WEP vs. WPA vs. WPA2 vs. WPA3: Wi-Fi Security Types Explained

wifi-security-types

Wireless security is extremely important. The vast majority of us connect a mobile device to a router at some point during each day, be that smartphone, tablet, laptop, or otherwise. Furthermore, Internet of Things devices connect to the internet using Wi-Fi. They’re always on, always listening, and always in dire need of additional security. That’s where Wi-Fi encryption steps in. There are several different ways to protect your Wi-Fi connection. But how do you know which Wi-Fi security standard is best? Here’s how. Wi-Fi Security Types The most common Wi-Fi security types are WEP, WPA, and WPA2. WEP vs. WPA…

Read the full article: WEP vs. WPA vs. WPA2 vs. WPA3: Wi-Fi Security Types Explained

wifi-security-types

Wireless security is extremely important. The vast majority of us connect a mobile device to a router at some point during each day, be that smartphone, tablet, laptop, or otherwise. Furthermore, Internet of Things devices connect to the internet using Wi-Fi.

They’re always on, always listening, and always in dire need of additional security.

That’s where Wi-Fi encryption steps in. There are several different ways to protect your Wi-Fi connection. But how do you know which Wi-Fi security standard is best? Here’s how.

Wi-Fi Security Types

The most common Wi-Fi security types are WEP, WPA, and WPA2.

WEP vs. WPA

Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) is the oldest and least secure Wi-Fi encryption method. It is laughable how terrible WEP is at protecting your Wi-Fi connection; if you are using WEP, you need to change this right away.

Furthermore, if you’re using an older router that only supports WEP, you should upgrade that too, for both security and better connectivity.

Why is it bad? Crackers figured out how to break WEP encryption, and it is easily done using freely available tools. In 2005, the FBI gave a public demonstration using free tools to raise awareness. Almost anyone can do it. As such, the Wi-Fi Alliance officially retired the WEP Wi-Fi encryption standard in 2004.

By now, you should be using a version of WPA.

WPA and WPA2 Definitions

Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) is the evolution of the insecure WEP standard. WPA was only a stepping stone to WPA2.

When it became apparent WEP is woefully insecure, the Wi-Fi Alliance developed WPA to give network connections an additional layer of security before the development and introduction of WPA2. The security standards of WPA2 were always the desired goal.

WPA3

At the current time, the vast majority of routers and Wi-Fi connections use WPA2. At least, they should do because even with the encryption standards vulnerabilities, it is still very secure.

However, the latest upgrade to Wi-Fi Protected Access—WPA3—is firmly on the horizon.

WPA3 includes some important upgrades for modern wireless security, including:

  • Brute Force Protection. WPA3 will protect users, even with weaker passwords, from brute-force dictionary attacks (attacks that attempt to guess passwords over and over again).
  • Public Network Privacy. WPA3 adds “individualized data encryption,” theoretically encrypting your connection to a wireless access point regardless of password.
  • Securing the Internet of Things. WPA3 arrives at a time when Internet of Things device developers are under enormous pressure to improve baseline security.
  • Stronger Encryption. WPA3 adds much stronger 192-bit encryption to the standard, drastically improving the level of security.

WPA3 still hasn’t hit the consumer router market, despite an initial timeline suggesting it would arrive some time toward the end of 2018. The jump from WEP to WPA, to WPA2 took some time, so it isn’t anything to worry about at the current time.

Furthermore, manufacturers must issue backward compatible devices with patches, a process that can take months, if not years.

You can read more about WPA3 Wi-Fi encryption.

WPA vs. WPA2 vs. WPA3

There are three Wi-Fi Protected Access iterations. Well, the third one isn’t quite with us, but it will soon arrive on your router. But what makes them different from one another? Why is WPA3 better than WPA2?

WPA Is Inherently Vulnerable

WPA was doomed from the outset. Despite featuring much stronger public key encryption, using 256-bit WPA-PSK (Pre-Shared Key), WPA still contained a string of vulnerabilities it inherited from the older WEP standard (both of whom share the vulnerable stream encryption standard, RC4).

The vulnerabilities centered on the introduction of the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP).

TKIP itself was a big step forward in that it used a per-packet key system to protect each data packet sent between devices. Unfortunately, the TKIP WPA rollout had to take into account old WEP devices.

The new TKIP WPA system recycled some aspects of the compromised WEP system and, of course, those same vulnerabilities eventually appeared in the newer standard.

WPA2 Supersedes WPA

WPA2 officially superseded WPA in 2006. WPA, then, had a short run as the pinnacle of Wi-Fi encryption.

WPA2 brought with it another raft of security and encryption upgrades, most notably the introduction of the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) to consumer Wi-Fi networks. AES is substantially stronger than RC4 (as RC4 has been cracked on multiple occasions) and is the security standard in place for many online services at the current time.

WPA2 also introduced the Counter Cipher Mode with Block Chaining Message Authentication Code Protocol (or CCMP, for a much shorter version!) to replace the now vulnerable TKIP.

TKIP remains part of the WPA2 standard as a fall back as well as to offer functionality for WPA-only devices.

WPA2 KRACK Attack

The somewhat amusingly named KRACK attack is no laughing matter; it is the first vulnerability found in WPA2. The Key Reinstallation Attack (KRACK) is a direct attack on the WPA2 protocol and unfortunately undermines every Wi-Fi connection using WPA2.

Essentially, KRACK undermines a key aspect of the WPA2 four-way handshake, allowing a hacker to intercept and manipulate the creation of new encryption keys within the secure connection process.

Dan Price has detailed the KRACK attack and whether your router is insecure or not.

Even with the potential for a KRACK attack, the likelihood of someone using it to attack your home network is slim.

WPA3: The (Wi-Fi) Alliance Strikes Back

WPA3 picks up the slack and offers much greater security, while actively taking into account the oft-lacking security practices everyone is guilty of at times. For instance, WPA3-Personal provides encryption to users even if hackers crack your password after you connect to a network.

Furthermore, WPA3 requires all connections to use Protected Management Frames (PMF). PMFs essentially augment privacy protections, with additional security mechanisms in place to secure data.

The 128-bit AES remains in place for WPA3 (a testament to its enduring security). However, for WPA3-Enterprise connections, 198-bit AES is required. WPA3-Personal users will have the option of using the extra-strength 198-bit AES, too.

The following video explores WPA3 new features in more detail.

What Is a WPA2 Pre-Shared Key?

WPA2-PSK stands for Pre-Shared Key. WPA2-PSK is also known as Personal mode, and it is intended for home and small office networks.

Your wireless router encrypts network traffic with a key. With WPA-Personal, this key is calculated from the Wi-Fi passphrase you set up on your router. Before a device can connect to the network and understand the encryption, you must enter your passphrase on it.

The primary real-world weaknesses with WPA2-Personal encryption are weak passphrases. Just as many people use weak passwords like “password” and “letmein” for their online accounts, many people will likely use weak passphrases to secure their wireless networks. You must use a strong passphrase or unique password to secure your network or WPA2 won’t protect you much.

What Is WPA3 SAE?

When you use WPA3, you will use a new key exchange protocol called Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE). SAE, also known as the Dragonfly Key Exchange Protocol, is a more secure method of key exchange that addresses the KRACK vulnerability.

Specifically, it is resistant to offline decryption attacks through the provision of “forward secrecy.” Forward secrecy stops an attacker decrypting a previously recorded internet connection, even if they know the WPA3 password.

As well as this, WPA3 SAE uses a peer-to-peer connection to establish the exchange and cut out the possibility of a malicious middle man intercepting the keys.

Here’s an explanation as to what “key exchange” means in the context of encryption, using the pioneering Diffie-Hellman exchange its example.

What Is Wi-Fi Easy Connect?

Wi-Fi Easy Connect is a new connection standard designed to “simplify the provisioning and configuration of Wi-Fi devices.”

Within that, Wi-Fi Easy Connect offers strong public key encryption for each device added to a network, even those “with little or no user interface, such as smart home and IoT products.”

For instance, in your home network, you would designate one device as the central configuration point. The central configuration point should be a rich media device, like a smartphone or tablet.

The rich media device is then used to scan a QR code which in turn runs the Wi-Fi Easy Connect protocol as designed by the Wi-Fi Alliance.

Scanning the QR code (or entering a code specific to the IoT device) gives the connecting device the same security and encryption as other devices on the network, even if direct configuration isn’t possible.

Wi-Fi Easy Connect, in conjunction with WPA3, will drastically increase the security of IoT and smart home device networks.

Wi-Fi Security Is Important

Even at the time of writing, WPA2 remains the most secure Wi-Fi encryption method, even taking the KRACK vulnerability into account. While KRACK undoubtedly is an issue, especially for Enterprise networks, home users are unlikely to encounter an attack of this variety (unless you are a high-worth individual, of course).

