwords for you accounts will be for accounts others in your household will need to use. Router credentials, the account for utilities, maybe even Netflix login information. Sharing this information is important, especially when you use long complex passwords. Here are the basics of sharing information in Lasspass and 1Password:

  • Lastpass - Anyone you share Lastpass information with needs to have a free Lastpass account. After that all you need to do is navigate to the Sharing Center. Follow the steps one by one and you will have data shared in no time. You can choose to share the actual password or not as well. No real options out side of that. Users can view the info and that's it.
  • 1Password - Sharing in 1Password is a little more robust than Lastpass. In 1Password you have vaults and you can create as many as you like. You can also share vaults and this is where the benefits come into play. You can make a vault that is nothing but username and password information of account you will always share. Anything you do not want to share, put that information in a different, private, vault. Share vaults can have different access rights, from view only to full control. Full control can allow other users to add additional accounts the vault or update account information.

Earlier this year the Wi-Fi Alliance announced their latest certification for Wi-Fi systems: Wi-Fi Certified EasyMesh. This certification helps create a shared standard for extending Wi-Fi coverage throughout your home with the use multiple routers.

What does this mean for you?

As manufacturers of routers adopt this standard, you will be able to setup a EasyMesh network in your home easily. The network converge will be seamless to you and your devices. Currently, most routers feature a mesh network capabilities, but they only really work with other routers by that same manufacture. This creates a lock-in to that manufacture.

What is a Mesh Network?

Most people will notice that certain locations in their home will have spotty Wi-Fi from their home router. A mesh network will link multiple routers, that you place around your home, to help distribute your Wi-Fi connection. You do not need to run additional network cables with this setup. This is similar to a Wi-Fi extenders. The added benefit is that, unlike extenders, you do not have to deal with multiple Wi-Fi network names. The mesh will automatically connect your devices to the best signal, without you knowing.

What's great about EasyMesh?

EasyMesh will resolve the issue of locking your devices to one manufacture for your mesh system. The Wi-Fi Alliance has been working hard at creating standards for all of your network gear and help make sure they work how you expect them to. Instead of purchasing a certain brand, you can purchase any brand that is EasyMesh compatible and it will work. Do keep in mind, the routers all need to be EasyMesh certified. If one is not certified, then there is a good chance it will not work.

According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, EasyMesh will always monitor your network, load balancing data speed. It will even automatically link additional mesh routers to the network when you set them up. This is similar to how mesh networks work currently, but only for devices from the same company. EasyMesh will do this for all devices.

Additionally, EasyMesh devices will be future proof. Meaning that today's devices will be compatible with future devices. This is great for people who do not upgrade devices often. From what we found, routers need to support, at minimum, the 802.11n Wi-Fi protocol.

Will My Current Router Support EasyMesh?

This is the area most people will be concerned about. Now, some manufactures have added Mesh network capabilities through firmware updates, but it's not clear if EasyMesh support can be added the same way. The other question is whether or not EasyMesh devices will cost more due to the functionality. Honestly, we would not be surprised if manufacturers use this as a reason to increase their prices.

Regardless, EasyMesh will make creating a home mesh network super simple solution for most people to setup. Based on the the product finder from the Wi-Fi Alliance page, no devices are certified yet. Certifications do not come easy, which helps ensure quality for the EasyMesh brand. We would expect to start seeing devices that are EasyMesh certified by the end of the year. We should also know more on whether current devices will eventually support EasyMesh too.

Connected devices in our home is common place, and the number of those connected devices in our home is growing. This means there are a growing number of opportunities for someone to access your home network and your devices on that network. Because of this we want to take a moment to go over some steps you can take to help make your home's smart devices safer and more secure.

Please keep in mind there is an ever growing array of smart home devices, we cannot go over specifics for each gadget. One general rule of thumb is to go through the device's documentation for initial security precautions. If your device does not have a guide, double check the manufacture's website.

Keep Your Gadgets Up to Date

Windows and macOS do a great job and downloading and installing updates. Most smart home gadgets do not. There are many reason why this could be or by default the devices does not need internet access, just access to devices on your home network.

This, ultimately, means it is on you to keep track of devices updates. This can be a pain when you have a lot of devices to deal with, but it is worth it in the end in order to safe guard your home network and the devices connected to it. Checking for updates for your smart devices can happen through the smartphone app for the device, if there is one, or by checking the manufacturer's website.

For a lot of smart home devices, updates will not release on a regular basis, unless a security exploit crops up. So, setup a schedule to sit down and run through checking for updates on all your devices. Doing this, at least, once a month is a good starting point.

If your smart home device does have an update, it could take a few steps to install. Some devices require you to connect it to your computer, which are usually for devices that do not have access to the internet. Other devices will allow you to update them via Bluetooth with an application on your phone.

