Calamities Bring Up Broadband Speeds

Who would have thought that I’d get speed ups whenever there is a calamity? I know I shouldn’t be happy,[1] but who wouldn’t? I’ve been downloading at a semi-steady rate of ±100 kiB/s, and have been getting boosts of up to 175 kiB/s on BitTorrent and above 200 kiB/s on linear HTTP downloads.

I’ve posted about this certain speed up last December after the Pacific earthquake that destroyed international underwater communication lines connecting South East Asia. The test result from that entry was already gone, but I have another bookmarked result dating around that time, which probably is just below to what speed I’ve had back then:

TestMy.Net Test Score: 775 kbps or 95 kB/s

And now, during the rage of Egay in this storm season, I get this:

SpeedTest.Net DL: 2275 kb/s UL: 508 kb/s

Amazing, isn’t it? Thinking that I still have that cheapest old myDSL plan, which isn’t NGN yet, advertised at 384 kbps. I think I’ve currently downloaded 2.5 GiB of data within the last 24 hours, not including what my father had on our desktop. Any more ideas on what to leech? I have to get the most out of this before the Sun comes. Heh.

Anyway, are you experiencing this as well? One friend of mine have had comparable results, but not everyone on the same ISP. I really don’t think PLDT has had my connection upgraded yet, for they required me to pass a speed increase application form for old subscribers that I still haven’t done yet.[2]

Test your speed now, and comment below to tell me I’m not the only one who should be happy. ^^

Footnotes:

  1. ^ well, about the calamities
  2. ^ I know, what the hell, right? It should be automatic!

The Basics of Wireless Security

Wireless connectivity is probably best described to give convenience to its users. Having a wireless access point on your home gives you the comfort to position yourself almost anywhere provided your devices are within the range of each other—on your living room, on your bedroom, and even on the kitchen. There are still many concerns about having this type of connection, however, and most of them is about security.

Since laptops, smartphones and PDAs, provide for the needs of busy mobile consumers,[1] and most of them gadgets are now being equipped with Wi-Fi, it has no doubt become the next big target of crackers—much like what happened to Microsoft Windows being targeted on exploits and vulnerabilities, and to bluetooth-enabled mobile phones being targeted with worms and malware when they became popular.

Common things done by crackers to wireless-enabled devices and networks include piggybacking, wardriving, man-in-the-middle attacks, and spying, among others. Explanations are as follows:

  • Piggybacking refers to the act of obtaining access to resources on a wireless device, which include Internet access. Open networks on public places and services, such as hotels and cafés, usually permit this,[2] but some networks even on the said places[3] as well as on homes generally do not.
  • Wardriving is the act of looking for wireless networks usually with the aid of a vehicle,[4] and a powerful antenna on a wireless-capable device, much like what people with radio scanners do to receive police and military transmissions. After connection with the device has been established, the wardriver could possibly do anything to the network or its users. Some has been ethical, however, and act as a tiger team telling the administrator or owner that the network could easily be breached.
  • Man-in-the-middle attacks are somehow sophisticated that includes a cracker acting as the network access point the victims are trying to connect to. He then connects to the real AP himself transmitting and receiving data both ways to seem invisible. But, in fact, he now controls and sees every bit of information the victims are sending and receiving that seem to them to be secure.
  • Spying has been the most critical and publicized problem existing today—even surpassing the popularity of virus and worm attacks today, IMO. Anti-spyware tools just popped up one after the other from nowhere, haven’t they? And we thought it would have ended with just Web browsing with credit card information, but it obviously haven’t.

Wired LANs probably seem more secure since the only ones receiving data are the ones connected by wire—of which the owners control—while WLANs have access points and terminals that emit signals that could be received by anyone near the devices. However, this concept is somehow wrong. Wired networks with terminals having an active insecure Wi-Fi device could be entered by these crackers to gain access onto the network as well—much like providing the cracker a jack to plug into.

Having set up a wireless network at home myself, and after trying to configure each and every option presented to me by my router’s Web interface, I’ve searched through forums, blogs and info sites to find ways of maintaining my network security. Here are some basic instructions:

  • Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA or WPA2) is the secure authentication and encryption method for wireless networks and should always be enabled. Most consumer wireless devices are capable of using at least WPA and WEP (an earlier security method that has known limitations). But, try to utilize WPA2 first, if it is available. It is an implementation of the IEEE 802.11i standard, and WPA is just its subset.
  • MAC address filtering is a feature from routers and access points that permits or blocks certain devices based on the hardware-embedded MAC addresses on their network adapters. Some NICs allow changing the MAC address to match an accepted one, also known as spoofing, so this should not be the only security measure utilized.
  • Change the router’s default settings such as Web interface password, SSID, and IP address. These settings are known by crackers and would immediately tell them if the user has an insecure network. These changes would at least make it harder for the cracker to find the network configuration and administration interface.
  • Most routers come with a hardware firewall that blocks potentially malicious and corrupted signals. This should never be turned off.
  • DMZ forwards all ports to a terminal so that all connections may pass. This is usually used for applications where the user does not know which ports are being used. The Port Forwarding feature, which is as common as DMZ, is more secure since it only forwards the applications’ required ports. Ask support from the application developers to know which ports should be forwarded, and avoid using DMZ.