WEP is very easy to crack. You should not use it for any purpose. Moreover, if you have devices that can only use WEP security, you should consider replacing them to boost the security of your network.

It is also important to note that WPA3 isn’t going to appear magically and secure all of your devices overnight. There is always a long period between the introduction of a new Wi-Fi encryption standard and widespread adoption.

The adoption rate depends on how quickly manufacturers patch devices and how quickly router manufacturers adopt WPA3 for new routers.

At the current time, you should focus on protecting your existing network, including WPA2. A great place to start is looking at your router security. Check out why you should change your default router password before it gets hacked!

Read the full article: WEP vs. WPA vs. WPA2 vs. WPA3: Wi-Fi Security Types Explained

What Is Wi-Fi 6 and Do You Need a New Router?

wifi6

Wi-Fi standards change every few years. A new standard usually means better wireless networking. It also usually means that some new letters will appear on your router and smartphone packaging. The Wi-Fi Alliance does like to keep us on our toes, though. Instead of just following the IEEE’s 802.11 naming system, the organization is introducing its own simplified naming scheme. So, what is the new Wi-Fi Alliance wireless networking naming scheme? Moreover, what is Wi-Fi 6? What Is Wi-Fi 6? Wi-Fi 6 is the latest update to the wireless networking standard. Wi-Fi 6 is based on the IEEE 802.11ax standard…

Read the full article: What Is Wi-Fi 6 and Do You Need a New Router?

wifi6

Wi-Fi standards change every few years. A new standard usually means better wireless networking. It also usually means that some new letters will appear on your router and smartphone packaging.

The Wi-Fi Alliance does like to keep us on our toes, though. Instead of just following the IEEE’s 802.11 naming system, the organization is introducing its own simplified naming scheme. So, what is the new Wi-Fi Alliance wireless networking naming scheme? Moreover, what is Wi-Fi 6?

What Is Wi-Fi 6?

Wi-Fi 6 is the latest update to the wireless networking standard. Wi-Fi 6 is based on the IEEE 802.11ax standard and will be faster, have more capacity, and improved power efficiency over its predecessor 802.11ac (now also known as Wi-Fi 5—read on to find out more!).

But, hold on, wasn’t the previous wireless standard called 802.11ac?

Yes, it absolutely was. However, the Wi-Fi Alliance believe—quite rightly—that updating two letters doesn’t give consumers much to go on. Given the differences between each standard, consumers can be forgiven for not understanding how 802.11n differs from 802.11ac in anything but the alphabet.

“For nearly two decades, Wi-Fi users have had to sort through technical naming conventions to determine if their devices support the latest Wi-Fi,” said Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of Wi-Fi Alliance. “Wi-Fi Alliance is excited to introduce Wi-Fi 6, and present a new naming scheme to help industry and Wi-Fi users easily understand the Wi-Fi generation supported by their device or connection.”

The new naming system will run concurrently with the current system. The 802.11 naming convention will continue. But manufacturers have the opportunity to display both naming standards on their products, theoretically making the process of buying a new device with better connectivity easier.

wi-fi 6 802.11ax wireless standards new images

Here’s how the naming standards correlate:

  • Wi-Fi 6: 802.11ax (coming in 2019)
  • Wi-Fi 5: 802.11ac (2014)
  • Wi-Fi 4: 802.11n (2009)
  • Wi-Fi 3: 802.11g (2003)
  • Wi-Fi 2: 802.11a (1999)
  • Wi-Fi 1: 802.11b (1999)

How Is Wi-Fi 6 Better?

As usual, the newest wireless standard offers faster data transfer rates. Remember, Wi-Fi 6 is another name for the IEEE 802.11ax specification.

The 802.11ax specification offers theoretical network speeds of up to 10Gbps, and 12Gbps at the extreme of the wireless broadcast frequency and over very short distances. That’s about a 30-40 percent improvement over 802.11ac, aka Wi-Fi 5.

It also brings a few other notable improvements to wireless networking.

MU-MIMO Upgrade

For instance, many new routers now use MU-MIMO to provide constant data streams to multiple users. MU-MIMO technology hit the market during the current Wi-Fi 5/802.11ac period.

Accordingly, it features largely on high-end routers, though this is starting to change. The advent of Wi-Fi 6 will see the technology included in almost all new routers, as the new standard allows multi-directional MU-MIMO, i.e. available in both uplink and downlink concurrently.

Better Radio Frequencies, More Channels

Another key Wi-Fi 6 feature is Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA). OFDMA makes better use of the available transmission frequencies of 2.4GHz and 5GHz.

The update theoretically increases speed by dividing the available spectrum into smaller units. The resulting smaller units increase throughput and network efficiency.

Currently, your dual-band router broadcasts on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrums. Within those spectrums are allocations in sets of 20MHz-wide channels. These 20MHz channels group together into 160MHz blocks.

All devices broadcast on one of the blocks within the spectrum allocation. When multiple devices are using the same channel on the same spectrum in a confined area, you end up with network congestion.

Wi-Fi 6 alters the division of the 20MHz channels. The new standard subdivides the channels into 256 individual sub-channels. This is a massive increase on the current 64 channels.

But it’s not only an increase in channels. Wi-Fi 6/802.11ax also modifies data connections within those sub-channels, too.

Previously, all sub-channels were used in parallel to communicate with a connected device, meaning a single device could monopolize the channel until handed to another device.

Wi-Fi 6 allocates the new additional sub-channels as resource units (RUs). The resource units can then be used to talk simultaneously with several 802.11ax devices. Up to nine devices can then communicate effectively on a single channel—or 74 devices over a 160MHz block.

More Simultaneous Streams

Another major change to the Wi-Fi 6 standard is an update to the current 802.11ac’s 256 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM). Wi-Fi 6 jumps to 1024 QAM, allowing broadcasts on up to eight simultaneous streams.

When Can You Buy a Wi-Fi 6 Router or Wireless Device?

A few Wi-Fi 6/802.11ax routers are already starting to creep onto the market.

Some routers, like Asus’ TR-AX88U, are marketed as “being ready for next-gen 802.11ax devices,” though results are difficult to gauge. It does use the IEEE router standard of AX6000, meaning it adheres to the latest and greatest wireless specifications.

(Wi-Fi 6/802.11ax routers will feature the following standards in their name: AX6000 or AX11000. Current 802.11ac routers feature AC1200, AC1900, AC2300, AC3200, or AC5300 in their title.)

ASUS Quad-Core Wireless 802.11Ax Dual Band Wi-Fi Adaptive Qos AX6000 Router (RT-AX88U) ASUS Quad-Core Wireless 802.11Ax Dual Band Wi-Fi Adaptive Qos AX6000 Router (RT-AX88U) Buy Now At Amazon $462.99

Netgear’s Nighthawk AX8 is another Wi-Fi 6/802.11ax router you can buy right now. The sleek and futuristic looking AX8 is another AX6000 specification router. Both the Netgear Nighthawk AX8 and the Asus TR-AX88U have a throughput limitation of around 6Gbps, not quite hitting the top end of Wi-Fi 6 at 10Gbps+. (Those speeds are reserved for the AX11000 specification.)

NETGEAR Nighthawk AX8 8-Stream AX6000 WiFi Router, Wi-Fi 6 (RAX80) NETGEAR Nighthawk AX8 8-Stream AX6000 WiFi Router, Wi-Fi 6 (RAX80) Buy Now At Amazon $397.00

There are very few routers using the AX11000 specification. TP-Link’s high-end Archer router branding will feature an AX11000 router. D-Link is set to release the AX11000 Ultra Wi-Fi router, while Asus ROG gaming hardware brand will hit the market with the Rapture GT-AX11000.

Should You Upgrade to Wi-Fi 6?

Until the technology is more widely used, the answer is no. As you can see above, there are very few devices on the market that support Wi-Fi 6. There is also the chance that the specifications will change, albeit those changes will be minimal tweaks for performance. The groundwork of the specification is complete.

It is a tricky time to buy a new router, too. The advent of Wi-Fi 6 arrives alongside the imminent dawning of WPA3, the new wireless security protocol. Widespread adoption of WPA3 isn’t expected until the latter stages of 2019.

With that in mind, it is worth checking if the router you’re about to buy can receive a firmware update to the more secure WPA3 standard.

With Wi-Fi 6, the biggest networking gains will come when every device is compliant. Rushing out to grab a new Wi-Fi 6 router isn’t entirely necessary at this point.

However, if you are in the market for a new router, you should check out the MakeUseOf guide to the best routers for every budget.

Read the full article: What Is Wi-Fi 6 and Do You Need a New Router?

