Is your password:

  • 12345
  • password
  • secret
  • iloveyou
  • welcome
  • qwerty
  • or starwars?

Congratulations, you have company! Almost 10% of people use these and similar bad passwords, according to research based on actual leaked passwords.  The bad news: hackers are well aware of such widely used passwords too. They have been compiling them in lists such as the Rockyou wordlist. No matter how good your encryption is, if you’re using a password on this list: change it now! It won’t take a hacker more than minutes to get into your account, simply by trying all potential passwords from the list, one at a time.

Most of us are still pretty happy with the fast 4G connection on our cellphones. But of course, it’s never fast enough and preparations are well underway for the next generation of wireless connectivity: 5G. Samsung just completed a test where they managed to achieve speeds of up to 1.7 Gigabits per second. That’s even more impressive because they did so on board a train speeding through Japan.

So, how did they do this and what is 5G? In fact, 5G is not just a faster version of 4G. It’s a range of technologies, not only aimed at faster speeds, but also at connecting more and more devices to the Internet of Things. Think of self driving cars that don’t have to send lots of data, but have to respond quickly to conditions on the road, making a low latency connection a must. Or think of a a sensor in your street, monitoring and transmitting the local air quality. You don’t want to be changing the batteries frequently, so low power consumption would be an important requirement.

In other words, 5G is not just faster browsing on your cellphone. The technology could develop into a serious competitor to a variety of ways we now connect devices wirelessly: not just 3/4G, but also WiFi, Bluetooth, Long Range Radio or Zigbee.

To accomplish all that, 5G will need to make use of new parts of the frequency spectrum, sometimes even using multiple frequencies at once to manage high speeds. That’s also one of the reasons it may still take a few years before we’ll be able to benefit from all that’s promised. Not only does the technology need to mature, but also governments need to approve (or auction) the rights to use the required parts of the frequency spectrum.

Over the last days, we’ve seen a lot of discussion about Net Neutrality, triggered by the FCC’s announcement that they are planning to put an end to current rules that, at the moment, guarantee Net Neutrality in the United States.

What is Net Neutrality and should you care? Net Neutrality is the idea that Internet Service Providers treat all network traffic equally, without distinguishing between the contents of the traffic, who’s sending it or who’s receiving it.

Sounds like a great idea, right? But wait, wouldn’t it actually be useful if we prioritised video streaming over other things? I could be binge watching the latest season of Game of Thrones without hick-ups or have that Skype call without interruptions, even at times when the network is busy. So what if someone else needs to wait a few seconds longer for their download to finish… If we can see somebody is sending spam or spreading a virus, shouldn’t we make an effort to block that traffic, instead of letting it flow unhindered with the other packets?

Now, enter the company that wants to make a profit. What if your Internet Service Provider slowed down or blocked your downloads, without letting you know? What if your ISP allowed you to stream music for free, but only from the online services they have a partnership with? And you had to pay extra for the data you use when streaming from your own favourite service?

These things are already happening and of course companies will come up with more and more creative ideas. That isn’t neccessarily going to make the Internet a better place. So, Net Neutrality is in fact a pretty big issue with a lot of impact on how we’ll be using the Internet in the future. There’s more than one side to this, so I encourage you to do some research and take your stand!

 

Image: Vice.com

Almost daily, the news is overflowing with companies being hacked, personal information being stolen, and citizens under the umbrella of mass surveillance by state and secret services. All this might have you a little worried and your alarm is, in fact, not entirely unfounded.

Vice Motherboard just published a great Guide to Not Getting Hacked, full of small and practical steps you can (and should) take right now to make your digital life a little more secure. Depending on your need for security and level of paranoia, you could start by installing some clever security tools, or by making a habit of storing your phone in the microwave from now on.

I suggest you take a little time to check their guide and follow up on the sections that apply to you. As we know in the Netherlands: you don’t have to buy the most expensive bike lock in the store. Just make sure you get one that’s more expensive than the lock on the bike you park yours next to!

One of the beautiful things about the Internet is that it works, no matter what system or technology you’re using to connect. There’s even an official Internet standard, as specified in RFC 1149, for communication over Avian Carriers. That’s pigeons, and yes, it was an April’s fools joke.

Does that sound crazy? In 2009, Australia’s TV program Hungry Beast organised a race to see what’s the fastest way to get 700 Megabytes of data across Australia. Margaret the pigeon, carrying the data on a SD card, was faster -a lot faster- than uploading the file over the Internet. Similar experiments have taken place in other places, with pigeons beating technology.

Now it may be premature to cancel your Internet subscription and set up a pigeon roost in your yard, but there is something to this idea: if you have LOTS of data to transfer, there may be better ways to do this than over the Internet. Even Amazon have picked up on this and have taken the idea to the extreme: the Amazon snowmobile is a truck crammed full of storage. You can rent it to transfer petabytes of data from your data center across the country.

Do you have cable internet at home? That’s a pretty fast connection, but you may have noticed that your upload speed is a lot slower than your downloads. Ten times as slow, typically. CableLabs just published a Full Duplex update to their DOCSIS 3.1 standard, allowing cable internet to reach speeds up to 10 Gbit per second for both uploads and downloads. They have more information and a cool video explaining the benefits of Full Duplex on their site.

It may take a few years for this technology to actually reach your corner of the street, but with speeds like these, people may not be very much inclined to switch over to fiber optics technology for their Internet connection for quite a while to come. Even the good old phone line can provide speeds of over 300 Mbit per second nowadays. I still remember learning at university that, by phone, we would never ever go faster than 56kb/s. They had maths to prove it, too. Good old times…

Image: Pixar

We’re connecting more and more devices to the Internet: security cameras, baby monitors, child’s toys, smart thermostats and even lightbulbs. these devices are particularly vulnerable to hackers: they are not necessarily designed by experienced network engineers, the focus is on keeping the costs low and how would you login to your hacked stuffed bear to update it’s firmware?

Security researchers warn of a new piece of malware that’s infecting Internet of Things devices: the Reaper botnet has already infected over a million networks. That’s not just scary because the bad guys could be watching your home camera feed or change your room temperature, but also because such a large number of devices can be used to mount a pretty massive DDOS attack. An earlier version of this malware, the Mirai botnet, managed to take out the Internet for much of the USA’s East Coast by launching a DDOS attack against a large DNS provider.

Google LoonCan you imagine a day without Internet? What if you lived in Puerto Rico and hurricanes had destroyed most of the communication infrastructure on your island?

Google has the solution: a network of balloons travelling on the edge of space! They have been working to use these balloons to provide cellular service and Internet access in the stricken area.

This technology has been used before in disaster areas, but is also quite promising to connect parts of the world to the Internet that are very remote or where no solid infrastructure exists yet.

Update: since the start of this effort, Project Loon has managed to deliver basic internet services to over 100.000 Puerto Ricans.