Ep. #1: Updates, Updates, Updates...
Keeping Your Tech Up To Date Is Always Important
When I finished writing my book, "Screw the Cable Company" in 2017, I didn't think writing about technology would turn into much of a career. I didn't know that many folks would be interested. Turns out: plenty of you are, especially in things like using tech to save money and to protect and secure yourself while online.
As a result, this newsletter was born. The goal I have for each issue is to review a tool or practice that's both simple to use and critically important. In this issue, I can sum it all up in one word: updates. If you own technology devices — phones, tablets, computers, modems, routers, or smart devices like Alexa, Nest thermostats, or SmartCams — then whether you like it or not, you've essentially signed up to keep those devices up to date.
And make no mistake: you absolutely do need to keep those devices up to date. Not doing so can lead to security risks and outright hacks. The unfortunate truth is that most of us don't remember to do this, even at a time when the national news features any number of hacks. This month, for example, it was the "KRACK" vulnerability that affects almost every computer, smart device, and router.
KRACK, by the way, stands for the easy-to-remember WPA2 Key Reinstallation Attack. Simple, right? :) Forget the name for just a moment and let's focus on what you really need to know about it: it's a deeply troubling hack that works against all modern, protected Wi-Fi networks, allowing attackers to view your data as you send and receive it. That can include but is not limited to passwords, social security numbers, bank information, and more. So, you know: it's, like, kind of a big, freakin' deal.
The question, of course, is what in the @$%! can we all do to protect ourselves? The answer, for the most part again: update, update, update. Let me break it down for you.
Update your computers. Most computer manufacturers have now released patches so you can update your computers. Do yourself a favor right now: run the software update applications on all of your personal computers and then restart. Then do it a second time. No, I'm not joking. In some cases, if you're behind on your updates, you might find that you'll have more than one round of updates and restarts. If you use a work laptop, confirm with your IT department if you're able to update your own device; if not, pressure them to update your computer for you.
Update your computer's WiFi cards. Manufacturers like Intel and TP-Link make network cards that many people have installed inside of their desktops or gaming computers. If you use a desktop PC, you'll need to update all drivers for all 3rd party cards that you've installed with a WiFi chip. Here are links to the most popular vendors:
Intel — Intel has created a page for all of its affected products. There you can find updates for each device that you can download and install.
TP-Link — has an alert page here. Patches are due out soon.
Update your Chromebooks. This week, Google released a patch for ChromeOS, v62. Take advantage of this and update your Chromebooks now. If you don't know how to update the ChromeOS, learn how by clicking here.
Update all iOS devices. Apple, today, also released updates to iOS, covering all iPod Touches, iPhones, and iPads. Update every device you own using these instructions.
Update your wireless routers. Your router (and yes: you have one) is the device that shares your connection to the internet with other devices in your home or business. Thus far, only a few of the most popular makers of routers have released patches, which is both annoying and outright irresponsible. Here are two lists to check. If you see your company is offering an update, download it and follow the instructions on how to update your router. And if you do NOT see that your company offering an update then... call them out publically on Twitter. True story: companies don't like bad press or attention. The same day I tweeted this to Linksys, they at least updated their security advisory page to mention the KRACK issue. No updates to their firmware yet, but I'm waiting...
Update all Apple smart devices. As of this week, patches to fix the KRACK issue are now available for all of the following Apple devices. Click on the links I provide to learn how to update the software on each.
Identify other devices you own that require patching. Because the KRACK exploit can affect any consumer electronic device that uses WiFi, it's essential that you go through your home and check that every single WiFi device can be patched or already has been. Some companies can update their products automatically so that you don't have to. Others require you to do the updating. Know which is which.
Nest devices — If you believe the company's Twitter feed, they stated in mid-October that they'd be rolling out updates automatically to all Nest products within a few weeks.
Amazon — "We are in the process of reviewing which of our devices may contain this vulnerability and will be issuing patches where needed." Translation: "Go suck an egg."
Google — announced they'll patch Android OS soon. Searching for the term KRACK on their Android support site? Can't find any results...
Samsung — is aware of the problem and will roll out updates soon. Searching for the term "KRACK" on their support site? Can't find any results...
Phillips Hue products — appear fine. Products use a different type of network than regular WiFi.
Synology Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices - Patch has been released. Download and update your home NAS box.
Turn on automatic software updates on your computers. Put your technology to work for you by helping you save time. Activating auto software updates allows your computer to update itself for you, so you don't have to. Every desktop computer allows you to do this and manufacturers all provide information on how to set this up on your home computers. Follow the link to read the simple setup for each operating system below:
I'd recommend the same for your mobile devices but, currently, there is no such thing. Apple comes close by auto-alerting you that software updates are available, but you must then agree to the update. One nice feature, however, is that you can choose - in advance! - to update while you sleep, something you can learn about here.
And that’s a wrap for today’s episode, everyone. Thanks again to my free and paid subscribers for supporting independent technology journalism. I also thank you, in advance, for using the link below to share Tech Talk with your friends, family, and colleagues.
As always… Surf safe.
Popular Past Issues:
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My 2021 recommendations on the best VPN providers.
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A crash course on keeping your devices updated.
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