What Is HTTP/2 and How Does It Affect the Internet’s Future?

what-http2

You may not have heard of HTTP/2 yet, but it’s the most recent update to HTTP. The new protocol standard introduces some new concepts and makes communication between servers and applications faster and more efficient. What Is HTTP/2? HyperText Transfer Protocol Version 2, or HTTP/2, is the first major update to HTTP in 15 years. The previous protocol standard, HTTP/1.1, has been in use since 1997 and uses a mix of clunky workarounds to improve on the limitations of HTTP. It is based on SPDY (“speedy”), an open-source experiment started by Google to address some of the issues and limitations…

Read the full article: What Is HTTP/2 and How Does It Affect the Internet’s Future?

what-http2

You may not have heard of HTTP/2 yet, but it’s the most recent update to HTTP. The new protocol standard introduces some new concepts and makes communication between servers and applications faster and more efficient.

What Is HTTP/2?

HyperText Transfer Protocol Version 2, or HTTP/2, is the first major update to HTTP in 15 years.

The previous protocol standard, HTTP/1.1, has been in use since 1997 and uses a mix of clunky workarounds to improve on the limitations of HTTP.

It is based on SPDY (“speedy”), an open-source experiment started by Google to address some of the issues and limitations of HTTP/1.1

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) specifies the changes like this in Hypertext Transfer Protocol version 2, Draft 17:

“HTTP/2 enables a more efficient use of network resources and a reduced perception of latency by introducing header field compression and allowing multiple concurrent exchanges on the same connection […]

“It also allows prioritization of requests, letting more important requests complete more quickly, further improving performance.”

“HTTP/2 also enables more efficient processing of messages through use of binary message framing.”

“This specification is an alternative to, but does not obsolete, the HTTP/1.1 message syntax. HTTP’s existing semantics remain unchanged.”

HTTP/2 Is Based on SPDY

HTTP/2 is based on SPDY

By 2012, most modern browsers and many popular sites (Google, Twitter, Facebook etc.) already supported SPDY. As the popularity of SPDY was increasing, the HTTP Working Group (HTTP-WG) started working on updating the HTTP standard.

From this point onward, SPDY became the foundation and experimental branch for new features in HTTP/2. At the time, we examined how SPDY can improve browsing. Since then, the version 2 standard was drafted, approved and published.

Many of the features from SPDY were incorporated into of HTTP/2, and Google eventually stopped supporting this protocol in early 2016.

Most browsers eventually stopped supporting SPDY, and as there are no alternatives, HTTP/2 is becoming the de facto standard.

While the HTTP/2 protocol standard is not strictly backward compatible with HTTP/1, compatibility can be achieved via translation. An HTTP/1.1 only client won’t understand an HTTP/2 only server and vice versa, which is why the new protocol version is HTTP/2 and not HTTP/1.2.

That said, an important part of the work provided by HTTP-WG, is to make sure HTTP/1 and HTTP/2 can be translated back and forth without any loss of information.

Any new mechanisms or features introduced will also be version-independent, and backward-compatible with the existing web.

HTTP/2 isn’t really something a user can implement, but there are things we can do to affect our browsing speed. Do you believe any of these common myths to speed up your internet speed?

The Benefits and Features of HTTP/2

HTTP/2 comes with some great updates to the HTTP standard. Some of the more important ones are binary framing, multiplexing, stream prioritization, flow control, and server push.

Binary Framing

HTTP message in HTTP/2 binary framing streams
HTTP Messages by mfuji09 is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.5.

Following the update to HTTP2/, the HTTP protocol communication is split up into an exchange of binary-encoded frames. These frames are mapped to messages that belong to a particular stream. The streams are then multiplexed (woven together in a sense) in a single TCP connection.

The new binary framing layer introduces some new terminology; Streams, Messages, and Frames.

  • Streams are bidirectional flows of bytes that carry one or more messages.
  • Each of these streams has a unique identifier and can carry bidirectional messages using optional priority information.
  • Frames are the smallest unit of communication in HTTP/2 that contain specific sets of data (HTTP headers, message payloads etc.). The header will at minimum identify the stream that the frame belongs to.
  • Messages are a complete set of frames that map to a logical request or response message.
  • Each message is a logical HTTP message, like a request or responses, made up of one or more frames.

This allows us to use a single TCP connection, for what in the past required multiple.

Multiplexing

Multiplexing example

HTTP/1.1 ensures that only one response can be delivered at a time per connection. And the browser will open additional TCP connections if the client wants to make multiple parallel requests.

HTTP/2 removes this limitation of HTTP/1.1 and enables full requests and response multiplexing. This means that the client and server can break down an HTTP message into independent frames, which are then interleaved, and reassembled at the other end.

Overall, this is the most important enhancement of HTTP/2, as it will in part eliminate the need for multiple connections. This will in turn introduce numerous performance benefits across all web technologies.

The reduced number of connections means fewer Transport Layer Security (TLS) handshakes, better session reuse, and an overall reduction in client and server resource requirements. This makes applications faster, simpler and cheaper to deploy.

Websites with many external assets (images or scripts) will see the largest performance gains from HTTP/2 multiplexing.

Stream Prioritization and Dependency

Further improvements of the multiplexed streams are made with weight and stream dependencies. HTTP/2 allows us to give each stream a weight (a value between 1 and 256), and make it explicitly dependent on another stream.

This dependency and weight combination leads to the creation of a prioritization tree, which tells the server how the client would prefer to receive responses.

The server will use the information in the prioritization tree to control the allocation of CPU, memory, and other resources, as well as the allocation of bandwidth to ensure the client receives the optimal delivery of high-priority responses.

Flow Control

Issues with flow control in HTTP/2 are similar to HTTP/1.1. However, since HTTP/2 streams are multiplexed within a single TCP connection, the way flow control in HTTP/1.1 works is no longer efficient.

In short, flow control is needed to stop streams interfering with each other to cause a blockage. This makes multiplexing possible. HTTP/2 allows for a variety of flow-control algorithms to be used, without requiring protocol changes.

No algorithm for flow control is specified in HTTP/2. Instead, a set of building blocks has been provided to aid clients and servers to apply their own flow control.

You can find the specifics of these building blocks in the “Flow Control” section of the HTTP/2 internet-draft.

Server Push

Your browser will normally request and receive an HTML document from a server when first visiting a page. The server then needs to wait for the browser to parse the HTML document and send a request for the embedded assets (CSS, JavaScript, images, etc.).

In HTTP/1.1, the server cannot send these assets until the browser requests them, and each asset requires a separate request (i.e multiple handshakes and connections).

Server push will reduce latency by allowing the server to send these resources without prompt, as it already knows that the client will require them. So in the example above, the server will push CSS, JavaScript (a common scripting language in web pages), and images to the browser to display the page quicker.

Basically, server push allows a server to send multiple responses for a single client request.

Albeit manually, this is the effect we currently get by inlining CSS or JS into our HTML documents—we are pushing the inlined resource to the client without waiting for the client to request it.

This is a big step away from the current HTTP standard of strict one-to-one request-response workflow.

The Limitations of HTTP/2

Image of browsers that support HTTP/2

SPDY had a slightly stricter policy on security and required SSL encryption for all connections. HTTPS/2 does not require encryption but many services will not serve HTTP/2 without SSL.

All major browsers support HTTP/2, but none of them will support it without encryption. The CanIUs website has a great table overview over the current browser support for HTTP/2, as seen above.

The backward compatibility and translations between HTTP/1.1 and HTTP/2 will slow down page load speed.

There is no real reason why encryption shouldn’t be a default or mandatory setup by now. If you already have an SSL certificate on your site, you can improve the security of your HTTPS website by enabling HSTS.

Is HTTP/2 the Next Big Thing?

Comparison of HTTP/1.1 and HTTP/2 loading time

HTTP/2 was proposed as a standard in mid-2015, and most browsers added support for it by the end of that year. HTTP/2 already affects the way that the internet works and how applications and servers talk together.

There are no requirements to force the use of HTTP/2, but so far it only serves benefits and no drawbacks. It’s also a fairly minor change from a user perspective, one that people won’t really notice.

According to W3Tech, 31.7% of the top 10 million websites currently support HTTP/2. The quickest way for most of you to enable HTTP/2 on your website is to use Cloudflare’s CDN.

The next proposed standard (HTTP/3) is already in the works and is based on QUIC, another experimental project by Google. In October of this year, IETF’S HTTP-WG and the QUIC Working Group officially requested QUIC to become the new worldwide standard and to rename it HTTP/3.

If you are curious, Akamai.com has a quick tool to check if your browser supports HTTP/2. If it doesn’t, perhaps consider switching your browser.

Read the full article: What Is HTTP/2 and How Does It Affect the Internet’s Future?

