Dear Readers:

I hope you are enjoying the last few weeks of summer and staying healthy. It has certainly been an unusual summer for all of us. My family and I took the opportunity to explore the great California outdoors with a trip to Yosemite and Mammoth Lakes. I have shared a few of my favorite photos.

In this edition, I decided to focus on the challenges some of us will face as our kids are getting ready for a year of Virtual Learning. The Combination of work and learn from home is sure to surface new technical challenges and, of course, it also comes with its own cyber risks. I hope these tips will be beneficial in helping you navigate through these new challenges.

Back to School Tech Challenges


As schools are reopening with virtual learning, there are a few critical technology and cybersecurity factors to keep in mind. The number one question I am often asked: "How much bandwidth do we need at home?"

This is a difficult question to answer without knowing individual user requirements. But it is essential to keep in mind our use of internet data at home has grown due to COVID-19, with added video calls, students watching instructional videos, and streaming services all at the same time. The new school year will sure put a strain on home internet and wireless connections, as schools are now better prepared to deliver virtual instruction via Zoom or Google Classroom.

For an average family of four, with two children in school and two working adults, the minimum suggested download bandwidth would be 20 Mbps with a minimum upload speed of 5 Mbps. Of course, there are many exceptions to this; for instance, if a member of the household is working on something data-intensive, such as video editing, they would need much more bandwidth.

TIP: You can quickly check your bandwidth by clicking on the following link: The test will provide your download and upload speeds. If you feel your bandwidth is not sufficient, call your provider to see what options are available.

In the U.S., we are quite sophisticated and advanced with technology. However, there are still challenges in delivering reliable high-speed internet at an affordable price to many of our cities and neighborhoods, especially in the suburbs and rural areas. Our telecommunication companies and cities have not made the infrastructure investment necessary for virtual work and remote learning models. Hopefully, with the increased rollout of 5G, we will be able to deliver high-speed internet to areas that need it most.

The other challenge many face is reliable wireless coverage in their residence. With adults and students spread throughout the house looking for their quiet corner, a robust wireless signal can be hard to find. Many households use a single access point, which is most likely provided by their internet provider sitting in a closet or inside the TV cabinet, which is not the best location to provide coverage throughout the residence.

TIP: Whole-home Mesh WiFi routers such as Google Nest or Amazon Eero are great; they can be placed throughout the home to provide ample WiFi coverage.

What Security Risks Should We Keep in Mind?


Let's talk about some security challenges we should all consider. As schools are reopening, and most office workers have shifted to remote work, cybercriminals have changed their tactics to target home networks. Although there are many security risks to be cautious about working and learning from home, I will list the five I feel are most relevant.

1. WiFi and Router Passwords
Perhaps the most overlooked security risk of all homes is the lack of strong passwords on routers and WiFi access points. Many home routers and access points are still using out-of-the-box or easy to guess passwords, such as 123456 or home block and phone numbers.

These easy-to-hack systems give cybercriminals access to home networks, which can then enable them to hack your employer or school's corporate network as well.

TIP: Be sure all your home devices are using strong passwords and are running the latest firmware. Do not forget to do the same with any IoT devices, such as your smart thermostat, Ring doorbell, etc.

2. Mixed Use of Devices
With adults and children all working and learning from home, it is sometimes difficult for families to provide individual systems for each person. Just like bad hygiene or sharing a toothbrush, sharing systems becomes a concern as children are often not as careful as they should be online. Clicking on links, downloading games, and social media posts can lead to phishing and ransomware attacks, which can lead to data loss, financial account hacking, or render systems unusable.

TIP: Most school districts have a device borrowing program for students at no cost. Chromebooks are the perfect school device for kids; they are less costly, lightweight, and provide the right level of security for younger school children.

If you do not have the option of individual devices and must share, be sure to have different logins for each user with unique and hard-to-guess passwords.

Using parental control tools on devices is also recommended. Parental control tools can help control excessive screen time and block social media, games, and more.

3. Endpoint Protection & VPN
As we connect to our work systems and computers from home, it is essential to make sure we take all precautionary measures to protect both our home and work systems. Make sure your systems are up to date with the latest patches and with reliable endpoint protection software (virus protection) that is updated automatically. This is essential.

Securely connecting to work networks from home is just as important; most of you have heard of using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to establish a secure connection. Many corporations will not allow their staff to be connected without it.

Using a VPN will not only protect your work systems, but it will also encrypt your connection and any website. VPNs are always recommended while traveling or using free WiFi at airports or coffee shops, and making a habit of using them at home adds a significant layer of protection.

TIP: There are many low-cost VPN services to subscribe to, such as NordVPN. I find the interface easy to use, and the service very reliable.

4. Data Protection
As careful as we are, sometimes we slip up and click on that link we knew we should not have, and now ransomware encrypted the files or the hard drive had a failure, and we have lost all of the data.

TIP: A reliable cloud data backup service can prevent loss of work and school projects.

5. Social Media
As we approach the elections, you can be sure to see thousands of posts about politics, which might include links to fake news sites. We have already seen this happen with COVID-19 news. This year's election-targeted campaigns will have much more sophisticated social media attacks. It could be either from bad actor nations trying to influence votes or from cybercriminals attempting to get the public to donate money to fake organizations and steal personal information.

TIP: Only click and share news and posts from reliable media organizations. Always be careful sharing others' posts even if they are from friends.

Hopefully, following the above tips will ensure the coming school semester from home will be safe and headache-free, at least from the tech end of things.

Small Business Administration (SBA) COVID-19 Loan Relief Spoofing. CISA is currently tracking an unidentified malicious cyber actor spoofing the SBA COVID-19 relief webpage in a phishing emails. The phishing emails have been sent to various Federal Civilian Executive Branch and state, local, tribal, and territorial government recipients. The spoofed website is utilized for malicious re-directs and credential stealing.
Utilize parental controls to monitor your kids’ online activity.
 All popular Internet browsers offer security safeguard options and content filters that limit or prevent foul language, violence, sex, and nudity. Alternatively, remote content management cops like OpenDNS can keep users from inadvertently visiting dangerous websites and prevent malicious code from entering a machine. Parental Controls are also great for controlling screen time.
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