A Modern Take on the Christmas Mixing Tape….

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So that time of year has arrived again. For those of you who celebrate it, you know Christmas is on the way when your local department store starts putting up Christmas trees in September, X-Factor is back on the TV for yet another year, and, in my household, my wife starts hunting high and low for her Christmas Compilation CDs (for those of you old enough to remember CDs). Oh, joy.

Now, it’s been a bit of a ritual in our house over the past few years with these Christmas Compilation CDs. Being a bit of a ‘Bah-Humbug’ connoisseur myself, I’ve managed to hide the CDs so well in the previous January that, in many cases, they’ve not been found until the vast majority of the festive period has passed. And so I’ve been able to minimise the torment to a few days at most either side of Christmas.

Unfortunately, though, this year things have changed. Big-time. It’s my own fault. It all started when I got hold of one of D-Link’s Music Everywhere gadgets (actually, I’m now up to four of them). My previously old, lifeless 1990s hi-fis and defunct speaker systems were given a new lease of life as I connected them to the Music Everywhere network that I have now set up across four of the rooms in our house. It’s a great system – since it’s digital music, the quality of the streamed music to each device is high, and provided the attached hi-fi or speaker system is of reasonable quality, the system is a great alternative to those wallet-wrenchingly expensive wireless hi-fi systems out there in the market today. And it’s also incredibly simple to use – just point your smartphone or tablet music player to direct the music to whichever D-Link Music Everywhere device you want to play it on, whichever room it may be in, and – voila ! – instant music.

And therein lies the catch – because my wife has also got the Music Everywhere bug. So, thanks to a well known fruit-based media library and store, she’s managed to download her entire Christmas music collection to her fruit-based smartphone (and if that wasn’t bad enough, she’s also bought the full ensemble of Christmas musical scores, from the ‘Wizard of Oz’ to the ‘’Sound of Music) so now I have at least a full month and a half of Slade, Wizzard, Jonah Lewie and other veritable classics to endure. And, luckily for me, not even restricted just to the rooms where we still have a CD player. Oh no, we now have it across at least four rooms in the house.

There’s one final surprise – she has realised that, because we have a D-Link home network supported by mydlink app – she doesn’t have to be in the same room (or even the same house) to play the music in the room. So, imagine my delight this weekend when, expecting a Saturday morning nice lie-in after a hard week at the office, I was woken up rudely upstairs by at least three repeat renditions of that classic, “Dominic the Donkey”, at full volume – all as she was on her way out downstairs to do some Christmas shopping. So now I know the Music Everywhere device also doubles up as a remote alarm and public address system.

Still, at least there’s a silver lining. With my new mydlink D-LINK smart plug, I no longer have to crawl under the Christmas tree four times a day to switch the lights on & off. Now there’s progress. J

Securing Your Home Network – Basic Password Security

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It was rather unnerving to read last week, on the BBC web portal, an article highlighting a Russian-based website that allows access to thousands of live feeds to baby monitors, stand-alone webcams and CCTV systems running on IP-enabled networks across the world. This must be a worry for parents in particular – protecting children from the online dangers of the internet is always a key priority in today’s technology age, and stories such as these breaking on a national basis just open up ever more fear, uncertainty and doubt in their eyes.

Here at D-Link, we pride ourselves on the security of our devices – for example, our EyeOn Baby monitor, as well as other home solution webcam products – are all protected through strong security encryption techniques, whether they be over a wireless or wired connection. Likewise, operating these devices on a home network behind a D-Link router means that security is further enhanced through firewall protection on the router, preventing casual unauthorised access to the home network from such sites. And for additional protection for accessing D-Link devices externally over the internet, the mydlink application can give a user additional piece of mind when it comes to an extra layer of security.

But, ultimately, no amount of in-built, encrypted, expensively designed security feature can overcome one major security flaw in many a person’s technology network – that of the ‘it’s-so–so-easy-to-crack’ password. In my time, I cannot recall the number of occasions I’ve seen friends and colleagues get into their account using “password” or “pass” as their password. Or, even worse, leaving it blank – in case they forgot their password.

Now, let’s be honest, changing passwords regularly is a real pain. On top of that, you’ve then got to remember what you have changed it to. And if you can’t, it gets written down somewhere so you can remember it at a later time. Doh! And, for me, it doesn’t help that I now have several million sites (OK, a slight exaggeration, but it feels like this many) that I access on a regular basis. How on earth can you be expected to remember them all? So, yes, I sympathise. But only to an extent.

As a first step for those of you out there that use password, qwerty, abcdefg, 123456, or your favourite child’s name as the password to all of your accounts – please, please, please, take time to plug this gaping hole in your network security and help protect both your own and your family’s online safety. Password hacking software automatically checks for not only common words, phrases and names (either spelt correctly, incorrectly or even backwards) but also for sequences and nowadays even letter-to-symbol conversions and substitutions (for example, changing ‘and’ to ‘&’ or ‘to’ to ‘2’).

So here are a few basic tips for securing your passwords. Firstly, try and personalise seemingly ‘random’ combinations of lowercase, uppercase, numbers as a start at a minimum – you may want to incorporate, for example, some initials, a combination around your car registration number and post code as a part of your password – and build up a password system that will allow you to change and remember passwords on a regular basis – yet still look like a random set of numbers, letters and symbols. There are also a number of useful technical solutions out there also that will help make up, randomise and remember passwords for you – for example, Lastpass is worth a look for a free online password vault – but ultimately you will still need a good, secure password to access these utilities anyway.

As the BBC story illustrates, it’s time to start taking passwords seriously. You know it makes sense.