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Wi-Fi 6 is Here

Does your laptop support 802.11n, 802.11ac, or 802.11a10? If you don’t know you’re in luck and if you didn’t realize one of those protocols was not real, your life is about to get better.

The Wi-Fi Alliance, the body that sets all the standards and protocols for each for of Wi-Fi technology, is finally going to drop the archaic numbering and lettering scheme. The next revision of Wi-Fi will be known as Wi-Fi 6
(technically 802.11ax).

“For nearly two decades, Wi-Fi users have had to sort through technical naming conventions to determine if their devices support the latest Wi-Fi,” said Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of Wi-Fi Alliance. “Wi-Fi Alliance is
excited to introduce Wi-Fi 6, and present a new naming scheme to help industry and Wi-Fi users easily understand the Wi-Fi generation supported by their device or connection.”

The naming scheme will go backwards as well.

  • Wi-Fi 6 to identify devices that support 802.11ax technology
  • Wi-Fi 5 to identify devices that support 802.11ac technology
  • Wi-Fi 4 to identify devices that support 802.11n technology

The Wi-Fi alliance has approved the new logos and descriptions of the naming system to be used by anyone meeting the standard (basically everyone).

And even though we are now past the big holiday shopping season, we’ve only seen a few of these products enter the market and be branded as such. Look for all of that to change as consumer network manufacturers begin
their push to the new labeling standard in earnest now.

Calix Cloud Support

Does your company use Calix Support Cloud (or Compass) to manage end-user services? Our End-User Technical Support team is fully trained in this system and ready to assist your customers 24 hours a day!

If you haven’t already set up our access for your customers, contact us today to get started!

Wi-Fi Protected Access v3

Currently, the best way to secure your wireless networks is using Wi-Fi Protected Access v2 (WPA2). However there are still some issues regarding how this system functions. Last year’s KRACK vulnerability has proven that
this 13 year old security protocol needs redone.

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES2018), the Wi-Fi Alliance debuted the version 3 of WPA, increasing the security capabilities of the process in several ways.

WPA3 will now support 192-bit encryption natively (with an assumed 48-bit initialization vector) and the Dragonfly Protocol (aka: Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE)). Even the link between the device and the router, for example in on a public network, will be entirely encrypted as well.

The Dragonfly Protocol (SAE) allows for a cryptographically strong shared secret for securing other data– e.g. network communication. SAE is resistant to passive attack, active attack, and dictionary attack. It provides a secure alternative to using certificates or when a centralized authority is not available. It is a peer-to-peer protocol, has no asymmetry, and supports simultaneous initiation. This will take most of the pressure off of users who do not create secure of varied enough network passwords and make linking devices (mesh networks) easier and just as secure.

The Wi-Fi Alliance has just finalized the spec on WPA3, so don’t look for it to enter the consumer realm in the current hardware cycle. Devices that feature WPA3 abilities are expected to reach the market in Q3 of 2018. WPA3 will only work if both devices are capable of using it and first party support from all major operating system vendors is expected in a timely manner. Until then and even after, WPA2 is not going away entirely. This cut over to WPA3 will be a natural and gradual process as new equipment and software come out that can utilize it.

While waiting for WPA3 firmware and hardware to be released to the public, currently the safest method of securing your WIFI is to utilize WPA2 security with AES encryption. While there are ways around WPA2, the likelihood of that happening compared to other security measures is quite low. Other best practices is to remember to rotate your password every few months or not broadcasting your SSID so people out snooping won’t even see your network. It’s also a good idea to log into your router and check the various devices attached to your network and take an inventory every few months as well.

Western Digital Intelliflash Logo

Expanded Your Storage

First Network Group now offers an expanded lineup of storage offerings to cover a wider range of applications and price points.

We have partnered with Western Digital to offer their line of IntelliFlash storage systems as an alternative to
NetApp’s offerings that we continue to support. These are both very good options for primary storage for
virtualization and other critical workloads.

The Western Digital IntelliFlash line consists of models ranging from hybrid flash+disk to all-flash and NVMe to cover many different use cases and budgets. Hardware options are significantly simplified compared to other vendors and all software features are included. All systems run the same operating system and have the same management options, which also simplifies deployment and operation.

We are now also offering white-box storage systems that can run various different operating systems, such as FreeNAS, standard Linux, or nearly anything else. These come in at a much lower price point that fully-integrated systems. These options will not have the same sort of high-availability options and advanced management as Western Digital IntelliFlash or NetApp. They do, however, serve as perfect second or third tier storage for non-critical or backup needs.

First Network Group’s engineers can build you the perfect combination of primary, disaster recovery, and backup storage to meet your needs, all integrate with the appropriate servers, networking, and software. In addition, we can monitor and manage your entire IT infrastructure to reduce the need for local, highly-trained, dedicated employees or to free up your existing employees to do other important duties.

For more information on our storage offerings or any other server or networking needs, call Randy Carpenter, VP of IT Services at 1-800-578-6381, option 1.


We’ve all been thru setting up a password and told to use upper and lower case letters, special characters, symbols and numbers. They can be annoying and make passwords difficult to remember.