How to Find Your IP Address on Your Phone

mobile-ip

Need to find your IP address? You might know how to do this on your Windows or Mac computer, but what about on your phone? We’re here to help. Let’s look at how to view both your public and private IP address on your phone, what these mean, and how to keep them private What Is an IP Address? In case you’re not familiar, an IP address (which stands for internet Protocol address) is a numbered label assigned to every device that connects to a network. Checking the IP address of a device helps you identify it on both your…

Read the full article: How to Find Your IP Address on Your Phone

mobile-ip

Need to find your IP address? You might know how to do this on your Windows or Mac computer, but what about on your phone?

We’re here to help. Let’s look at how to view both your public and private IP address on your phone, what these mean, and how to keep them private

What Is an IP Address?

In case you’re not familiar, an IP address (which stands for internet Protocol address) is a numbered label assigned to every device that connects to a network.

Checking the IP address of a device helps you identify it on both your home network and the internet at large. In fact, you have two IP addresses to keep track of for each device.

A global IP address (or public IP address) is how the rest of the internet sees any device on your network. Because this is network-specific, your the global IP will be the same whether you’re using your phone, desktop, or other device at home.

A private IP address (or local IP address) identifies a device on your own network. Only one device can have a certain address on a network, but that same address can be used on other private networks too.

In addition, when you check your IP address, you’ll likely see both an IPv4 and IPv6 address. IPv4 addresses are shorter, but due to the enormous number of internet-connected devices, we’re running out of them. IPv6 address aren’t as easy to read, but there are enough of them to go around for a long time.

In most cases, IPv4 is still the primary address, but IPv6 will phase these out over time as we migrate to that format.

How to Find Your Global IP Address

Your public IP is easy to find, because any device on the internet can see it. To that end, you can visit a multitude of websites that will show your IP address instantly.

Open Chrome on your Android phone or Safari on your iPhone (or whatever other browser you use). Then navigate to any of the following public IP sites:

You’ll notice that some of these sites also display your location and ISP name. This is because your IP address carries this information with it. You can’t ascertain the name and exact address of someone from their IP address, but it does narrow it down to a city.

Similar sites allow you to trace any IP address to see its location. We’ll discuss more about IP privacy below.

How to Find Your Phone’s Private IP Address

As discussed above, global IP addresses are only half the story. Here’s how to find your phone’s private IP address on your home network.

How to Find Your IP Address on Android

Open Settings and browse to Network & internet > Wi-Fi. If you’re not already connected to your Wi-Fi network, tap its name and confirm that it joins.

Then tap the network’s name and expand the Advanced section. Here, you’ll find your IP address and other network information. The IPv6 addresses appear at the bottom of the page.

These steps may be slightly different depending on your version of Android.

How to Find Your IP Address on iPhone

To find your private IP address on an iPhone, head to Settings > Wi-Fi. If you’re not already connected to your home network, tap it and connect now. Then tap the network’s name to open its options.

Here, you’ll see the IP Address field listed under the IPv4 Address header. The IPv6 Address header will have that alternate address for your device below.

Dynamic and Static IP Addresses

It’s worth mentioning that most of the time, the IP addresses you found above are not set in stone. In both cases, you probably have a dynamic IP address.

This means that after some time or on a device restart, the device or your whole network will get a new IP. Conversely, a static IP does not change over time like this.

Dynamic public IPs are simpler for your ISP (like Comcast or Verizon) to manage. You can request a static IP from your ISP, but these often cost an additional fee. They’re not necessary for home users unless you’re hosting a server that others access.

Your router hands out private IP addresses dynamically to devices on your network using DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol). In practice, this means that when you connect a new device to your home Wi-Fi, you don’t have to manually assign an IP address and keep track of everything yourself.

You can assign static IP addresses using your router and settings on various devices if you want to. But again, this is only really something advanced users need to worry about. Doing it incorrectly could cause major issues.

How to Hide Your IP Address

After finding your current IP and learning that it reveals your location, you might be worried about the privacy implications of this. If so, the best solution is to start using a VPN (virtual private network).

Essentially, connecting to a VPN provider lets you route all your traffic through its secure servers. To the outside world, it looks like your traffic is coming from another location. This masks your IP and makes it harder to track your browsing.

Check out our list of the best VPN providers to find one that works best for you. We recommend ExpressVPN, where MakeUseOf readers can get three months free.

Now You Know How to Check Your IP Address

No matter what device you’re on, it’s easy to show your IP address. While you might not need to check it often, it’s a good skill for any user to know.

You might have wanted to look up your IP address because you’re having network issues. If so, check out our simple steps to diagnose network problems.

Read the full article: How to Find Your IP Address on Your Phone

No Internet Connection? 5 Quick Troubleshooting Tips You Can Try

internet-issues-fix

There are few things that are quite as annoying as trying to use the internet, and suddenly see that your internet connection doesn’t work. The problem is that there are so many points of failure, it’s hard to know where the connection problem is. It could be your computer. It could be the router. Or it could be a problem with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) itself. The following is a quick and simple guide to run through all of these points of failure and fix your internet connection right away. 1. Troubleshoot Your Computer The moment you first experience…

Read the full article: No Internet Connection? 5 Quick Troubleshooting Tips You Can Try

internet-issues-fix

There are few things that are quite as annoying as trying to use the internet, and suddenly see that your internet connection doesn’t work.

The problem is that there are so many points of failure, it’s hard to know where the connection problem is. It could be your computer. It could be the router. Or it could be a problem with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) itself.

The following is a quick and simple guide to run through all of these points of failure and fix your internet connection right away.

1. Troubleshoot Your Computer

The moment you first experience a problem with your broadband internet connection, the first thing you should check is your computer.

There are a number of troubleshooting items you should check first.

Can You Reach Your Router?

The device that your ISP gives you when you sign up for internet service is called a modem. However, the newest modems ISPs provide are a combination of a modem (which connects to the ISP and establishes your home’s internet service), and a router (which creates an internal network for all of the devices in your home). Read more about how routers work, if you wish.

The default network address (IP address) of the router usually defaults to 192.168.1.1. However different routers may be set up with different IP addresses. You can check what your router’s IP address is by opening a command prompt (click on Start, type cmd, and press Enter). Type ipconfig at the command prompt.

ipconfig command

The IP address shown next to Default Gateway is your router’s IP address. In the example above, the router IP is 10.0.0.1.

If there’s no IP address listed here, then you may not have a good connection between your PC and your router, and that’s the source of your problem. If it does display an IP, then confirm the connection by performing what’s called a “ping test”.

In the command window, type ping followed by the IP address of the default gateway. If the connection is good, you should see a response like the one shown below.

router ping test

If you instead see Request timed out, then you have a connection failure between your PC and the router.

If you don’t have any connection failure between your computer and router, then here are a few additional network checks you can make to verify if the problem is only with your computer.

Check Your Network Card

If you do have a problem, then it’s time to troubleshoot your network card to make sure there isn’t a problem with it.

To do this, click on Start, type Run, and press Enter.

In the Run window, type the command devmgmt.msc and press Enter.

device management

This will open the Device Manager.

In the Device Manager, expand the Network Adapters section, and look for any yellow exclamation marks beside the network adapter you’re using.

network adapter

If there’s no exclamation mark near your active network adapter, then your network card is working fine. If you do see an exclamation icon, then right-click on it and click on Disable device.

disable network adapter

Wait a minute or two, then right click on the network adapter again and click on Enable device.

Once the card is active again, check to see if the yellow exclamation icon is gone. If it is, check your internet connection again. If it isn’t gone, then you may have a hardware issue with your network card. Try rebooting your computer.

If this doesn’t resolve your network connection issue, then take your computer to a technician to have the network card checked and repaired or replaced if necessary.

If there’s no exclamation icon and your internet connection still doesn’t work, move on to the next section. Or you can dig further into your network problems by following our advanced Windows network troubleshooting guide.

2. Narrow Down the Problem

You can narrow down your internet connection problems by checking other devices on your home network.

One of the easiest devices to check is your own smartphone. On an Android or iPhone, just go into settings and Wi-Fi.

Your phone may already be connected to the Wi-Fi network, in which case you’ll see the status as Connected. If it’s anything other than Connected, your phone may be having problems connecting to the internet as well.

If you have any other computers in your home, run the same tests in the first section of this article. If none of those have an internet connection either, then you’ve narrowed down your problem to the router itself.

3. Switch to a Wired Connection

Sometimes, the wireless network managed by the router has a failure. You can confirm this by checking whether the wired connection has internet access.

If it does, then you know there’s no problem with the connection between your home and your ISP, or with the ISP’s internet connection.

Take a laptop and an ethernet cable, and connect the cable from your laptop to the wired router. Plug it into one of the numbered network connections in the back of the router.

router ethernet ports
Image Credit: Asim18/Wikimedia Commons

Once your laptop wired network adapter establishes a connection with the router, attempt to access the internet with your router.

