Privacy, Password, Data Oh My! Part 1 – Terms and Understanding

NOTE: This is a multi-post series and contains a lot of data points 🙂

I get asked a lot of questions about whether or not I use online banking, make online purchases or register to any online sites. The answer to all of the above is yes, no, and depends. It is critical to recognize what it means to do anything online and the terms that are used, situations that can happen and how best to protect yourself. It is really important to recognize that no matter how safe you are, you still may become a victim. This is because as companies collect your data and store it, there will always be employees or external forces that access your data, sell it or steal it for nefarious purposes. If you own a phone, if you own a tablet, if you own a computer and your device as internet access, including an XBOX, PS3, Nintendo you run the risk of someone taking advantage of you.

There are certainly things you can do and should to protect yourself. While it is a lot of information to consume, let’s look at some terms that get tossed around and understand what they mean. It is critical to understand where you sit in each and every situation as it will help you keep yourself safe and better understand how to communicate to the businesses you register and partner with. This can include banks, online shopping, medical or taxes (government).

Account: Accounts are used to connect an individual with some online presence. Of course you can have accounts with businesses and not use any form of online connection, but the discussion here is about online connections. You can have an email account, bank account, Facebook account, twitter account and so on. Each of these have different types of authentication & profiles.

Security is how they protect you and them, while profiles are the collection of data that makes up your account connection to the business, such as email address, login information, name, address and personal options.

NOTE: You should never treat accounts across multiple business partners as a single thing. I know a lot of people do it, but using the same email / user name / password combination across all sites, opens you up to severe consequences, by making it easy for cyber thieves to access your accounts and access its resources

Security: describes the way in which a resource, such as a web page or your own data are secured. This means there are processes in place which attempt to “protect” your data. Security processes can be things like user name / passwords, id cards or some of the newer models that leverage your phone, pc or even your finger. The resource that you are requesting will not be available until you go through the security process (Authenticate, Authorize, Access)

Authorization: authorization is a specific security process that is used to validate whether you, as an individual (or computer), have access to do what you are asking to do. Say for instance, that you want to login your bank. The bank may use a password and user name to authenticate you. So they have secured your bank accounts via user name and passwords. Authorization is literally a “question” that the security process has to answer. Does this person / computer whom is requesting access to “something”, actually have permission (authorization) to view it. There are technically only 2 answers, Yes or No

Authentication: authentication is a security process that validates that the “security credentials” you are attempting to use, are actually valid.

Example: Ok, so you browse to Facebook. You have “requested” to see the Facebook account of “Michael Person”. It asks for your user name and password. They are using a form of standard request / response authentication and authorization. It asks who you are. You provide your credentials (think your license). It looks at the credentials and first says
1) are these valid credentials – yes
2) do these credentials have permission to the “requested” resource, in this case a web page of data – yes
3) great you are authenticated & authorized and the page renders (is displayed)

Credentials: credentials are the “data points”, such as user name password, finger print data or digital card data that you are using to try to “authenticate” to a resource. More recently companies are getting stricter, such as how long your password is, how complex it is, forcing you to change it ever so often etc

Two-Factor Authentication: this is something that has been around but is just now really getting into much of the mainstream security processes. This is a process where you don’t just supply one set of authentications, but you actually have two. This is usually a process where you provide some form of credentials and the company you are attempting to authenticate too, sends you a message (usually on your phone or email) and expects you to supply it back.

Why is this good? Because:
1) it helps validate that the service you are connecting to is actually the one you intended to connect to
2) it helps protect you, because to enable 2 factor authentication you probably used your cell phone. In this case, a person whom wanted to pretend to be you, not only has to steal your user name / password, but also has to somehow emulate your phone and then have the previously mentioned company specifically send that fake phone (or steal yours) a message. But now they also have to get passed your user name / password + stealing your phone + your phone password / code (always have one)

Privacy: privacy is a big thing. It is a topic specifically about the data that any company may collect about you and how it can use it to further its business processes, including the government.

When you register with a company you almost always agree to some form of “agreement” that they can use your data both internally and with their 3rd party partners. This stinks… because you may not even realize it. And to a certain degree the companies merely have to prove that the data was necessary to help benefit them directly or through their partner to use it (once you have agreed), and they cannot get in trouble.

Each country around the world can have one or more rules regarding this. Europe is much stricter with data than in the US. Such as not even allowing your data to be shipping out of the entire region (meaning it cannot be used in the USA at all)

Opt In / Opt Out: opt In is a term used to determine is you have “opted in” to a company’s data sharing / data saving processes. Some regions of the world allow for automatic opt-in. This means to a degree a company can start using your data and capturing it the moment you download their app or log into their web site.

While other countries / regions require double opt-in or just plain make it illegal to actually capture / leveraging / store data about its customers. You should be very clear that when you sign up online for anything, you have a real issue with your data privacy

By legal standards in most places world wide, companies are required to provide Opt-In, Opt-Out options, ability to see your current settings (so you can change them), the ability to change them and to not “hide” them so hard that a user cannot find them to change them. In many cases they are required to provide both online and email / phone call options to enable / disable these settings.