An update routine extends to all of your electronics in your home, not just smart devices. Check for updates for you computers, phones, TVs, sound bars, and especially routers. Routers these days are doing better at alerting you an update is available, provided you log into their admin page. Most manufacture websites will tell you if there are updates and how you can update your devices.

Review Your Device Security Settings

Technology today is very much set it and forget. It is very nice to get up and running with new devices and then never have to worry about them. But, often some of the default settings can be too relaxed on security. We recommend that if your device has a settings menu, that you go through each option. If there are settings you are not familiar with, then check the manufactures websites for a better explanation on what the setting does.

Some key settings to look out for:

  • Internet access
    • If the device does not really need an internet connection run and does not have a check or auto update function, disable it's internet access. Only give it access when you know an update is available.
  • Password for Settings Menu / Access
    • If the device has the option to create a password to get into the settings menu or to use the device, make sure to set a password. Do not make it something easy to guess. Password managers can help out here.
    • Also, if the device already has a password to access it, change it. Default passwords for various devices have a long history of being documented online.

Once again, this routine should extend to all of your household devices. If the device or account to access your device offers two-step verification, enabled it. Also, if your device sends you notifications, like a security camera, to an email account, make sure you have a strong password for that email account. If a hacker gains access to your email, they could potentially see security snapshots and be able to determine when you are home or not.

Be Smart When Buying Gadgets

Sticking with bigger name companies for your smart home gear does have it's benefits, even though they cost more. Samsung and LG can still be hacked just as the next company, but they at least have the resources to fix flaws in their devices if one  is found. Newer or smaller companies, though having cheaper devices, may not ever fix found flaws or support could hard to work with when you run into issues. Devices that do not have a clear way of getting a hold of support is usually a sign that they probably will not fix security flaws in their devices.

In this day and age, we see many innovating smart devices, thanks to sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Always do your research when buying into these products. Look into the company and see what security measures they have in place for the device you are thinking of purchasing.

Keep in mind many new companies have a habit of starting out with a bang but then disappearing just as fast as they exploded onto the market. The last thing you want is a smart lock or voice-activated device, that does not function anymore.

Keep It In The Family

Because of the reasons stated above, it is best to get devices that all fall under the same umbrella. By limiting the number of smart home platforms you install in your home, you limit your exposure to attacks. Some smart home umbrellas include:

Once you have picked a system, we recommend you find products that work within that system. Some systems, like Samsung SmartThings and Google Home, will work with each other. But, that is not always the case.

Now, if you already have a miss mash of smart home devices, trying to get your setup under one or two umbrella's could prove difficult. Luckily, BullGuard’s Internet of Things Scanner is handy at helping to determine if any of your smart home devices are on the Shodan site. Shodan is a search site that scans the internet for any network device that is publicly accessible. Basically, if you find one of your devices is listed on that site, then someone could hack into it, so disconnect that device from the internet immediately. Then, check for updates and your security setting for that device.

Pay Attention to Your Router

The router in your home is the gate keeper to everything connected to the internet in your home. Smart devices, computers, mobile phones, game systems. Keeping it secure is the key to improving your home network security. The big three things you need to do are:

  1. Make sure the router's firmware is up to date
  2. Change the default username and password for the settings menu to something other then the default password and username.
  3. And let your devices connect to the internet only if they need to.

For example, you have a Roku plugged into your TV. The TV may have smart features as well, but they will not be as useful as the Roku is. Because of this, your TV does not need to be connected to the internet, at least not all of the TV. Remember today's TVs will get firmware updates that might fix issues, so it's good to have it connect to the internet every now and then to check for updates.

One special note about all devices that need internet access, be cautious about devices that prompt you to automatically configure your router for you. They do not need access to do that, so do not give that device the username and password to your router's settings menu. Additionally, most router's these days have a list of devices that are connected to your router, which you can control internet access too or block from your network.

Upgrade Your Router If It's Old

Router's are getting better at keeping themselves up-to-date, but you still have to do some manual work. But, if you find that your router is not getting updates or the last update is already years old, it might be time upgrade. Today, many routers are built with smart home security in mind. Many will monitor your device's network traffic and will block common routes used by hackers and malware. Some will even go as far as blocking devices that appear to have poor security settings. Two routers we recommend, that have these features, are the Asus Blue Cave ($170) or the Luma Whole Home WiFi (3-Pack) ($135). If you rent a router from your Internet Service Provider, make sure to ask them for an upgraded router. But really, you're better off using your own router.

Buy a Network Security Device

There are also devices you can purchase that are dedicated to just monitoring your smart home for vulnerabilities. These are nice options if you do not want to  upgrade your router. Some of these devices are:

We will note that a lot of these devices have not ample third party testing. So, the claims made by the manufacture are just that, with no solid user proof to back them up. You are more then welcome to try them out, bu do so with caution. If you are using a device listed above, then leave some comments below on your experiences.

In the end, the best protection of your devices is to keep them up to date. Check for software/firmware updates, password protect them, if available, and make sure they are hard passwords.

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