Well you have a man named Bill Burr to thank for this concept. In 2003 Bill was a manager at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). He created a guide on how to create secure passwords, known as the “NIST Special Publication 800-63. Appendix A.”

Ever since then software and websites have relied on the suggestions of this document to create secure passwords. The only trouble is that when Mr. Burr wrote this document he was not well versed in computer security practices. The core idea is that a short password made up of random characters and symbols would be much harder to break down than a short password that’s more human friendly. And while that does hold true, short random passwords are not as secure as once thought.

Even though Mr. Burr has admitted that he now regrets most of what he did, it’s not all his fault. Fifteen years ago, we all knew much less than what we know now about what it takes to crack passwords.

The best passwords are long passwords that can be easily remembered phrases instead of shorter passwords with a random use of characters.

  • Example: P@55w0rd would take between 9 and 24 hours to brute force or solve.
  • Example: MonkiesdrivecarsonThursdays would take 17 octillion years to brute force

While including upper and lower case, numbers and symbols can help secure a password, ultimately password length with a minor mixture of randomness creates the most secure passwords.

No matter how secure your passwords are it’s always a good idea to change them routinely (at least once a year). And using a more human-friendly long password will take some of the sting out of remembering all new passwords again.

Robots in the Attic

A question for the tinkerers and Makers among you and for those of you catering to the makers in your customer base: Do You Have a Robot in Your Attic?

You may look at old computer and A/V equipment (VCRs, cassette players, out of date computers) and see a pile of junk. Hobbyists interested in IoT (the Internet of Things) see power supplies, LCD displays, motors, gears and a raft of components that can be used in robotics and all manner of other projects. Where do they get their inspiration? Check out …

The Ben Heck Show at Element 14,

Articles and projects at Makezine (

Or the educational videos by engineer Limor “Ladyada” Freid on Adafruit (

Your local “maker” community may be your most loyal customer base and the source of your future employees! Enjoy your summer, be safe and … Make!

— Stephen C. Walter

IoT & Security

I often promote the increasing popularity and value of the Internet of Things (IoT.) Recently, there has been news about the IOT and security. Specifically, articles about how intelligence agencies and hackers, both foreign and domestic, exploit weaknesses in the software of IoT to increase surveillance on an unsuspecting public. Should your customers be concerned? Perhaps. Is there a guaranteed solution? No. But your customers can minimize risk with the same “best practices” that you should use to keep your network secure and running.

Beyond using passwords and basic security, the most important thing you and your customers can do is keep software and firmware up to date. That sounds simple enough, yet too many ignore this basic yet necessary step. Exploits, like the ones recently reported, find flaws in specific code (applications, Operating Software or firmware.) Code updates are often issued specifically to address such flaws, once known. Staying current on updates can help keep you one step ahead of the legion of “black hats” who want to exploit your network or information.

Devices from your customer’s IP camera or Smart TV, to personal computers, your routers and other network hardware, and especially your servers must be kept up to date if you want even the most basic safeguards from the disasters of hacking. IT and security professionals keep track of such exploits and the patches and updates needed to repair them. The First Network Group Information Technologies division specializes in keeping your equipment up to date as a routine part of providing Server and Network management services. Unsure of the update status of your Network? Contact Randy Carpenter VP of IT Services at 1-800-578-6381, option 1 to arrange an analysis of your Network today.

— Stephen C. Walter
Founder, President and CEO
First Network Group, Inc

Google Chromebook Pro’s & Con’s

Chromebooks have been around since 2011, odds are you may have used one or at least seen one in a local store. Chromebooks run Google’s Chrome Operating System and tied to the Google application ecosystem. Let’s take a look at some Pro’s and Con’s about using a Chromebook.

Pro: Linux-based operating system specifically designed by Google does not need anti-virus or is impervious to 99.999% of malware you will come across.

Con: Common PC-oriented applications cannot be used. Including Microsoft Office (desktop), Adobe Photoshop, Mozilla Firefox, etc. However many of these applications have analogous software or lightweight versions available via the Chrome Web Store.

Pro: Fast boot times and well known interfaces. If you’ve used the Google Chrome web browser or an Android-powered phone, you will feel right at home with a Chromebook.

Con: Limited hardware available. Many times the hardware specs of Chromebooks will be much lower that full-fledged laptops running Windows or Mac OS. However, Chrome OS and applications are so lightweight, that the hardware they ship with is more than capable.

Pro: Android Applications are coming to Chrome OS. Google is working on integrating Android apps that run on your phone or tablet to run inside of Chrome OS. Moving from one device to another will continue to become more and more seamless.

Con: People heavily integrated into the Apple ecosystem will find very few options on how to interact with their Apple-based applications and sign-in options.

Chromebooks can be very powerful devices when utilized correctly and for the majority of day-to-day uses they will fit every need you have. While they can’t fully replace your classic Windows or Apple laptop, they certainly can close the gap nicely. And their price point makes them a fantastic secondary device to keep near the couch, or a first laptop for a child.