Lastly and really important, a single company may have actually multiple levels of Opt-In communications etc. You may say you want to get data from your credit card company (monthly bill) by email, but you do NOT want them to call you with offers. There could even be a second part of the company that does… oh I don’t know, mortgages and you can Opt-In to credit card data but Opt-Out specifically from mortgage communications. Finally many of them have a “big button” option that overrides all the other settings. It means, do not ever contact me (via email, phone, SMS, fax, whatever) no matter what the individual settings may be. Even Microsoft has this option. It enables customers a very quick way to block ALL communications even if you previously said yes to individual communications within a company.

Privacy and Data Security have massive legal compliance rules world wide. Companies have to work really hard to meet them all. Even though they may make a mistake they have to prove they are trying their best to meet the needs in each country. This is difficult to do because compliance is so different across the globe.

Login / Password: A standard way to provide credentials to a security authentication process. Used by many companies in some way. Please note that your login and your password should never be used on multiple sites. And you should recognize that this is NOT the same thing as your user name and password to your ISP (internet service provider). This is a big mistake by many folks. They use the same email address on all sites and in many cases specifically use the same password as their actual email password… never ever do this

Some folks do confuse that their “account” on a site they sign up for is the same as their “email” account. When they are asked for their email address as a way to login they end up using the same password as they do to their actual email account login, such as google or yahoo or even outlook.com. The problem is that if someone steals this information, it will be easy to “hack” someone’s Facebook, twitter or other account if you did leverage the same password.

User Name: User name, member name, login, sometimes email address are used to identify you. Some sites actually let you have a member name (or screen name / nick name) and an email address, yet you can use either / or to actually authenticate. Please please recognize that when a site asks for your email address, especially in the cases where they use your email address “as your login name”, you should NEVER use your Email Accounts password as this sites password. If you do this, you are very specifically making it easy for hackers to steal your stuff.

Facebook is a great example. If you have for instance foo@gmail.com as your email, and of course you go to log into facebook, you should be using a completely different password than the one that you use to actually read your email. Think of it this way. When you register on a site, you are effectively telling a hacker that you have an email address and here it is. Now they have that, they only need to hack your password. And then of course if you use the exactly same email on ALL your sites, and the same password, once they hack one site… they only need to guess or “try” the same information on other sites and bingo, they own you

Data Classification: Data both internal to a company (business data) and customer data have different classifications. This won’t cover everything but at least to help you understand
o LBI – low business impact: The expectation is if this data is lost / stolen it will not impact the company much
o MBI – medium business impact: Has a medium impact on the business if lost or stolen
o HBI – high business impact: This is business critical data that would impact its customers and financial bottom line in a major way. This could be financial data, tax data, investment data etc. Technically speaking it is merely something that would impact them, so it could be anything they “deem” HBI.
o PII – Personally Identifiable Information: This data would make it easy for anyone to specifically identify a customer, thereby losing the customers privacy and could more directly impact the user (hacking, identity fraud etc).

This would be IP Address (alone in some regions with other data in others), Name + Address, Cell Phone Numbers + Name, SS #, Government ID’s etc… it’s a wide and varying range of things.

o Anonymous Data: This data is considered to be safe. The goal / idea is that in no way can this data be used to actually identify an end user, no matter how much reverse engineering is done.

But can anonymous data ever be used to identify someone? Yes, and it has happened. Sometimes companies collect multiple streams of data. Separately they mean nothing but combining that data with other data (which doesn’t even have to be owned by said company) can make it PII data. While it takes effort to turn it into PII, it is in fact possible.

There are great case studies about how this has happened by researches just to prove it can be done, sometimes combining company & government collected data to reverse engineer and identify people directly (even getting addresses, phone numbers etc)

Data Sharing: Even within a company, data is not necessarily guaranteed to be sharable EVEN if you agree to them capturing your data. It depends on what the company does, what the division does and what it’s partner does.

You aren’t giving away free reign of everything, at least normally. The government does try to protect from that. But be careful for what you do agree too. Facebook apps are a good example, where you have to actually “approve” them accessing your timeline, friends list etc. Now… what they do with it is a different story. You would really have to read carefully to see what “access” means

An example would be that you go to your bank for a mortgage. They ask if they can share your data to insurance companies whom you might get a better deal from, due to being a partner with said bank. This would be you opting-in to data sharing and them specifically only being able to use it for services related to mortgages and particularly insurance. If someone in their office called you, or another partner, say about a new credit card, that might be a violation. You need to verify what you agreed too. They must record it and be able to prove it (at least in the states).

Cookies / Tracking: Cookies are normally client side text files that store information about you and your usage across a web site, domain or set of domains. This way they can better track what you do, then when a web page renders, or even when you open an email it can be read and they can change the targeted content.

Ever notice how they just seem to show you an ad for something you were searching for a few days ago? That’s how. Whether it’s server side or client side, tracking can be annoying. The latest version of many browsers block 3rd party cookies.

