Monday, June 07, 2010

Chrome Extension: Incredible Startpage

I am finding that for search and daily tasks, Google Chrome is rapidly replacing Firefox as my default browser. I'm still amazed at how this transition has happened. I still use Firefox for download management, debugging, and the like, but my main browser now is Chrome.

This leaves some slight functionality issues with Chrome. All in all I have managed to find what I need to complete my tasks and make things seamless. Then I find this little jewel of an extension. The company is Visibo, the extension is the "Incredible Startpage". This little add-on grew rapidly on me. I find the native and default startpage on Chrome spacious to a fault. I cannot really reorder my list, and the thumbnails of web lages are unnecessary for me. The bookmarks bar is limited to the length of the window, so things are not as elegant as they could be in my humble opinion. Incredible Startpage fixes most of my issues.

First the bookmark frame, this allows me to keep a double column list of my most commonly used bookmarks on a new tab. This is nice. It keeps the fav icon as a reference and offers more than what the bookmarks bar offers in terms of space (I like a fixed width window).

The next is the columns for closed tabs and a longer bookmarks list, which I can use to add and remove bookmarks to my bookmark frame. Lovely!

The next cool feature is the post-it. This allows me to write in small things and then post them as an email or calendar item to Gmail or Google Calendar, both services I use extensively.

Add to this the fully customize CSS and background images which allow you to tailor your new tab page as you like, and I feel right at home (of course I've totally geeked it out with Dr. Who wall papers). By default the extension has an array of images, but you can also direct link to any image out on the net, the downside is no local image support, but that's fine by me.

All in all this is a great extension for my daily operations (email, web, search, school). I love the arrangement and layout as well as the personal touch. Great Job Visibo!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Wardriving (whitehat of course)

Wednesday night, I thought I would kill two birds so to speak. I needed to pick up my lovely wife from the airport and at the same time, complete an assignment for my networking class regarding wardriving. Let me preface this by stating I know the difference between scanning for a network and connecting to it. I have done this many times in the past and I am not about to break the law now. So I fire up VIStumbler on my laptop, jump in my nifty car and drive 26.1 miles to DFW international airport. The results were more than interesting.

I found what I expected getting out of my neighborhood, lots of unsecured open wireless networks. On the drive to the highway I found plenty of businesses which would offer WiFi to their customers; McDonalds, Starbucks, Hyatt, even a KFC. Then I get some more than interesting hits; Bank of America, Wells Fargo, a local doctor's office. These were just a few of the businesses which I would think would at least encrypt their network. Leaving it open for access is one thing, it makes it easy for customers to connect, but traffic encryption should be a no quarter point of interest.

Having spent lots of time as a network and system admin, I would find it very unnerving to have an open and unsecured WiFi network for a doctor's office, bank, or any retail operation which accepts credit cards (and stores them locally). I understand that many businesses simply offer internet service to their customers, the local coffee shop for example. I have personally seen local businesses though, connect their POS system to their WiFi network. Here is where things can get tricky.

Here are some reasons why. For all those doctor's offices out there, HIPPA is no laughing matter. If the network inadvertently transmits HIPPA related patient information on an unsecured network and that transmission is intercepted...well good night Sally. This is a major issue. For businesses which accept credit cards, you must follow PCI-DSS standards for card data security set by VISA, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express (The PCI council). The fines you could receive for a breach could literally put the business down for the count.

Do not take WiFi security lightly. Set up encryption, use it, access points and wireless routers have it built in for a reason. Set up authentication when you can, again these access points come with this ability out of the box. For you data paranoid types (like me), use good encryption and authentication with a IDS setup on the inside of the network. None of this may stop a determined intruder, but it can slow them down and make them move on to a more viable target, which is what security is all about.