What Is The Best Holiday Gift For Your Home?
How An Optimized And Secure Internet Is A Gift That Keeps Giving
Whether you are shopping online for deals of the season, streaming your favorite classic holiday movies and music 24/7 through December, or expecting a full house of guests (and their devices), a lagging internet is the last thing you want. A secure, speedy internet is key to a holly-jolly season and smooth streaming into the new year. So here are recommendations for what we think is the gift that keeps giving: A fast and safe internet connection that supports your household needs.
Let’s unwrap 6 tips for optimizing your internet:
1. Placement of Router: This point might seem obvious, but remember to show your router some love. Find a central hub for your router, somewhere free from signal-stealing obstructions including microwaves, walls, windows and cordless phones.
2. Use Ethernet: Game consoles, desktop computers and streaming boxes will generally enjoy more consistent speeds and less signal interference with a wired connection. Go with a wired connection on devices where an Ethernet cable is within reach.
3. Share the Signal: Consider switching off or temporarily disconnecting certain devices when you’re not using them. Is someone streaming a movie in the living room? Maybe you could switch your video call to audio-only. Every little bit helps.
4. Manage and Prioritize: Downloading and streaming are bandwidth-intensive. Download large files such as movies, music and audiobooks during off-peak traffic times. Save files to your hard drive. You’ll still be able to enjoy them anytime—offline—without gobbling up bandwidth. If you can, schedule automatic system updates on your devices for overnight, when the network is less busy.
5. Technology Can Help: If you’re still struggling with wireless dead zones or hard-to-reach corners of your home, range extenders, repeaters and mesh networks can help. Range extenders and repeaters grab existing WiFi signals from your router and rebroadcasts them. Mesh networks use a series of nodes set up in the home to distribute a wireless signal.
6. Consider a Managed WiFi Option: Managed WiFi service leaves set-up, maintenance and troubleshooting with your service provider. You can get help setting up your router, adding devices and securing the best signal.
Yes to Sugar plums. No to Hacks.
Once you’ve optimized your internet, the information at your fingertips is traveling at lightspeed–so is the opportunity to be hacked. Here’s a checklist and tips for securing your home devices to protect your privacy and your family, so all you have to think about are sugar-plums and long winter naps:
1. Use a strong firewall: Your first line of defense–A firewall is a layer of internet security that attempts to let good traffic through while blocking hackers from entering and using your computer. Hackers send out pings (calls) to thousands of computers and wait for responses. Firewalls prevent your computer from responding to these random calls. Most wireless routers already have a firewall, and you also have a firewall on your operating system. There might be occasions when you or someone working on your computer turns a firewall off. For example, when installing a program, there could be a conflict with the operating system firewall, and sometimes turning the firewall off temporarily resolves this.
Tip: If you have turned the firewall off for any reason, you’ll want to make sure to turn it back on whenever you’re on a WiFi network that isn’t in your home. Unless the firewall is causing you problems, it’s best to keep it on at all times.
Here’s how to check if your firewall is on or off. Note that the verbiage will be slightly different depending on what operating system you are using:
On Windows 10:
- Click on the Start menu and type windows firewall in the search box.
- Pick the Windows Firewall option that pops up in the search results. You will see if the firewall is on or off and be able to make adjustments.
On a Mac
- Open System Preferences, which is the icon in your dock with the gears (usually near the far right).
- Click on Security, which is in the top line of icons.
- Go to the Firewall tab.
- Click the small padlock icon in the bottom left-hand corner.
- Enter your password when prompted. You will see if the firewall is on or off and be able to change the setting.
2. Keep antivirus software updated–Antivirus software helps protect your computer from viruses that slow down or crash your computer, destroy your data or allow spammers to send email through your account. But it must be kept updated. As quickly as one virus is identified, new ones are being created. Most antivirus software includes a feature to download updates automatically when you are online. You will want to make sure the settings for the software you choose checks your system on a regular basis, especially if you are a heavy internet or email user. Some programs do this in the background while your computer is on.
Tip: Schedule a time to have your computer scanned and updated during a time when you are not using the computer to avoid any slow-downs or conflicts.
3. Use anti-malware software–If you see a sudden flurry of pop-up ads, get redirected to a website you didn’t choose, or you receive a suspicious message that says your computer is infected and you must call the number on the message to fix it, you’ve likely been hit by malware, also known as spyware. Malware is a software installed without your knowledge or consent. This dangerous software can monitor your online activities and collect personal information while you surf the web. There have even been incidents of brand new in-the-box computers being infected with malware that is activated the first time the owner logs onto the internet. Don’t click on any of the pop-up windows or take any action. Immediately turn your computer off with the power button (not the menu), reboot in safe mode with networking. Spyware protection is included in some antivirus software programs, but it doesn’t hurt to run more than one. Just like antivirus software, anti-malware software needs to be updated regularly. Spyware is often contained in many “free” programs downloaded from the internet.
Tip: Download software only from sites you know and trust. If you are unsure, do a Google search of the name of the software and “is it safe” and read other user comments.
4. Manage your system and browser to protect your privacy–Hackers are constantly trying to find new ways into your system. It is recommended that you set your internet security settings to, at least, medium. To adjust these settings, check the Tools or Options menus for how to do this. Update your system and browser regularly, taking advantage of automatic updating when it’s available. Windows Update is a service offered by Microsoft. On Macintosh systems, patching can be run automatically to update its operating system.
Tip: Knowing a little more about how browsers work will also help you pick the best one for your needs and help keep your browsing experience more secure.
5. Use a strong password, and keep it to yourself–Consider a password like keys to your house—it is the key to your personal information, so don’t share it! The strongest passwords contain at least 8 characters, upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use common words, pet names or anything else that can be easily guessed.
Tip: One of the easiest ways to create a strong password is to make an acronym out of a sentence you can remember: “Did John and Susan arrive for dinner at 5?” translates to DJaSafda5
6. Secure your wireless network–When using a wireless network in your home, make sure it is protected, too. A common mistake many people make is leaving the encryption password as the factory default. With a quick internet search, anyone can find the default password for your wireless router. Follow the instructions the router came with to reset the password, or look up the manual on the internet and reset the router with a new, strong password.
Tip: Wireless networks on public hotspots might not be secure, and you should avoid sending any personal information. As an alternative, you can buy your own hotspot—a mobile broadband device that plugs into your computer, laptop, PDA, or smartphone and uses a mobile phone signal to provide high-speed internet access. They are sold by cell phone companies and require a monthly service plan, but can be affordable when bundled with your existing service.
Tip: Smaller storefronts might not have sophisticated enough security (unless they use a secure third-party payment system such as PayPal), but big name stores can be vulnerable to data hackers, too. Don’t store passwords on the site and be sure to clear your browsing history and completely close all windows after making an online purchase.
8. Use parental controls–Your children could unknowingly risk your family’s privacy. Make sure they know how to use the internet safely. Set parental controls that limit the sites kids can visit. Parental controls can be stringent when kids are younger, and more flexible as they mature, but remember software is not a substitute for parental supervision. Make sure you know what your kids are doing online.
Tip: Internet providers like Arvig include parental controls on apps like Arvig Manage Your WiFi.
Stocking Stuffer: Be cyber-secure
Cybercriminals are bad actors who are constantly thinking up new ways to steal your important information for their gain. Knowing more about how they operate is a good starting point. Watch this short video from Arvig on 9 cybersecurity terms to know.