There are really two primary types of cookies called first and third party cookies. If you go to www.thissite.com then a first party cookie would be thissite.com. However, if they want to track you for business intelligence, they might be using something like WebTrends, or Omniture. These tracking companies using special client code that calls back to a server to store data. These would be more like www.webtrends.com. Since the webtrends.com part does not match thissite.com, it is considered a 3rd party domain. And many newer browsers block them by default or in other versions you can specifically turn them off

Hacking: I actually get annoyed at this… because so many times people say “I was hacked”. Yes, people do get hacked by different types of software exploits. However usually it is due to using poor passwords, the same password all the time, downloading Trojans onto your machine, reading FW: emails and looking at videos and pictures from people they barely know.

There are certainly hackers out there with the tools to brute force hack your account. Truth is that is not even close to necessary in most cases. People are merely making too many mistakes and leaving themselves vulnerable. Many times hackers are not even writing the code themselves, they are running code written by someone else. Does that mean hacking doesn’t exist? Heck no, it sure does, merely that the methods used are in some cases simpler and easier to share. So it is up to you to be careful about how you share your data, share your passwords, keep your systems logged in, log in at cafe’s etc.

Phishing: Think Fishing, where you are trying to catch something. In this case individuals are trying to acquire personal information from you (cc #’s, account #’s, passwords, user names etc). They send you emails, or setup fake websites that resemble real sites.

These emails and or sites can and will attempt to trick you into believing they really represent who you were attempting to reach and or whom you partner with (banks, paypal, shopping etc). So many people fall for this on a daily basis and it is very very easy to combat.

NOTE: Your bank or any good site (paypal etc) will NEVER EVER EVER send you an email saying that there is a problem with your account and go login and do this or that. I know you think, oh sure they do I’ve gotten a mail. If you ever get a mail from an account online you have, CALL THEM, do NOT click on the links ever. I do not care what your barbers buddies sister whom is an “expert” in computers says.

Email links will look legit but actually be fake and have you sending your information to the wrong person.

Secondarily, never ever ever ever ever ever type your password to ANY account you own into an email, SMS, online chat or anything else. Your accounts will have authorization and authentication mechanisms for when you are online. If the person CALLS you first, tell them you will call BACK at the known number for said account. No matter who they say they are. I do not care… if you do this, you are just asking to be scammed, period.

Spoofing: Spoofing is when someone (whether in person or online) attempts to identify themselves as someone else in order to get access to further data and or personal resources. Someone may spoof your identity to access your bank accounts, steal your car, access your apartment whatever.

Ok, that is a lot of information to absorb. Next I will talk a bit about some of the scenarios that actually happen on a day to day basis and ways to recognize them, connecting them to these terms. Lastly I will provide some examples of mistakes that people make and some suggestions on how to protect yourself.

Next – Accounts, Apps and Hacks Oh My – Part 2 – How They Work

Image Credit: http://lerablog.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06

More Information About the Internet Than You Ever Wanted to Know

This post is intended to provide a little bit of high level information about how the internet does some of the things it does. Since most of it is done by “magic” 🙂 , very few of us think about the impact of how or what it is doing. This article will end up tying directly to what will be my next post, “Passwords, Privacy and Prevention – Oh My”.

I’ll warn you, it’s long… so judge accordingly 🙂

Anyway let’s talk a little bit about what I mean by the internet. Most of you probably have some device (phone, tablet, computer, laptop, *other), that can access this mythical and magical presence called “The Internet”. While your interaction and usage of the internet may differ in some ways, pretty much everyone uses it for communication and entertainment purposes. Now what you call entertainment may not exactly be mine or anyone else’s cup of tea. Primarily because a) I hate tea and b) who in the world can watch another “cats are cute video”, no seriously…. stop posting them 🙂

Oh, this is now a puuuurrrfect time, omg see how they impact me… to talk a bit about what in the heck the internet is and how it works (again at a high level) and how in the world it connects all the things that you do, with all the things that other people do…

Most people have heard the phrase “information highway”. This is one way, while also being an accurate way, to describe the internet. You see in the beginning someone said let there be… wait sorry wrong story. Anyway, the internet is a massive connection of hardware, configured to enable the flow of data, to be streamed from place to place.

Internet Super Highway

Let’s take a look at terms and descriptions that will help tie together what you are really doing.

  • Data Packets: — A data packet is like an envelope that has a letter in it. Your envelope has your destination address and usually the originators address. Sending a single email, could result in 1, dozens, or hundreds of even thousands of packets. When those packets reach their destination, they have to be re-assembled in the correct order… or you get something that looks when I try to cook anything beyond toast.. (yes dear I was referring to me making dry toast.. I can do that!!)
     
    The first step in sending your data, is having the “path” to your destination figured out. This literally means, what cables, hardware etc are used to get your data to where it needs to go. Think of the process like Map Quest. You tell it where you are, you tell it where you want to go and Map Quest (or in this case “The Internet”) gives your device options. It picks one and sends the data. Now in some cases, you may have picked a bad option in which case as long as you have GPS you can probably find your way back. Wait my wife reminded me the internet doesn’t have GPS so ignore that part.
     
    Data that is attempted to be sent to a non-accessible destination will merely bounce back and you will get errors (which we will talk about later). Sort of like when you see 404 Errors in your browser or an error “destination not reachable”.
     