There are many more types of security concerns and prevention, but these are the most common ones. Please note that until Windows Vista, Microsoft OSs have not supported an implementation of WPA2. But, a WPA2 update for genuine users of Windows XP SP2 is available for free download. After installing the update, an option to turn off broadcasting of the preferred wireless network list will be available and this would add to security.

I wasn’t able to test Linux wireless security as I have Ubuntu only on my desktop, which is on a wired connection. You may (and please) reply if you have information about wireless security in these and other operating systems. Thank you.

One very important rule to security in any digital environment is strong passwords. Choose them wisely; they should not be any dictionary word or phrase, at least one character must not be a lowercase letter, and you should not use one password on every digital account you use.

Footnotes:

  1. ^ Who are now practically everywhere—students, business people, posers, and everyone else who just have the money.
  2. ^ And are probably not considered as such act.
  3. ^ Where access is restricted to clients and customers only.
  4. ^ The term is usually used on the act using motor vehicles, while warbiking and warwalking are used to refer to wardriving on motorcycles or bicycles, and wardriving on foot, respectively.

On Linksys WRT54GC v2.0

I think this is the first time I will be reviewing a hardware component. I am just happy that I could again share my Internet connection between my desktop and notebook. I have borrowed a router from my uncle before, but he already took it back for use on their home. I’ve only used [that] one router other than the WRT54GC that I currently am using.

Since the bigger WRT54G has dual antennas, it has an expectable wider signal range[1] than the compact with only one.[2] It provides a high speed Wi-Fi connection of [close to, if not] 54 Mbps with the notebook and the access point approximately 15 meters away from each other,[3] while the compact could only provide approximately 11–24 Mbps under the same conditions even though the Windows XP Wireless Network Connection manager usually reports Very Good signal strength.

That may be a good compensation for its bulkiness, but I have had problems with the Linksys WRT54G when using the BitTorrent protocol.[4] As answered in the µTorrent FAQ, this router[5] has severe problems with P2P applications using a lot of connections. Also answered on the above linked FAQ entry is a fix, which includes installing one of two third-party firmwares. Remember that the router wasn’t mine in the first place. Besides, installing and/or upgrading firmware risks the router being bricked, and add to that the fact the software recommended was made by hardware hackers and wasn’t official.[6]

Linksys WRT54GC v2.0

I have been trying to borrow the router from my uncle again, but he came to our house with a Linksys WRT54GC v2.0 instead. Of course, I was surprised, but I still do not know if he will give me this one or sell it to me.[7] I’ve installed it immediately, and I’ve been testing it using µTorrent with a huge download task and several seeding tasks for three days almost continuously already.

The only problem I’ve had with the Compact Wireless-G Broadband Router is its Static DHCP feature, which should take care of Static IP addresses without configuring the client manually. I really want to utilize the said feature for Port Forwarding since I use BitTorrent and it has to have an open port for incoming connections. The problem is that whenever I place my computer on the list of clients with static IPs, and change the DHCP IP range to something excluding the static IPs, it still gives the client an IP within the DHCP range and not the listed static IP.

With the hopes of having no slowdowns like the experience I’ve had during the WRT54G period, I’ve searched for responses from WRT54GC users on various fora. Thankfully, I’ve found no significant problem other than users trying to get the version 2.0 external antenna to be replaced by a High Gain Antenna. But I still haven’t encountered an unambiguous response to one question[8] I would have asked myself, so I stopped searching and continued testing. Through the past three days of downloading 6 GiB of data, I’ve encountered minor slowdowns more possibly linked to an ISP issue rather than a router issue. The last two afternoons were probably the best evidences I could offer regarding the performance of this product—the download speed reached 85 kB/s[9] when I was connected to a nearby peer. Therefore, no signs of slowdowns due to high amount of connections were exhibited—a sickness, I may say, about the stock WRT54G/GL/GS.

Other features of the Linksys WRT54GC includes [among others]:

  • Compact and portable design: approximately 4″×4″×1″.
  • 4-port wired Ethernet switch; Wireless Access Point for 802.11b/g devices.
  • High security with WPA/WPA2 Personal, Wireless MAC address filter, SPI firewall.

Disclaimer: The above Linksys WRT54GC v2.0 photo was taken from the official product information page without permission.

Update note: Photo from the official Linksys Web site was taken down and replaced with my own shot of the router to avoid copyright issues.

Footnotes:

  1. ^ Our neighbor two houses away across the street claimed to have received my SSID broadcast.
  2. ^ The C in WRT54GC stands for compact; version 1.0 of the compact has no built-in external antenna, only an internal one—I am using a version 2.0.
  3. ^ With concrete and wooden walls, and everything else in between.
  4. ^ And when I say, using, I mean always.
  5. ^ Along with similar routers, WRT54GL and —GS.
  6. ^ But, responses to the alternative firmwares were mostly positive.
  7. ^ I really, really hope for the former.
  8. ^ The question of how it would perform on a lot of connections.
  9. ^ I’m on a 384 kbps connection [as advertised], so my theoretical maximum download speed is 46.875 kB/s.