If it works, then you know that the issue is only with the router’s wireless network. This could indicate a faulty router. If this is the case, skip down to the last section of this article on restarting the router.

If it doesn’t work, then the entire router itself doesn’t have an internet connection. Move on to the next section to continue with your troubleshooting.

4. Check Your Router Lights

It’s time to check your router for problems.

The easiest way to see if there are any issues is by checking the status lights on the front of your router.

Look at the front of the router provided by your ISP. Depending on the model of the router, the lights will have different labels. But typically they follow the same basic pattern.

  • Ethernet: The ethernet light reports on the status of your home wired network (if you have one)
  • Wireless: The wireless light shows you the status of your home wireless network
  • Send and Receive: If send and receive lights are present, they usually blink rapidly, showing the active network traffic
  • Ready/Service/Connect: The last light is usually the connection to your ISP, and should remain solid if the connection is good

If the service light is blinking or out, then there’s a connection issue between the router and your ISP. If this is the case, move on to the next section.

If the service light is solid, then the connection between your home and your ISP is fine. If this is the case and there’s no internet available, then it’s time to call your ISP’s customer support line to ask whether there’s an internet outage in your area.

Outages like this are very common during storms or when there are high winds.

5. Restart Your Router

The last resort, before you give up on the router and take it to the nearest ISP store for a repair or replacement, is to restart the router. Unfortunately, many ISPs provide customers with low quality hardware. After operating for a long time, they can start malfunctioning. This can affect the internal network, as well as the external internet connection.

Take the following steps to properly restart your ISP router.

  1. Disconnect the power cord from the back of the ISP
  2. Wait at least 30 seconds for the connection on the ISP’s end to timeout
  3. Plug the power cord back into the router
  4. Watch the lights. You’ll see the connection light blink several times before turning solid
  5. The remaining lights will turn on in succession. Once they’re all lit up or blinking, you’re ready to test the internet connection.

Use either the wired or wireless tests described in the previous sections to test whether you can no connect to the internet.

The router restart will resolve the issue 90% of the time. If the restart doesn’t resolve your internet problems, it’s time to give the ISP customer support line a call. The odds are good, if there’s no internet outage, that they’ll want to give you a replacement router.

Internet Connection Issues, Fixed!

When you can’t access the internet, it can be very annoying. Luckily, the power is in your hands to troubleshoot the issues and get the connection back, or at least determine if it’s due to an outage.

If your internet connection is fine but it’s just very slow, there are a number of things you can do to troubleshoot a slow network as well. There’s no need to tolerate network issues when there are plenty of things you can do to fix it.

Read the full article: No Internet Connection? 5 Quick Troubleshooting Tips You Can Try

6 Great Android Networking Apps to Monitor, Ping, and More

android-networking-apps

Struggling to get a good wireless connection on your phone? Want to see what sort of activity is taking place on your local network? Or maybe you just want to send a ping? In the absence of a PC, your Android smartphone can act a powerful network management device. Try these six Android networking tools to get started. 1. JuiceSSH: Secure Network Communication You can remotely access most devices that share your network. But for secure communications, SSH (which stands for Secure Shell) is the best option. Available for free, JuiceSSH is like having a Linux terminal in your pocket….

Read the full article: 6 Great Android Networking Apps to Monitor, Ping, and More

android-networking-apps

Struggling to get a good wireless connection on your phone? Want to see what sort of activity is taking place on your local network? Or maybe you just want to send a ping?

In the absence of a PC, your Android smartphone can act a powerful network management device. Try these six Android networking tools to get started.

1. JuiceSSH: Secure Network Communication

You can remotely access most devices that share your network. But for secure communications, SSH (which stands for Secure Shell) is the best option.

Available for free, JuiceSSH is like having a Linux terminal in your pocket. If you’re connecting to a computer, phone, or tablet with an active SSH server, you’ll be able to operate the device remotely.

Along with offering Telnet functionality, the app has copy and paste, clickable URLs, and will save multiple SSH profiles for different connections. There’s even support for two-factor authentication with Google Authenticator or other 2FA apps, to keep your connections secure.

JuiceSSH is the best SSH client on Android, and the perfect tool for remote command line access across a network.

You can unlock further features with an in-app purchase. These include encrypted backup of your connections, multiple device sync, and team collaboration.

Download: JuiceSSH (Free, $5 premium version available)

2. Fing: Check Wi-Fi Network Security

Want to find out how secure your network is?

Bundling various networking tools into one easy-to-use app, Fing is the Swiss Army knife of mobile network security. Featuring intruder detection, network monitoring, port scanning, a connectivity checker, and a network device inventory tool, the app also handles basic commands like ping and traceroute.

These features (and more) make Fing the perfect penetration testing tool for Android. As well as snuffing out unknown intruders, you can employ it to detect managed intrusion attempts, enabling you to harden your network.

A $99 piece of hardware, the Fingbox, unlocks additional functionality when plugged into your router. This introduces features such as bandwidth analysis, a network-wide internet kill switch, and more. However, this device isn’t necessary to use Fing—consider it a specialist buy for networking enthusiasts only.

Download: Fing (Free)

3. NetCut: Kill Network Connections

Essentially a network sniffer, NetCut can manage devices connected wirelessly to your router. The app detects all connections, permitted or otherwise.

If you find hardware on your network that shouldn’t be there, you can use NetCut’s kill switch to disconnect it. NetCut can also detect ARP spoofing, a technique used by hackers to gain access to a network.

While it has a good selection of features, please note that NetCut will only run on a rooted Android device. There’s also an upgrade available that you can unlock from within the app. This introduces features such as fast scan, searching by IP/name/brand, and improved reporting tools.

Download: NetCut (Free, premium version available)

4. Network Connections: Monitor Inbound and Outbound Traffic

Your Android phone or tablet is probably online most of the time. But what apps and services are connecting to the internet, what data are they downloading (or uploading), and where is that data headed?

An easy way to find that information quickly is with the Network Connections app. It enables you to keep an eye on inbound and outbound connections; you’ll see notifications when hidden apps connect to remote servers. This is useful for determining what apps are misbehaving—they could be malware, for example.

Other features include details about remote IP addresses and the ability to log and export data captured by the app. If you want to better manage what your apps are doing online, start with this totally free utility.

Download: Network Connections (Free)

5. Meteor: Check Your Device’s Network Speed

How fast is your internet connection? It’s difficult to get through the week without having some thoughts about the slowness of your internet. This happens regardless of how fast your connection is, and doesn’t matter which device you’re using.

While you can access speed testing websites from any device, having a mobile app that can check speed the speed of your wireless connection (or even your mobile network speed) is quite useful.

Meteor offers speed and connection testing, with the results helping you decide which apps are best suited for your network speed.

You can test speed and performance for 16 popular apps, and the app lets you compare results too. Meteor will also help you find “slow” areas (also known as blackspots) around your wireless network. Once you’ve detected them, use our guide to boost your wireless router signal.

Download: Meteor (Free)

6. Ping: Basic Ping Tool

What if all you want to do is send a ping command to quickly assess network connectivity?

You might use JuiceSSH, Fing, or one of the other tools with ping functionality. Or you might simply opt for Ping, an app whose purpose is just to ping a destination IP address. (If that doesn’t make sense, our guide to what a ping is should help.)

The app is easy to use. After launching, you input the IP address you want to test, click Start, and await the result. Ping will tell you if the destination device is online or down, and give you an idea of how quickly it reached the device, measured in milliseconds (ms).

You’ll also find a feature to display accurate connection speed in this app.

Download: Ping (Free)

Your Android Networking Arsenal

Getting online with an Android device is simple. But knowing just what’s going on across the network can be vital. The tools we’ve looked at should give you everything you need to monitor connections, check which apps are sending and receiving data, establish secure connections, or simply send a ping.

To reiterate, the apps you should try are:

  1. JuiceSSH
  2. Fing
  3. NetCut
  4. Network Connections
  5. Meteor
  6. Ping

Others are available, but you shouldn’t need much more than this.

For more on networking, check out our guide to diagnosing a network problem with your computer.

Read the full article: 6 Great Android Networking Apps to Monitor, Ping, and More

50 Funny Wi-Fi Names for Your Router’s Network SSID

funny-wifi-names

If you’ve just bought a brand new router, there are a handful of first steps that you should handle—such as picking a good name for the network SSID (service set identifier). Or if your network has had a generic name for some time, you should also consider changing it up to something more interesting. A good SSID not only makes it easier to identify your network when connecting new devices (which “LINKSYS” is yours?), it can serve as a conversation starter when friends come over. It can also provide amusement for strangers when they browse for nearby networks and see…

Read the full article: 50 Funny Wi-Fi Names for Your Router’s Network SSID

funny-wifi-names

If you’ve just bought a brand new router, there are a handful of first steps that you should handle—such as picking a good name for the network SSID (service set identifier). Or if your network has had a generic name for some time, you should also consider changing it up to something more interesting.