    When one or more packets does not reach the destination, that’s usually when a file is corrupted and when you try to open it.. your computer just laughs at you. No seriously it really is, although you might have to turn your speakers up to hear it.
  •  

  • Cable :  — Acts as an actual physical”path” for the data to make it’s way between hardware devices, until it makes it to its destination. Examples are coax, fiber, optical, Ethernet etc. Yes yes I know about wireless… but we will get to that in a minute. Here are visuals of the different cables (so you can see the ends).

    Cable Examples
    Cable Examples
  • Switches, Routers, LanPlexes, Smart Hubs, Hubs: — These are examples of physical devices that when configured properly, can interpret the envelope of your data packets to properly follow the “Map Quest” directions to get your data to where it should go.
     
    Now the very nice thing about these hardware devices is that, they are smart enough, in some cases, to realize that your original directions are crap and re-route your data packet. Yeah for us, we don’t have to retry!! Although sometimes.. the new route can be very slow 🙁 , booooo for us.
     
    Note: Hubs are a special thing per say. I only mean that as they are easy. They are intended to provide you the ability to take a single cable which would only allow 1 computer and “use” that incoming connection to add more computers. Its almost like saying splitter. Instead of having a single computer connected, you use a hub, which has 8 ports (or whatever). 1 port is the incoming line, and 7 others could be other computers.
     
    They will all talk to the internet via the hub, which in turns sends all traffic through that shared cable. It could slow your internet use down if you use a lot of streaming. It is not a router, because a router is smart enough to know which port is the destination port for traffic. I hub merely spams all ports (unless it’s a smart switch bla bla longer story) with all the data from everyone, and the individual receiver has to decide if they should ignore it or not. This is how hackers sometimes get you.
     
    You have probably heard of Denial of Service Attacks.. Yeah this is one type. Here is an example of some devices. The top are pretty much business devices and the two bottom would be home users (or small business).

    Switchs And Routers
    Switches & Routers
  • Cable Modems / Gateway:  — found in both business and home network configuration. It is used to connect you to your internet provider. Whether it’s via Satellite, Coax (cable) , DSL (phone) or even Fiber, these devices will translate requests coming from your home computers to “Internet Compatible Speak” and back again. Providing you your actual connection to the internet.
     
    In many cases, you will have your own personal Wireless router which will connect your home devices to your ISP (internet service providers) Cable Modem / gateway. In some cases it is possible for your ISP equipment to do both at the same time, or they might provide you both items (at a cost of course!!). Here is an example of the front and back of what a cable modem might look like.

    Cable Modem
    Cable Modem
  • Network Adapters: — whether your network adapter is wired or wireless you are going to be attaching to a router. In most homes you will have your pre-mentioned ISP hardware device, along with your own personal wired or wireless (or combo of both) router. Depending on where you live and age of your home, you may have rj45 internet jacks with cat5 (or better) cable already in your home.
     
    This enables you to “wire” your devices to your router directly. Otherwise you end up using the wireless component of your router. Your router will then get an IP address from your ISP hardware via some configuration (like DHCP, or maybe even a STATIC IP). This enables your machines ==> to your router ==> to your ISP device ==> **Internet and back again Here are examples of PCMIA, USB and Machine wired / wireless adapters

    Wired & Wireless Cards
    Wired & Wireless Cards
  • Patch Panels: Ok I am only mentioning this because most homes that have wired connections will have one. You know, the OnQ Panel in your laundry room or under the stairs closet or in your master closet. Anyway, patch panels are sort of like hubs, except that they are used to convert your “stripped cat 5 cable” to an RJ45 jack. Think speaker wire. You run it, you strip it and then you have to make it capable of being plugged into.
     
    Well how do you do that, if it’s just wires. Well you take those 8 wires (called twisted pair), and you attach them to the patch panel. Patch panels will have 1 (x number) of ports. The patch panel on the back accepts these wires, but then on the front of it usually has an RJ 45 jack. In your OnQ panel, you will then see smaller cables running from those jacks into some hub or router.
     
    In my current home, it actually had Cat 5 cable, but the cable was only using 4 of the wires at each jack, for phone. So I ripped out the phone patch panel, bought an Ethernet supporting patch panel, and rewired all the jacks with new RJ45 ends (clip, re-wire, install). After that I ran smaller cables from the new patch panel into my 8 port hub and voila my home has full wired Ethernet. Here is an example of a patch panel used in a home. You can see the wires coming in and the RJ45 jacks on the front.

    8-Port Patch Panel
    8-Port Patch Panel
  • Firewalls and Proxy Servers: Well firewalls are intended (whether physical or software) to block incoming external traffic. This means if someone tries to directly connect to your computer.Wait, what does it mean to connect to my computer???
     
    Well if you accidentally download spy ware or other software that runs and that software configures itself to “listen” for incoming connections then someone who knows it’s there, can easily attempt to connect to that running software. Which most likely has bad intentions… The other way, is that there is some bug in Mac, iOS, Microsoft code, that hackers know about and that most consumers doesn’t even realize there is some Operation System level “listener” on their machine. Hackers doesn’t know for sure if your computer is or isn’t listening, so they just start spamming all the known Class-C internet IP address until bingo they get lucky and find one that is one.
     
    Yes… they are that bored… and writing scripts to do this is easy. Here is an example of hardware and software firewalls.

