Nasty KRACK

This week’s networking crisis is that black-hats have found another way to violate your privacy. Called the KRACK exploit, it allows hackers to spoof WiFi protocol so as to break its encryption and read your traffic.

It’s worth pointing out that this is not just a zero-day bug in some manufacturer’s implementation—it’s a defect in the WiFi standard itself, and all WiFi (802.11) encryption is vulnerable to it. It does require a hacker to be close enough to have physical access to your radio signal.

We wanted to let you know what we were doing about it, and also what you should be doing about it yourself. Continue reading

Red light means go!

A number of our subscribers for whom we have installed wall-mounted MikroTik mAP access points have called us, concerned that they might have a network problem because a red light was showing on their unit.

The light in question is normal. It indicates that the WiFi unit is supplying power to the roof-mounted radio unit over its ethernet cable (hence the label “PoE out,” “power over ethernet”).  This particular model of access point is the only MikroTIk device we supply to subscribers that offers the PoE pass-through feature, which allows us to power both your WiFi access point and your roof unit with only a single power supply.

In general, different MikroTik units can come equipped with red, blue, green, orange, or yellow LEDs. In some of the higher-end models, the same LEDs can show different colors under different circumstances… but on none of them (to our knowledge) does the color of the LED itself ever indicate an error condition. In all circumstances, MikroTik uses the color red or orange to indicate only that the unit is supplying power to some other unit.

So rest easy—this red light means only that all of your systems are go!

Ready… get reset… stop!

Hillary's "reset" button

Click image for the story of this “reset” button…

Take it from a world-famous politician: a “reset button” doesn’t always do what you thought it would, or meant it to. Sometimes it creates problems instead of solving them.

The WiFi units Grand Avenue Broadband offers to subscribers all feature reset buttons.

Please don’t press them!

Units we deliver to you have your customized network name, passwords, frequencies, and addressing configured into them, so that they work on your account and don’t interfere with the signal from your home tower. Reset buttons reset equipment to factory defaults, which include none of those things.

Fortunately, the reset buttons on our units are disabled at most times. However, if you do manage to reset your WiFi unit, its configuration will need to be re-established. Often, we will be able to do this from our central site; at times, it may require a housecall.  Either way, there will be a peregruzka—a “surcharge”—for the service.

Internet on Vacation

Now that we’re well into the the time of year when our seasonal residents close up their winter homes in preparation for their trips north, we’d like to take this opportunity to remind our seasonal subscribers to please leave their rooftop internet radios powered on while they’re away, if at all possible.

Ongoing network maintenance and expansion can sometimes involve coordinated configuration changes to every subscriber unit on a given tower. If your unit is powered on— even when you’re not there to use it — we can make those changes and keep your unit on speaking terms with our network. If we can’t access your radio because it’s powered off, when you return to Arizona you may find your internet non-operational until we can schedule a “truck roll” to your location.

The average radio unit we have in service requires about seven watts to operate — that’s as much electricity as a standard incandescent night light.  We hope you’ll agree it’s a small cost for an internet service that is ready for operation any time you need it.

Thank you!

 

 

Skip-In Ranch upgrade postponed

Due to an unexpected “infant-mortality” failure of our new PowerBox router unit (and no more spares in stock), we are postponing tomorrow’s scheduled upgrade to Skip-In Ranch tower. We expect to be able to reschedule this work late next week after replacement equipment arrives. In the meanwhile, we’ll be looking forward to participating in this year’s Gold Rush festivities (wave if you see us)!

Plus a Public Service Announcement

We’ve been made aware of a serious increase in reports of “tech support scams” by both our computer service customers and our network subscribers. If you’re interested in finding out what is out there, how to avoid being taken in, and what you can do if you already have been, please read this article in our sister blog.

More speed is just a day away!

Gateway access -- twice as fast!We’re scheduling a brief interruption in service this Friday morning (January 8) between 6:00 and 7:00 AM, to execute a cutover to our brand new fiber circuit — replacing our old copper circuit with twice the bandwidth, to feed our growing network and reduce peak-hour congestion.

Since this is only CenturyLink’s second fiber installation in all Wickenburg, we’re crossing our fingers that the cutover will go smoothly with no false starts. If so, we expect to have our internal network tuned to utilize the new speed fully by 11:00 AM or so.

We appreciate your patience in waiting for this long-overdue upgrade, and we will continue to work hard to make sure you enjoy a zippier and more exhilarating Internet experience.

Keep it clean, folks!

CybervirusWe received a note today from CenturyLink (our gateway provider) complaining that one or more of our subscribers’ PCs are infected with the “Asprox” bot virus, and are generating traffic off-net designed to infect other users.

Since all but a few of our subscribers are anonymized at the gateway portal, identifying the articular infected subscriber is extremely labor-intensive. Asprox is typically spread by official-looking notices about court dates, traffic or toll fines, internet voice or fax messages, and the like. If you tried to open the attachment on one of these, chances are the problem is your PC. (Asprox doesn’t infect Macs.)

Instead, we’re posting this note to ask all our subscribers Continue reading

Heartbleed and You

heartbleed logoThe “Heartbleed” internet bug has been all over the news this week.  In brief, the bug allows crackers to fetch arbitrary memory regions from sites using secure transmission protocols, which can then be examined for nuggets of valuable secure information such as encryption keys or credit card numbers. This “xkcd” cartoon explains about as clearly as possible what the bug actually is and how crackers could use it.

I thought it worthwhile to write a few words to our own subscribers explaining what the bug means to you, and what, if anything, you should do about it.

Continue reading

Hearing your hotspot customers

“For many years our powerful radio receivers have been picking up radio transmissions from your planet, and we have studied them and have learned your language… Little Orphan Annie, BBC, Radio Free Transylvania, Buck Rogers, Radio Moscow, the works. Though you apparently have received none of our answering broadcasts, undoubtedly because of the inferiority of your receivers.”

That’s Harry Harrison, poking gentle fun at the scientific illiteracy of certain pulp-age science fiction writers in his comic novel, Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers.

To boast about “powerful” radio receivers is like saying someone with great hearing “listens really loud.”

What makes a radio receiver good is not power but subtlety. Sensitivity allows the receiver to hear weaker, further-off signals; discrimination allows it to filter out background noise and competing signals, giving you good, clean information.

Continue reading