A good SSID not only makes it easier to identify your network when connecting new devices (which “LINKSYS” is yours?), it can serve as a conversation starter when friends come over. It can also provide amusement for strangers when they browse for nearby networks and see yours in the list.

Here are some of the best Wi-Fi names you can use for your router. Leave a comment and tell us which ones you like best!

50 Funny Wi-Fi Names for Network SSIDs

“Funny” is subjective, so we’ll try to cover as wide a variety of ideas as we can. Hopefully you’ll find at least one or two that really stick out as awesome for you:

  1. Mom Use This One
  2. Abraham Linksys
  3. Benjamin FrankLAN
  4. Martin Router King
  5. John Wilkes Bluetooth
  6. Pretty Fly for a Wi-Fi
  7. Bill Wi the Science Fi
  8. I Believe Wi Can Fi
  9. Tell My Wi-Fi Love Her
  10. No More Mister Wi-Fi
  11. LAN Solo
  12. The LAN Before Time
  13. Silence of the LANs
  14. House LANister
  15. Winternet Is Coming
  16. Ping’s Landing
  17. The Ping in the North
  18. This LAN Is My LAN
  19. Get Off My LAN
  20. The Promised LAN
  21. The LAN Down Under
  22. FBI Surveillance Van 4
  23. Area 51 Test Site
  24. Drive-By Wi-Fi (for automobile hotspot)
  25. Planet Express (for automobile hotspot)
  26. Wu Tang LAN
  27. Darude LANstorm
  28. Never Gonna Give You Up
  29. Hide Yo Kids, Hide Yo Wi-Fi
  30. Loading…
  31. Searching…
  32. VIRUS.EXE
  33. Virus-Infected Wi-Fi
  34. Starbucks Wi-Fi
  35. Text ###-#### for Password
  36. Yell ____ for Password
  37. The Password Is 1234
  38. Free Public Wi-Fi
  39. No Free Wi-Fi Here
  40. Get Your Own Damn Wi-Fi
  41. It Hurts When IP
  42. Dora the Internet Explorer
  43. 404 Wi-Fi Unavailable
  44. Porque-Fi
  45. Titanic Syncing
  46. Test Wi-Fi Please Ignore
  47. Drop It Like It’s Hotspot
  48. Life in the Fast LAN
  49. The Creep Next Door
  50. Ye Olde Internet

Tips for Choosing a Clever Wi-Fi Name

Whether you decide to go with one of the SSIDs above or something else of your own creation, there are a few important guidelines that you should consider:

  • Aim for unique but memorable.
  • Never include personal information like your real name, address, apartment number, birthdate, etc.
  • Never make the SSID related to the network password.
  • Avoid provocative SSIDs that might make your network a prime target for hackers.

As long as you take those tips to heart, there aren’t many network security risks to worry about. And if you’re thinking about hiding your SSID to keep hackers away, don’t bother—even if the SSID isn’t being broadcast, others can still find it using packet sniffers and probe requests.

How to Change Your Wi-Fi Name (Network SSID)

Once you’ve picked a name for your network, you actually have to change a setting on your router to make that name come to life. This may not be as easy as snapping your fingers, but the process is rather straightforward—just follow the directions below closely and you’ll be fine, even if you’ve never done it before.

1. Log Into Your Router as Admin

Every router manufacturer provides its own unique admin panel software, and sometimes it can even differ from model to model, but the overall login procedure is pretty much the same for all of them. For what it’s worth, I’m on Windows 10 and have a TP-Link router, so that’s what you’ll see in the screenshots below.

Open up Command Prompt (search “Command Prompt” in the Start Menu) and type in the ipconfig command:

windows-10-command-prompt-ipconfig

In the results that show up, find Wireless LAN adapter Wi-Fi: and look under it for the item labeled Default Gateway. This is the IP address of your router. If you type it into the address bar of a web browser, you should see your router’s admin login page:

windows-10-router-config-admin-login

Most of the time, 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1 should work. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to look up the instructions in your router’s manual to see if there are any special steps. For example, sometimes the login address is an actual URL like routerlogin.com.

As for admin login credentials, you can find the defaults for your router in the manual as well. However, admin / admin is a popular combo used by many manufacturers, followed by admin / password and admin / 1234. If those don’t work, check out RouterPasswords.com to see credentials for your specific model.

2. Change the Router’s SSID

Once you’ve logged in, look for the navigation bar. For me, all of the options are along the left in a sidebar. For you, it might be sprawled across the top or bottom of the page, or it might be in a dropdown menu that’s tucked away into a corner.

windows-10-router-config-sidebar-navigation

Look for a section called Wireless, Wireless Networks, Wi-Fi, Wireless Settings, or anything along those lines. Click it and you should be brought to a page that lets you edit the router’s SSID, though it might have a more user-friendly label, like Wireless Network Name in my case.

windows-10-router-wireless-network-ssid

Type in the new SSID, click Save, and you’re done. Note that this will disconnect ALL devices, forcing them to reconnect to the newly named network (because in the eyes of a device, the old network no longer exists and the different name indicates a new network).

3. Tweak Other Router Settings (Optional)

Since you’re already logged into your router, we recommend tweaking a few other settings in order to optimize your internet performance and increase the security of your connections.

You definitely should change both the admin login password and the public-facing password that people use to connect to your network. The former should be under System Tools (or something similar), while the latter should be under Wireless Security (or something similar). In either case, make sure the password is a strong one.

Other settings to change include turning off Wi-Fi Protected Setup, using WPA2 instead of WPA or WEP, and enabling the built-in firewall if it exists. You should also get acquainted with the page that shows all devices that are connected to the router. This can be an effective first step if you ever think there are suspicious devices on your network.

Lastly, you’ll want to go over our list of the most important router features to use—like port forwarding, quality of service, guest access, and parental controls—and make sure they’re all configured properly on your network.

What Are the Most Creative Wi-Fi Names You’ve Seen?

Note that your Wi-Fi network SSID has nothing to do with its public hotspot functionality, assuming your router can be a public hotspot in the first place. The hotspot network is separate from your home network and usually has a designated name like xfinitywifi or Verizon Wi-Fi. Have fun!

Read the full article: 50 Funny Wi-Fi Names for Your Router’s Network SSID

How P2P (Peer to Peer) File Sharing Works

Software piracy and file sharing existed well before the internet as we know it today, mainly through message boards and private FTP sites. But it was tedious to find files, and even slower to actually download them. It was more common to get your software or music fix from a friend as a physical copy (often called the “sneakernet”). P2P file sharing changed all that. Suddenly you had a direct line of access to other people’s shared data. But let’s back up a little: what is P2P, how does it work, and where did it start? Before We Start Of…

Read the full article: How P2P (Peer to Peer) File Sharing Works

Software piracy and file sharing existed well before the internet as we know it today, mainly through message boards and private FTP sites. But it was tedious to find files, and even slower to actually download them. It was more common to get your software or music fix from a friend as a physical copy (often called the “sneakernet”).

P2P file sharing changed all that. Suddenly you had a direct line of access to other people’s shared data. But let’s back up a little: what is P2P, how does it work, and where did it start?

Before We Start

Of course, peer-to-peer file sharing technology isn’t only used for piracy. But if we’re honest, that’s why it was created in the first place.

We’ll talk mostly about the file-sharing aspect of P2P technologies, but this certainly isn’t the only use case. We should also note that the term P2P covers a broad range of networks over the past few decades since they were first invented, so not everything here applies in every case. We’ve tried to tackle the topic as broadly as possible.

Not the Client-Server Model

First, we should explain what peer-to-peer isn’t. The rest of the internet generally runs on what’s called a client-server model.

A website hosted on a powerful server somewhere in the world (the best web hosting services), delivers a piece of information when your computer or phone requests it. This might be a font used to display the website correctly, or it could be a 2GB Linux ISO you want to download. The server sends the file to you. When the next user comes along, the process repeats.

Client-server illustration
This is how a client-server internet works. (Image Credit: CorDesign/DepositPhotos)

This works well for websites, but doesn’t scale well for distributing large files. It’s mainly a problem of speed, bandwidth, cost, and legality.

Speed on a traditional web host is quite limited. It’s fine for transmitting small amounts of text to render a website, and some web servers are optimized just to serve images. But for larger files, that would require a burst of speed that isn’t sustainable for long periods and locks the server up for other users. Bandwidth is also costly; just to serve the images here at MakeUseOf costs many thousands of dollars a year.