    Hardware & Software Firewalls
    Hardware & Software Firewalls

Now for the fun stuff… wait wasn’t that previous stuff fun!!!! 🙂

Ok so now you have a basic understanding of the hardware used to connect devices. I will actually have an image at the end of this to show you. Now we need to talk though about how the internet actually “does” what it does.

Firstly let’s identify things people do:

  • Email
  • Streaming (Movies, YouTube, Whatever) – UGH CATS!!!!!!!!!!
  • Visit Websites
  • Buy Things (shopping carts, tracking shipments etc)
  • Social Media (tweets, facebook, yahoo, whatever)
  • Purchase digital content
  • Download Patches
  • Phone Services (skype, home phone, etc)

Each of this things requires several important things to even work

  1. A Class-X Internet IP Address (version 4 or 6) – think of this as your identification. This identification belongs as part of your data packet envelope. We are done with version 4, so we now how version 6 which can have bazillions more
     
    It is important to know that only internet capable IP addresses are allowed to “travel” along the information highway. Therefor if you attempt to send an IP address that doesn’t meet the criteria for being Class-C(B), all internet ready / capable devices are supposed to say “ewwwwww get away from me, you have cudies”.
     
    Well something like that anyway :-).
     
    This is why when you have a home network, you have to purchase internet service provider services, so that they can “translate” your requests from a local IP (most would be called class-A) to an “internet capable one”. What this simply means is.. all requests get “masked” as coming from an internet IP address, in the data packet envelope, it also tracks the originators local IP address. This way your ISP device and your personal router, can “send” the response to your request back to the correct machine on your network.
     
    You know how you bought yourself a router and by default it had a configuration of 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1? And if you turned on DHCP on your router, all your machines would get an address between 192.168.x.1 = 192.168.x.x (up to 254) depending on your configuration). So you could have up to 250ish devices on this single configuration.
     
    But those IP address are NOT internet capable. So you have to have them masked for you. Hence your ISP devices and services.Your ISP on the other hand has purchased the rights to a range of Class-C ip address. So when you connect your device to theirs and you have a static ip (it never changes), they give you one, you configure it in your router and boom done. If your router is configured for DHCP (with your isp) then you will get a temporary Class-C ip for your home. It’s called a lease, and it can last from hours to forever, depending on your ISP’s internal policies.

    IP Classes (boring stuff)
    IP Classes (boring stuff)
  2. Bandwidth:  –– Bandwidth is really 2 things to me. One is the quota of allowed bandwidth (think your 4 gigs on your phone), and two is the “size” of your internet pipe. If your pipe is 10MBS, but you are trying to send 1GIG through it… guess what it won’t work. You are bogged down and you hate the internet.
     
    Well so do the service provides, as well as business’s whom get overloaded (again Denial of Service) with people spamming them. Download huge files, bots going crazy etc. just like you, businesses and even internet provides have to “connect” to the internet.
     
    They will have some devices which act as their giant super highways, which they then sell YOU a piece of 🙂 in the form of internet services. They call this your home / business SPEED, which could be 10mbs download and 1mbs upload.

     
    Note
    : Difference from Upload to Download Terms — Upload is when someone connects to your network (as the originator) or when you push data somewhere. Download is when you originate the request.
     
    Imagine you have a web site called www.mysuperawesomehomesite.com . If you are hosting it on a machine at your house, when people connect to it (through your ISP ==:> Your Router ==> Your Firewall ==> Your Hosting Local Machine ==> IIS / Apache whatever), you incur upload speed rates, which are always slower than download.
     
    Or if you yourself upload huge amounts of data to some site or external device on the internet (like work).When you yourself go to www.microsoft.com and download a patch or software, that is your “download” speed. Which is always much faster.Increasing your upload speed always costs, while you will notice that ISP’s are giving away much faster download speeds, sometimes for free, as they upgrade their systems.

    SpeedTest.Net Internet Speed Test
    SpeedTest.Net Internet Speed Test
  3. DNS Support (Domain Name Services) — Ok so there are literally millions of IP addresses out there, and they are changing all the time (remember some are temporarily leased). But even if they were all static and we were only talking about businesses, no one could possibly remember every single IP address, for every single Site on the planet. So instead we have friendly names.In internet technical babble, we would call them alias’s or cnames. This means that we have an IP address, and we want to give it a “name” that can be used to get people to our site.What this actually means is the following:
     
    a) You type the name in your browser (for instance)
     
    b) Your system does a DNS check for that name
     
    c) If that name is found, your system get’s the actual IP address
     
    d) the IP Address is used in your “data packet request” to get you to the right place. How you ever typed in an address and get an error, Destination not reachable, or not found or brought to a “search engine” to try to find what it thinks you don’t know how to spell?
     
    Well these can be because the name doesn’t actually match to any configured IP address. Maybe you misspelled it, the site is down, the company has folded… whatever. Companies like GoDaddy make a lot of money selling the ability to assign a name, to your personal Class-C IP address. Imagine typing 157.14.53.154 instead of www.microsoft.com .. Yeah good luck with that.
     
