Category Archives: Uncategorized

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You may look at old computer and A/V equipment (VCRs, cassette players, out of date computers) and see a pile of junk.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, https://www.element14.com/community/community/experts/benheck

Articles and projects at Makezine (http://www.makezine.com)

Or the educational videos by engineer Limor “Ladyada” Freid on Adafruit (http://www.adafruit.com)

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.

FNGi Branded Optics

fng laser opticsFirst Network Group, Inc. now offers our own line of FNGi-branded optics. This includes the common SFP optical transceivers, as well as SFP+, XFP, CFP, and more. These are sourced from major manufacturers (the same ones that make the OEM-labeled products) and programmed and tested by one of the leading suppliers in the industry.

Custom programming allows these  modules to appear the same as OEM models to switches and routers. No more having to issue special commands to get non-original SFPs to function.

We can provide direct replacements for existing OEM models. In some cases, we can offer  similar models that exceed the distance specifications, or use different wavelengths. Examples include 100+km distance support, Bi-directional optics that use only 1 fiber, and DWDM models. Our optical transceivers have a lifetime warranty.

We also provide a full catalog of optical cabling, as well. A variety of lengths, fiber types, and connectors are available.

Contact Randy Carpenter for more details and for a custom quote.
rcarpen@network1.net or 1-800-578-6381, option 2

A Basic Evolution of the Virus

In the early days of networking computers, viruses were little more than proof of concept bits of code. Can I write a program or exploit a function where I can remotely open a CD drive on another computer or cause some other strange behavior?

These prank style antics grew bigger in scope and power and quickly began to spread around the Internet. Then the environment took a more sinister turn, by bulking up the things these viruses could do. Viruses became punishing programs that would eat up CPU speed, bloat up free hard drive space, spin drives faster than they were designed for and even delete user or operating system data.

They were deployed by people to punish others and destroy property and data. Without tangible rewards creating viruses start to get a bit bland. Viruses then started evolving to an end game or reward. Viruses that previously may have taken a computer offline either by design or by unmitigated spread of the infection fell out of favor. It was becoming more and more important to not have the target go offline or notice the infection. If the target went offline, the attacker wasn’t able to reap the benefits of the infection.

And what were those benefits? In that generation, most of the time it was stealing address book entries to sell to spammers. Personal information was rarely targeted, but corporate data was ripe for the picking.

This is the era of BotNet. Many viruses infect, spread and lay totally dormant. These infected computers are now slaves to the whims of the attacker. If an attacker wants to take down a large site with a DDOS attack, they can wake up 1,000’s of these sleeping infections to begin slamming a site with traffic. Each computer sending out just enough traffic not to be noticed but when combined as a whole their effects can be devastating. These “Bots” can also be put to task to sneak out little bits of Spam here and there. Not enough to get flagged by the normal detection practices of a modern ISP, but combined with the sheer numbers of those infected can wreak a lot of junk mail havoc.

The virus/malware industry has gone thru a major transformation over the years. Viruses have evolved from simple pranks to a hacker’s tool with which to make money, create mass damage or capture information. Viruses don’t say “Happy 1999!” on your screen anymore and stop there. These new viruses like to hide, wait and use the power of their combined infection numbers to make the criminals involved a lot of money.

DHCPatriot 5.4.0 has been released

  1. When unsuspending a user device in Auth DHCP Actions -> Suspend User, the limit displayed entries was not saved during the unsuspend process. This has been corrected and list limits are now remembered as user devices are unsuspended.
  2. IPv6 logins to the web administration interface were impossible. This was traced to storage of the remote IP address being to small. The size has been increased so that it can store IPv6 addresses. The DHCPatriot system can now be administered from an IPv6 address.
  3. Discovered that there was a problem where sometimes cron would no longer rotate logs or database files until it was restarted. Cron now restarts once per day to avoid this situation.
  4. Both IPv4 and IPv6 versions of Firewall setup under System Configuration now support assigning several services to an IP address simultaneously. Previously you had to repeat the process several times to open the firewall for more than one service to a specific IP or subnet.
  5. IPv6 Ping and Trace route are now supported in the web administration interface as well as the CLI admin menu. Options 12 and 13 are ping6 and trace6 respectively. Reboot and shutdown have moved to options 14 and 15 respectively
  6. API: Unsuspending via the API can now perform a RADIUS authentication check as the web administration interface does if the parameter AuthTest=true is passed to the API. Example: https://patriot.network1.net/cli/? function=SuspendEnable&username=apiuser&password=apipass&action=unsuspend&us er=bobaaron&AuthTest=true
  7. API: StickyIP ADD: It is now possible to add a sticky IP via the API by using a URL of the following format: https://patriot.network1.net/cli/? username=&password=&function=StickyIPs&action=ADD&Stickymac=&Stickyuserna me=&Stickyip=&Stickynote=

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19 Years in Business!

Today, July 1st, 2014, First Network Group celebrates its 19th year in business! All of us here have been very happy and proud to serve you these last 19 years. We would like to thank all of our dedicated and hardworking employees as well as our fantastic customers. We couldn’t have done this without you!

To The Great Beyond!

Happy April Fools! 😉

First Network Group, Inc. is proud to announce the next step in our near 20 year history. The First Space Network Group and its flagship the NCC-001 “Vint Cerf”.

thespaceshipToday we embark on our greatest adventure yet by bringing the internet to low earth orbit. No longer will people be plagued with limited or no access between 200 and 385 miles above the surface of the Earth.

This project has been the culmination of countless hours of work and planning (we were too busy working to actually count them). It is our fervent desire to make sure the entire world is connected and can share in the vast resource of the modern internet.

Our first launch of the Vint Cerf is scheduled for later today and will begin the ground work of floating miles of fiber optic cable encircling the planet.

Phase two will consist of the construction of node links to these fiber backbones and the creation of way stations where you can dock and connect any standard ethernet cable to the service.

Phase three will be the roll-out of our Orbital Wireless Technology Feature (oWTF) which will enable near node transmission and reception of wireless internet access with the network. This will enable less docking and maneuvering for the spacefarer on the go.

Access will be granted via our very own DHCPatriot. While widely deployed across the United States serving ISP’s of all sizes, college campuses and businesses, this will be its first venture into space.

If you are interested in joining us in the exciting adventure, or any of our other terrestrial services, please contact us to come on board!