From a legal perspective, it’s relatively easy to locate a single server, shut it down, then prosecute the owner. P2P was therefore born of necessity. Those who wanted to distribute copyrighted files needed a better way.

What Is Peer-to-Peer?

Peer-to-peer is an entirely different model, in which everyone becomes a server. There is no central server; everyone who uses the network acts as their own server. Instead of simply taking files, peer-to-peer made it a two-way street.

You could now give back to other users. In fact, giving back (known as “seeding” nowadays) is critical to the success of peer-to-peer networks. If everyone just downloaded without giving anything back (called “leeching”), the network would offer no benefits over a client-server model.

P2P Network Illustration
This is what P2P looks like: everyone on the network is serving files to everyone else. (Image Credit: mmaxer/DepositPhotos)

In the client-server model, performance degrades with more users, as the same amount of bandwidth is shared among more people. In peer-to-peer networks, more users make the network more effective. The more users that make a particular file available from their hard drives, the easier it is for new users to get that file.

In modern P2P networks, it’s actually faster when more users download a file. Instead of taking the whole file from one user, you’re taking smaller pieces from hundreds or thousands of others. Even if they only have a little bandwidth to spare for you, the combined connections mean you get the maximum speed possible. Then you, in turn, contribute to distribute the file again.

In earlier forms of P2P networks, a central server was still necessary to organize the network, acting as a database that held information on connected users and files available in the system. Though the heavy lifting of file transfers was done directly between users, the networks were still vulnerable. Knocking out that central server meant disabling communications completely.

This is no longer the case thanks to recent developments. Nowadays, the software can ask peers directly if they’ve seen a particular file. There is no way to knock out these networks—they are effectively indestructible.

A Brief History of Early P2P Software

Now you have an idea of why peer-to-peer networks were such a revolution compared to the client-server model, let’s take a quick look at the historical context.

Napster, launched in 1999, was the first widely available implementation of a peer-to-peer model. A central database contained information about all the music files held by members. You would search for a song from this central server, but to download it, you would actually connect to another online user and copy from them. In turn, once you had that song in your Napster library, it became available as a source for others on the network.

You could also add your own files, which Napster would then index and add to the database, ready to propagate across the world. The implementation was limited in that you could only download from one person, however. The service had a high availability of songs, but speeds were not so great.

Napster File Sharing Program

But with that, the concept of peer-to-peer had unleashed on the world.

Napster was eventually shut down in 2001, but not before similar networks arose that offered more than just music. Movies, software, and images were made available on Morpheus, Kazaa, and Gnutella networks (of those, Limewire was perhaps the most famous Gnutella client).

Over the years, various other protocols and peer-to-peer file sharing software came and went, but one open protocol took hold: BitTorrent.

The BitTorrent Protocol

Designed in 2001, BitTorrent is an open source protocol where users create a meta file (called a .torrent file) containing information about the download, without actually providing the download data itself. A tracker was necessary to store these meta files, along with who currently held that file. However, as an open protocol, anyone could program the client or tracker software.

So even though it needed a central tracker to maintain the databases of those available files, multiple trackers could exist. Any single torrent descriptor file could register with multiple trackers. This made the BitTorrent network incredibly robust and almost impossible to completely destroy. Shutting down torrent sites became a game of whack-a-mole. In its lifetime, The Pirate Bay was killed and resurrected multiple times.

Since the original design, further improvements were made that enabled tracker-less downloads. DHT (distributed hash table) meant the job of indexing available files could distribute among all users. Magnet links are another, but they’re complex enough to warrant an explanation of how magnet links differ from torrent files.

Do You Use P2P File Sharing?

I hope this has shed some light on the meaning of peer-to-peer networking and where it began. It’s fair to say P2P networks changed the internet forever. At their peak in 2006, it was estimated that P2P networks collectively accounted for over 70% of all traffic flowing across the internet.

Since then usage has plummeted, mainly due to easily accessible video streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube. Combined with music streaming services like Spotify, there’s really no reason to pirate anymore. P2P networks filled an important gap in our history when traditional media services struggled to keep up. Now, they’re largely irrelevant.

Did you get a chance to use Napster back in the day? Or was your first introduction to file sharing through the humble torrent? Tell us in the comments, or if you want to learn more, check out our complete beginner’s guide to torrents.

Image Credit: chromatika2/Depositphotos

Read the full article: How P2P (Peer to Peer) File Sharing Works

4 Reasons Why Your Wi-Fi Is So Slow (And How to Fix Them)

slow-wifi

Wi-Fi is the way of the world now. It’s the invisible friend that comforts us, allows us to binge on Netflix in bed, and equips us to work from anywhere, anytime. Wi-Fi is thus pretty much a necessity these days. But when the Wi-Fi slows to a crawl, the relationship turns sour. If your Wi-Fi is slow all of a sudden, or you’ve been experiencing Wi-Fi lag, you’ll want to get it back up to speed as soon as possible. Unfortunately, speed issues aren’t always easy to diagnose. So we’ve rounded up four of the best ways to fix your…

Read the full article: 4 Reasons Why Your Wi-Fi Is So Slow (And How to Fix Them)

Wi-Fi is the way of the world now. It’s the invisible friend that comforts us, allows us to binge on Netflix in bed, and equips us to work from anywhere, anytime. Wi-Fi is thus pretty much a necessity these days.

But when the Wi-Fi slows to a crawl, the relationship turns sour.

If your Wi-Fi is slow all of a sudden, or you’ve been experiencing Wi-Fi lag, you’ll want to get it back up to speed as soon as possible. Unfortunately, speed issues aren’t always easy to diagnose. So we’ve rounded up four of the best ways to fix your poor connection.

1. Router Positioning

Wi-Fi Router Positioned Adjacent To Flower Pot
Image Credit: ronstik/Depositphotos

Many people underestimate the importance of picking a right spot for a Wi-Fi router. Even a small shift in positioning could end up causing slow Wi-Fi.

High vs. Low

Like most people, you probably unpacked your new router, located a reasonable outlet, and left it on a whatever was nearby: a shelf, a desk, or even the ground. As it turns out, router height does make a difference. Leaving your router on the ground or behind other objects usually results in noticeably worse performance.

Instead, put the router as high up as possible to extend the broadcasting range of the radio waves. This also helps clear the router of potential interference.

Concrete and Metals

Materials like concrete and metal are usually the biggest blockers of Wi-Fi signals. They are so effective at this that Faraday cages use the same materials to block all electromagnetic fields–they can even protect you from RFID hacks.

So you may want to avoid placing your router in your basement, as a lot of concrete usually encloses this area. Other materials can impede your wireless network’s performance, too. Make sure any other large or notable objects don’t block your router.

Distance to Router

The further away from your router you get, the weaker the Wi-Fi signal. Therefore, the best option is to place your router as close to your devices as possible. However, this is only practical if you have one main area where you tend to use your Wi-Fi-enabled devices.

Otherwise, you should place your router near the center of your home. After all, Wi-Fi broadcasts in 360 degrees, so it doesn’t necessarily make sense to put it at one end of the house.

However, if your router’s broadcast is noticeably weak or if your house is particularly large, then you may need to increase the range of those Wi-Fi waves. Wi-Fi extenders or repeaters are auxiliary devices that connect to the main router and repeat the signal to cover a greater area.

If you want to get scientific about your router placement, take a look at this project from London-based Software Engineer Jason Cole. After moving into a new apartment, he mathematically modeled the property’s Wi-Fi hotspots and coldspots. You can try this for yourself with his WiFi Solver app, currently available for Android and Chrome OS.

Download: WiFi Solver for Android | Chrome OS (Free)

2. Wireless Interference and Noise

Drawing Of Wireless Signals Broadcasting From Multiple Buildings
Image Credit: kytalpa/Depositphotos

You’ve probably never noticed, but there are wireless signals all around you wherever you go—and they’re passing through you all the time. These signals come from our electronic devices, Wi-Fi routers, satellites, cell towers, and more.

Although Wi-Fi is usually on a different frequency than most of these devices, the amount of radio noise can still cause interference. However, you may be able to minimize some common causes of interference.

Microwaves

It turns out that microwave ovens can cause interference with your Wi-Fi network, which is particularly common with older routers. This is because microwave ovens operate at a frequency of 2.45GHz, which is incredibly close to the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band.

The 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band actually broadcasts between 2.412GHz and 2.472GHz, so there are times when the microwave frequency can overlap with the Wi-Fi frequency. When that happens, the data being transferred gets disrupted. Most microwaves have proper shielding, so no waves should be detected outside of the oven.

But interference can occur with inadequate or poor shielding.

Bluetooth Devices

One of the other popular wireless connections, Bluetooth, also happens to operate at 2.4GHz. In theory, a properly designed device should be shielded in a way that prevents interference.