    Not only that, but many companies look at the headers of each request, and if you are using the IP address in your request, versus the name, they might ignore you. Hey but you just said it uses the IP not the name. Yes that is true, for routing your request (map questing you), but there is a specific piece of information in the envelope that tells the destination, what URL you were looking for (www.microsoft.com) is a URL or universal resource locator… yeah I said it.
     
    One IP address can actually have pretty much unlimited names assigned to it, all taking you to the same place. www.iamawesome.com could point to 215.14.14.xxx, while so could www.dangbabyirock.com (btw don’t go to either of those places.. I haven’t even attempted too but Lord knows who put what there) and IF those places exist.. my apologies 🙂 for using your names.
     
    Sometimes mistakes happen and people make aliases or cnames point to the wrong IP address and instead of www.microsoft.com you go to www.xxxxxxxx.com, whatever 🙂Last little note: Each widows machines actually has a DNS Client, which helps “cache” or “store recently used DNS names” locally so that you don’t have to keep checking with an external DNS server. However, sometimes this can go awry and you end up need to reboot (or if you know how, flushing the cache and restarting the service).  Or sometimes disabling and re-enabling your adapter works.

    IP to Name Translation
    IP to Name Translation
  4. Available Client / Server Ports: — think about this as like “line” on a telephone. For most of us we have a single phone number, and only 1 line, so we can’t transfer calls between “lines”. However for computers to communicate together they actually need an IP address, a local port number and then a bunch of “line ports”. Ok let me walk you though this.Example: Online Gaming
     
    a) You start up their software on your PC
     
    b) their software looks up their home ip address lets say 1.1.1.1
     
    c) they also know the port, let’s say port 8118 to attempt to connect to their home server.For SMTP email for instance it’s port 25, for POP3 its 110, for Web 80 and 443. It’s the literal combination of IP / Port that enables software to “listen” for incoming connections. Hence why if you know of an exploit, you actually know exactly what combinations to try.
     
    d) on your local computer, their client will create a local IP / Port combination in software. They then tell this combination to try to communicate to an external system by the external known configuration. In our example it would be 1.1.1.1 / 8118 combo. So the operator is listening on that combination ONLY
     
    e) once you connect to the operator, (home server combination), you need to get transferred to an auxiliary line, or less the operator will be busy with just you and the whole process falls apart.
     
    f) so what actually happens is, you connect initially on that combination (operator), but then the server will generate a secondary IP / Port combination, and hand that to your incoming request… Your software knows to change how it communicates to the server, to now communicate over this new configuration, hence freeing up the operation.Yes I know it’s confusing… but just say you got transferred to a new line 🙂 but in the same house.
     
    Note: now if you have SO many clients coming in, that you use up the available IP / Port combinations (long ago it was 5000 and easily used up), then new clients would NOT be able to connect. This was another Denial of Service tactic too, but it’s become less and less that.
  5.  

  6. Possible DHCP / WINS / Local DNS / Net Bios – ok this one I will make quicker. DHCP is a way to provide local IP address to your system. WINS is like a local DNS server. It takes the combinations of DHCP IP address and Devices it was handed too and stores the. Then when local computers try to send data to other local devices, the internal WINS server does the translation, because external DNS servers would never know about your local machines.With Windows 200X and higher, if you had your own home server, like I do, you can configure actual local DNS for your home instead of WINS.
     
    Then when you have DHCP, it actually stores (its called registering) the DHCP leases in DNS rather than WINS.NetBIOS was merely another way to call your computer something like Joe and have others be able to see it as Joe, versus your local network name which could be Joe.localnetwork . This would be what is called the FDQN. Fully Qualified Domain Name. www.microsoft.com is an FDQN. If you merely used the IP it’s not FDQN, or if you tried to connect via the local computer name (NetBIOS) then it also wouldn’t be FDQN. However LOL every computer also has an FDQN joe.gernaey.local.net for instance (in my internal DNS).
  7.  

  8. A Communication Protocol: — The protocol is actually many things. One of them is the transport. Transport here means what is the way in which a packet of data is “packaged up” and sent to the other side. TCP and UDP are very specifically low level “package and transporters” of data.The data itself could be a document, it could be a language such as HTML for Web and many other things, as to the transport protocol, it’s just data. And the Transport only needs to know how to “talk send / receive”.
     
    Then there is actual language protocol. This is where software comes in. Image you wanted to have a Web Page, that would display a picture. Well first a “client” computer (the one talking to your web server) would have to know how to “call” or communicate to your computer. In which case we would usually say HTTP / TCP.Now when we ask to view http://www.microsoft.com/default.aspx our browser (Chrome, IE, Safari) has to know how to interpret the data that came back. Remember we said we wanted to display a picture. So the Web Page, has to be coded in a language that your browser understands, AND the correct syntax has to be used, for “displaying a picture”.The best analogy I can give is this. You write a letter. (omg sorry bad example, no one writes letters anymore)…
     
    Anyway, you write a letter in English, and you encode it for privacy. So when most people read it, it looks just like a garbled mess.You have to know how to send a letter. Put it in an envelope and put a stamp on it and put it in the mailbox. This would be the process of “transport”, thereby the postal service is your transport protocol.Now when the letter is received, the person has to know how to open the envelope. I usually use my miter saw 🙂
     
    So the transport protocol has to be understand for how to send it, and how to receive it.Lastly, now that I opened it, I have to know how to translate the message to make it make sense. If I didn’t have the code to decode your garbled mess, it would stay that way… Well same thing for computers. If the software you have doesn’t know how to communicate (send / receive) and or has no idea how to properly write / read a message. You are hosed. Hence the poor communication across the globe actually.Here is an image to go along with the discussion.
     
