Firewalla is a simple but effective way to take control of your home network

 

I'm not the kind of person who possesses the programming or IT knowledge to run my own servers and host my own email. But I can manipulate some things on the internet or on local networks, like how to access the gateway to your router and make some changes in there, even if I don't fully grasp the differences between the ports. I'm also someone who's hyper-attuned to data privacy issues who still enjoys the conveniences of some smart home technology.

And that's why I've really been enjoying my Firewalla, a small piece of hardware that you plug into your router to access an app that gives me clear visual command over my network. It's basically a Firewall, VPN, adblocker, and intrusion detection and prevention system all rolled into one. Here's how the company describes it:

Firewalla is a smart firewall device that you simply plug into your router. It monitors network traffic and alerts you via an app if one of your devices starts uploading data including who the data is being shared with and what country. There is an option to stop devices from sending data, which could stop their operations as well, but step one is having transparency and knowledge. Firewalla will also block hackers and cyber thieves from being able to breach smart home devices to steal person information.

I've always felt pretty confident that I'd securely setup my home network. But there's still that lingering concern that someone may have found their way in to spy on me somehow. Read the rest

You might need to upgrade your WIFI router

My brother was having a ton of issues with his home WIFI network. One quick look and his 7 to 10-year-old WIFI router suggested he needed a new one.

The number of packets we expected early generations of 802.11 wifi to push barely anticipated the huge amounts of internet traffic we currently sling around. Ten plus years later, a router that was perfectly fine for surfing early YouTube video and maaaaybe occasionally streaming a movie is no longer adequate. My brother is paying for a connection that'll burst well over 100mbps and should sustain 60-80mbps no problem. Sadly, he hadn't upgraded his WIFI router in forever.

His 100mbps pipe was limited to around 20mpbs. Laden with packet loss whenever 2-3 people were doing much beyond web surfing, the old box was overloaded. With 3-4 phones, 2-3 laptops, 2-3 tablets, and two tv's attempting to use this tiny, not much bigger than a deck of cards, router connections were hard to maintain.

My brother was looking at all sort of online configuration options with Google Home wifi and other tools. Years ago the solution for bad connectivity in parts of the house, or failing connections, was to add these god awful WIFI repeaters. They rarely worked as described very well, or for very long. I suggested he simply buy one big honking wifi base-station with great antenna and a lot of CPU.

Enter the NETGEAR Nighthawk X4S AC2600 4x4 Dual Band Smart WiFi Router.

A few years ago I switched from an OG Apple Airport to a slightly older model Netgear. Read the rest