To avoid frequency clash, Bluetooth manufacturers use frequency hopping, where the signal randomly rotates between 70 different channels, changing up to 1,600 times per second. Newer Bluetooth devices can also have the ability to identify “bad” (currently in-use) channels and avoid those. But interference can still occur, so try moving the router away from Bluetooth devices.

Experiment by turning your Bluetooth devices off to see if this is the cause of your troubles, especially if they are older Bluetooth devices without channel management.

Christmas Lights

Strangely enough, Christmas lights (or fairy lights) can be a devious culprit in slowing down your Wi-Fi. The effect is caused by these lights emitting an electromagnetic field that interacts with your Wi-Fi band. Flashing lights are particularly problematic.

But you aren’t even immune with modern LED lights. Some LED strings have flashing chips built into each lamp, and these create an interfering electromagnetic field.

In reality, all other kinds of electric lights can cause interference by emitting electromagnetic fields like this, but the effect is close to negligible in most cases. However, you should keep your router away from electric lights just in case.

Background Noise

Information designer Richard Vijgen created the mobile app Architecture of Radio. It uses public information on satellites and cell towers, along with Wi-Fi information and GPS location, to create a map of all the invisible signals around you.

While the app isn’t intended as a measurement tool, it helps to visualize the digital signals all around us.

Download: Architecture of Radio for Android | iOS ($3)

3. Your Neighbors

A Row Of Houses In A Well-Presented Area
Image Credit: Hannamariah/Depositphotos

Nearly every household has its own Wi-Fi network, which can create channel overlap. This can cause issues in a townhouse, but is especially problematic in housing complexes and apartments with many routers nearby.

Channel overlap is mostly an issue for routers that can only broadcast at 2.4GHz, or if you have devices that can only receive a 2.4GHz wireless signal. This is because there are only 14 channels to transmit on. Two routers broadcasting on the same channel at the same frequency will interfere with each other.

That’s why it’s crucial that you pick a proper channel in your router settings. Modern routers can choose channels for you automatically, but sometimes it’s better to investigate and find the best channel yourself.

People may also try to get on your network without your knowledge. It’s a security issue, but could also slow down your Wi-Fi. The most important way to prevent this is to make sure your router has a strong password. Weak Wi-Fi passwords are relatively easy to hack, especially those based on WEP standards.

You should also keep your router up-to-date and regularly check for suspicious devices on your network.

4. Other Household Users

Drawing Of A House Overlaid On A Photograph Of A Field
Image Credit: olly18/Depositphotos

Have you ever left a large download running on your PC? That may be the cause of your slow Wi-Fi. Downloading large files can take quite a toll on your Wi-Fi performance. Sometimes you can’t avoid this—operating system updates can be massive, for example—but if you’re running tasks that aren’t urgent, try pausing them.

More likely, however, is that the people on your network—such as friends, roommates, or family members—are participating in bandwidth-heavy activities like gaming and streaming Netflix. Fortunately, if this is the case, you can prioritize your network traffic by enabling Quality of Service in your router settings.

As humans are 60 percent water, and water can reduce the frequency of radio waves, people can also pose a connection problem. I’m not suggesting that you remove all the people from your house, of course. But do make sure to keep your router out of the main areas where people congregate. The impact won’t be monumental, but it may be noticeable.

Ready to Fix Your Internet Speed?

Identifying the cause of your slow Wi-Fi can be a challenge. From router placement to the people in your home, there are a lot of possibilities. If you’ve exhausted the physical explanations for your sluggish network, then it might be time to turn to the digital.

Also, take the opportunity to change your DNS settings to see if that helps. If the slowdown is isolated to your mobile devices, it’s worth considering that there may be reasons your smartphone has slow internet speeds.

Read the full article: 4 Reasons Why Your Wi-Fi Is So Slow (And How to Fix Them)

Home Networking at IFA 2018: What’s New and What’s Hot?

IFA brings with it an army of cutting-edge home networking products, ranging from super-fast gaming routers to hybrid Mesh-based wireless extenders with smart assistant capabilities. So are any of these worth buying going into 2018? TP-Link’s New 2018 Networking Products TP-Link, renowned for its Archer line of router, just announced a whopping seven new home networking products. Five of these make up the brand-new Deco line of mesh routers. The other two are the latest additions to its 802.11ax line of high-end gaming routers. TP-Link Deco M9 Plus, P7, M5, M4, and M3 TP-Link’s newest line of frisbee-shaped home routers…

Read the full article: Home Networking at IFA 2018: What’s New and What’s Hot?

IFA brings with it an army of cutting-edge home networking products, ranging from super-fast gaming routers to hybrid Mesh-based wireless extenders with smart assistant capabilities. So are any of these worth buying going into 2018?

TP-Link’s New 2018 Networking Products

TP-Link, renowned for its Archer line of router, just announced a whopping seven new home networking products. Five of these make up the brand-new Deco line of mesh routers. The other two are the latest additions to its 802.11ax line of high-end gaming routers.

TP-Link Deco M9 Plus, P7, M5, M4, and M3

TP-Link’s newest line of frisbee-shaped home routers includes the Deco, which consists of five models. The highest end version is the Deco M9 Plus which offers tri-band (5GHz) wireless connectivity along with ZigBee smart home integration, TP-Link’s Mesh networking technology, IFTTT integration, TP-Link’s parental control system, and AC2200 speeds.

The Deco P7, on the other hand, comes with added Powerline capabilities, meaning it can shoot off an internet signal over your home’s electrical system—in addition to offering wireless extension capabilities. Powerline generally works better than WiFi in newer homes. Although powerline devices generally require a more expensive adapter in order to function.

Archer AX1000, Archer AX6000

TP-Link’s latest two entries in its Archer line include the AX1000 and the AX6000—both high-end gaming-oriented routers. They don’t have a firm release date or pricing details yet, but the AX6000 may cost around $400, whereas the AX1000’s price could be $100 cheaper at $400.

Unlike the previous standard of wireless connectivity, 802.11ac (Wireless-AC), Wireless-AX products offer improved broadcast range, faster speeds, and overall 4x faster throughput.

On the downside, almost no consumer-oriented wireless devices can use the Wireless-AX standard. And while Wireless-AX is reverse compatible with Wireless-AC, Wireless-N, and other older standards, early adopters won’t get the speed and reliability advantages promised by the new standard until manufacturers start putting the wireless standard into devices. So when will your smart TV, smartphone, or set-top-box get Wireless-AC compatibility? It’s at least a year away or maybe two.

Netgear’s Latest Nighthawk and Orbi Product Releases

Netgear just announced three new home networking devices, which includes the Orbi Voice, Orbi Outdoor, and Netgear XR500.

Orbi Voice and Orbi Outdoor Wi-Fi Satellite

Using the Orbi standard, the Orbi Voice is a combination smart assistant and router using Netgear’s Orbi system. The smart assistant is Alexa, which means it also includes all of the integrations and plugins that are available to the Alexa platform. The Orbi Voice features four microphones for improved voice recognition and two speakers, for a total of 35-watts of sound power. We listened to the speakers at its maximum power and, for two speakers totaling 35-watts, these get really loud.

Like the Orbi Voice, the Orbi Outdoor Wi-Fi Satellite integrates into the same Orbit mesh network, except that it’s ruggedized and weatherized. Not only can it withstand extreme outdoor temperatures, it also handles inclement weather from snow to torrential storms.

Netgear XR500

In addition to its Orbi line, Netgear also introduced the Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 router. It features 6 Ethernet ports, as well as a 10Gig Fibre uplink, a first for a gaming router.

The XR500 can dramatically improve ping times with an extremely elegant solution: it uses a region filter to prevent connections to distant servers. The XR500 also throws in a baked-in VPN, meaning it automatically disguises your network traffic so it cannot be intercepted by malicious actors. The router runs an advanced management OS which makes enabling and controlling the features a breeze.

The XR500 may retail for around $400, give or take a few bucks.

 

 

Should You Upgrade Your Home Network Yet?

If you’ve been holding off on upgrading for a while, now could be a good time to jump in on the new line on TP-Link Deco. If you have an existing Netgear Orbi mesh network and you’re in the Alexa ecosystem, the convergence of those is certainly welcome, as is a powerful outdoor mesh point.

Other than that, we’ve seen all manner of gimmicky home networking products and haven’t been blown away. MakeUseOf review’s editor, James Bruce, argued that most consumer routers are quite limited. I’m inclined to agree. While some of the products fulfill very specific market niches, unless you’re actively looking for (for example) a wireless router with Powerline capabilities, there is little reason to upgrade your home network.

Read the full article: Home Networking at IFA 2018: What’s New and What’s Hot?