    I don’t see that this image says it’s copyright, but here is credit whom I got it from (from bing) Credit to e-negotiations.org

    Protocols
    Protocols

Summary:

I realize this is a lot of information and it may not have done anything but confuse you more, but I hope it helps explain at least a little. There is much that I left out, but honestly to a point it doesn’t help you.

Each service and internet activity I listed as what people do on the internet, will fall into these categories of steps and leveraged technical capabilities.

Companies like IBM, HP, Novell, Linksys, Cisco etc have made a fortune selling hardware to that connects people and businesses to the internet and therefor each other.

Even your wireless phone provider has these services to get you onto the internet. Their gateway may look different (Satellites) but it’s still the same principal.

If you have any questions or comments I would love to hear them. Thanks for reading along with me 🙂

P.S. I didn’t create any of these images, but none of them are copyright as far as I can tell. If they are and I made a mistake I will fix and apologies to their authors respectively.

 

Windows 10 – My Perspective

People tend to ask me about software quite often. It’s ironic actually that most of the time the questions aren’t related to an operating system, but instead of development, games, business, apps etc.

However, people are curious if I like Windows 10.

Firstly I loved Windows 8.x. I know I know, before you toss your mouse at your monitor, in an attempt to hit me with it, you must understand. I loved what Windows 8.x did for us. It finally brought Windows as an OS and Application Platform into alignment across my devices. Owning Windows Phone, Surface, PC and Laptops, it became so much easier to integrate both my work and personal enjoyment across the devices.

Yes I know, people hated the start screen, or they felt they had to do too many clicks etc to get things done. Actually I truly didn’t find that. When I was done, using no hacks, registry edits or “secret sauce”, I was able to use my PC, just as I did with Windows 7. I spent nearly 100% of my time on the desktop app. Therefor I received all the benefits of a singular platform, without really needing to bounce back and forth between screens.

So what about Windows 10?

We will talk some about the upgrade, the upgrade process and some things to look out for. Then we will point out some of the cool things you can do, and then talk about each one. I won’t repeat all the things necessarily on the net about each, but I will share some links. The purpose here is really to educate the difference (at least for me) between 7 / 8 and 10.

1. Is Windows 10 really free:

You betcha. Until I believe June 26th it is free, as long as you have a legal license to your current OS. Whether its your PC or your laptop.

2. Should I even upgrade? :

Well this will be up to you, but my answer is Yes.

Before you upgrade let me note a few things:
  • You should try to validate with your manufacturer that your PC is compatible with Windows 10. I won’t swear or promise that it is, but as you can roll-back AND because you can take a backup first, I haven’t had any issues yet (and I didn’t personally check first, again you should be smarter than me 🙂 )
  • You should do a backup to your thumb drive or external disk before upgrading (to be honest I didn’t… but hey you should be smarter than me)
  • If you do NOT like Windows 10, you can revert back to your original OS in the first 30 days. After that you cannot. Primarily because it takes ALOT of space on your hard drive to backup your entire system so it can be reverted. Oh you can always format your drive etc, but you cannot merely roll-back automatically to Windows X.X and have all your stuff work.
  • If you do upgrade to Windows 10, and you are waiting your 30 days (just in case you roll-back) do NOT attempt to delete the Windows.Old folder. Otherwise you will hose your ability to roll back
  • If you are like me, and your laptop or PC has a built-in restore of your hard drive to “factory settings”. It is very possible that after upgrading to Windows 10, you will NOT be able to do this anymore, because of how windows changes your hard drive.
  • Should this stop you? For me, nope… I checked my manufacturer first, to make sure my machine was good to go and I moved ahead

3. How do I get the upgrade?

Well there are technically at least two ways that I know of. The second option was way better for me, because I have 10 systems to upgrade

  • The first is the “reserve” process. This means that you leverage your current PC and the update / store to tell Microsoft that you want the upgrade. Your request goes in a queue and you are notified when it is time to do the upgrade. Please read here for more details How to Upgrade to Windows 10
  • The second, and again for me was better, is to download and create a USB or DVD / BlueRay. Then you can leverage that media to install on all your PC’s without having to wait in the queue. Pretty sweet :-). I added mine to a little USB thumb drive and bingo ran around upgrading. Here are instructions on that. Create USB or DVD Windows 10 Installation Media

4. Why should I Upgrade? I like my Windows X:

So at a glance why would I want to upgrade from Windows X? Well firstly my main focus is Windows 8 to Windows 10, because I haven’t used 7 or XP in so long. Yes I liked them, but for me Windows 8 was what I used. That being said I can compare and contract some things.

