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One Step Ahead

June 26, 2018

Whatcha doing?

Homework. A video on PowerPoint transitions.

You don’t seem interested.

I’ve known how to do that since 5th grade. I’m just annoyed that I can’t even open another tab. As soon as I click away the video stops.

Have you tried opening a new window?

What do you mean?

Here let me show you. You just grab this tab and drag it away from the browser. There, see? The video is playing in the background.

I didn’t know you could do that.

Nice to know that your Dad who calls himself a computer expert can still stay one step ahead of you on computers.

I have a house full of teenagers. And since we are in the summer months, they are around all day. I work from home occasionally and I can tell when they are on the internet.

I’m old enough to remember dial up modems. Back in the olden days, you had to attach a physical piece of hardware to the phone line. You could then call up your ISP and your modem and their modem would talk in ANALOG over your phone line.

Two things would happen. One is that if anyone picked up the phone in the house, it would screw up your connection and you’d have to dial back in.

Second, no one could use the phone while you were online. Yes, this was the days before cell phones. Your house had a single phone line that everyone shared. And there was no caller ID. In fact, when call waiting was introduced it broke how modems work. Call waiting was a series of BEEP BEEP BEEP. It would disrupt the modem conversation and you’d have to dial back in.

Oh, and it was slow. Like really, really slow. Downloading a single picture would take several minutes. If it was hi-res, or high resolution it might take an hour. It was okay, because most websites were plain text.

Today’s kids have no idea what we had to put up.

I have security on my home network, of course. In fact, I have my high speed modem that uses microwaves, instead of analog phone lines. And behind the modem is a VoIP phone box. It gives me a home phone and also acts like a physical firewall. It has two network cards and two different addresses. Next, it goes to my actual firewall. It’s a dedicated computer with two network cards in it. Next is my software router. It’s scans all devices on my network and only allows traffic from recognized devices. After that is my wifi router. The SSID is hidden and it requires a password, a really long and complicated password, to access.

No one is hacking into my house. It’s not that a good hacker couldn’t. It’s that why would they want to? I don’t have anything worth going to the trouble of fighting through two physical firewalls, a software firewall and an encrypted router. I have the equivalent of a 12 foot fence with razor wire on top, and there’s really nothing inside.

My challenge is my kids. They are already on the inside. And those firewalls not only keep people out, they keep those of us inside from getting to some of the more dangerous and seedy portions of the internet. I was a kid once. My kids are going to test the limits.

About every six months my software firewall “forgets” how to talk to my network. For about a week, I will have to chase down a rogue device that impersonates my firewall and conveniently let’s people go to places that are normally offlimits.

I play whack-a-mole with it’s IP addresses for a few days and eventually banish back to the land of texts between my kids and their friends. Of course, I never find the person behind the hack. There are serveral likely suspects, but like The Prisoner’s Dilemma, if everyone keeps silent, no one can get caught.

It’s nice to find times like today, where I actually feel like maybe I am one step ahead of my kids.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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