  • No more Start “Screen”
    The Windows Button is actually a really cool navigational process. Similar in some ways to XP and 7, but more enhanced. It’s a hybrid of the start screen and the previous “start menus”. Tiles, right click options etc Love it

Windows 10 Start Button

  • Better Cross Device “Visualization / Usage”
    Once again, it begins to tie together the whole Phone, XBOX One, Tablet experience. NOT because you have touch but because it is actually the same paradigm of usage across them. Much nicer to me.
  • The Action Center:
    If you have a newer Windows 8.X Phone, you are used to having the action center when you do a pull down on the top of your phone. The Action Center is like that. It enables you a centralized place to easily get to many of your necessary actions, notifications and turn / off features. Below is a picture of it and again it’s like the Windows Phone. Simple, quick clicks to make changers.
Windows 10 Action Center
Windows 10 Action Center

 

  • Search from your Desktop:  I love this. Again, just like in your Windows Phone or Windows Surface. Just type in whatever url or question you want answered, without starting any apps.
Search Box
Search Box
  • New Browser, Microsoft Edge:  Truly this thing is cool. It still has some issues, it’s not perfect yet. Some sites will not work correctly, that’s true. However, your Microsoft Internet Explorer will still be there or whatever browser you have. But honestly pretty cool 🙂
  • Virtual Desktops:  What in the world is a virtual desktop and why the heck do I care. Well not everyone will, however if you are like many of us, you may work and play on the same PC. Not only that, but on a shared PC, you might have multiple kids, of different ages. Now you can easily setup multiple desktops that you can easily configure for each particular user. Nothing like keeping school, work, kids and play all separate 🙂
  • Task View Button: Do you remember the old ALT-TAB? Do you remember how you could hold it down in Windows 8 and see everything tiled etc? Well in Windows 10, it’s really simple. Imagine you are doing something and you actually do something else. Hit the keyboard or whatever. How many times have you said, where is my darn email or document or whatever? Well Hit the Task View button (next to your search box on your desktop) and bingo there is your stuff :-). Just pick what you want to use or click it again to make it go away (or hit ESC)

    Hit Task View, See This
    Hit Task View, See This
  • Upgraded Apps: Windows 10 brings a whole new version of the Mail, Calendar and other Apps. They are seriously better.
  • Better Acting Apps: Ok so what I mean here is, that although in Windows 8.1 the friendly X was added to the top right corner of apps, if you used your mouse, they still took up the entire screen. I HATED THAT. Ok I really did :-). With Windows 10, the calculator app for instance now only takes up the size of the calculator app in a reasonable size. No more automatic full screen. Way way nicer.
  • Play XBOX One Games on Windows 10: With the XBOX One Windows 10 App, you can stream games to any Windows 10 Device on your home network. Wired or wireless devices work just fine. They recommend wired, but who the heck wouldn’t? But being able to play my XBOX One Games on my Windows 10 Tablet or PC Rocks!
  • Cortana for Windows 10: Well I love it on my phone, and I love it on my PC. It was easy to setup and easy to use. We had Suri… no thanks, I’ll take Cortana any day. Now I share my searched and results across all my Windows Devices. So much love 🙂 . Cortana do you love me? (go ahead, ask her) lol

5. What about Compatibility and Performance?

Well I can’t really speak to every single laptop or pc in the world, however at my home we have a diverse set of HP, Dell and Hand Made 🙂 PC’s and Laptops. So far all of them have worked well, and I have no issues during the upgrades.

As for performance it has been great. It performs better than Windows 7, 8 and XP. And for me I use mine for development (hard core), gaming, office, business stuff, building Apps / Games etc. So I use mine up quickly and Windows 10 has been awesome.

I did have one issue where I updated a driver and then I needed to go into Safe Mode to back it out. It was actually an issue with me picking the incorrect driver, so nothing that the OS can do there. I said do it 🙂

I have new video drivers, BIOS and the works across the board for HP and Dell.

  • I play games (old Windows Vista, XP, 7, 95 / 98) games and some work, some do not. The ones that do not, are security issues that I did open a ticket with Microsoft to get resolved (as they all worked on Windows 8.1).
  • Everquest, Wow etc all work just fine, and my XBOX One Streaming Rocks.
  • Hulu, Netflix and other streaming services work perfectly with no issues
  • All my development stuff works (SQL, Visual Studio 2010 up) etc. One issue I am having is that the Phone 8.1 SDK tells me it only works on Windows 8 and of course I have Windows 10. I haven’t ironed that out yet, but I will in my Visual Studio 2013 and 2015 Blog
  • Office 2013 and my other productivity applications work just fine
  • Pretty much any issues that I had with older stuff (real-old) required compatibility settings, which it figured out for me.

In Summary

  • Windows 10 was an absolutely great upgrade from Windows 8.1. It brings together even more platforms (Phone / XBOX One), then I had before
  • Its performance and compatibility have not been issues for me at all
  • The new browser, apps and Store App make my life way easier, while still providing me support for I.E. & Chrome.
  • It was easy to upgrade and I have not had one issue since doing so.
  • For those whom like Windows 7 I feel you will truly like it. For those that like Windows 8, you will love it
  • Be safe, back up before you upgrade and enjoy!
  • Lastly It’s Free!!!!!

I am proud to work for Microsoft for 20+ years and this is my first externally focused blog :-). I hope you enjoy it and I appreciate your feedback.

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to drop them here and I will answer as soon as I can.