Shane and Richard on Wi-Fi, Security, and Europe


In this edition of the podcast, Shane and Richard talk about setting up a Wi-Fi network for optimal security and performance, recent developments in security, and what’s going on in Europe with copyright enforcement and privacy.

How to Do Wi-Fi

Most people simply use the equipment provided by their ISP for their home network. This is the easy path, but it rarely guarantees the best results.

It often takes years for ISPs to certify equipment with the latest Wi-Fi and IETF standards, so this means consumers aren’t getting as much performance and security as they can buy at retail. 802.11ac Wi-Fi equipment is typically four times faster than 802.11a/g/n equipment, for example.

As broadband speeds increase, failing to stay up-to-date with Wi-Fi means you’re leaving speed on the table. 802.11n tops out at 200 Mbps for most people, but 802.11ac is closer to 1 Gbps when set up correctly. Most Wi-Fi routers have mesh capability, allowing you to place multiple access points around the home for better coverage.

So the way to get high speeds, good coverage, and economy is to keep your modem and your router separate.

[Note: Wi-Fi mesh networks break certain poorly-written implementations of Wi-Fi such as the Ecobee thermostat. You can work around that by disabling W-Fi roaming for Ecobee and any Wi-Fi connected Homekit hub that collects Ecobee information.]

Developments in Security

A recently approved upgrade to Wi-Fi security – WPA 3 – will hit the markets in time for Christmas. This standard makes it effectively impossible for others to snoop on your Wi-Fi sessions in public spaces.

VPNs are still good to have while public Wi-Fi is undergoing the upgrade, which will probably take years. But once the WPA3 upgrade is complete, they won’t be necessary. WPA3 also makes brute force password attacks a thing of the past.

WPA3 took ten years to develop, which parallels the latest security upgrade for the Internet as a whole. TLS 1.3 is rolling out for web sites and browsers, offering better security and better performance for encrypted data streams. See Making the Internet Secure Once Again for details.

[Note: Enabling TLS 1.3 in Safari on Mac OS Mojave breaks Facebook. If you’re having trouble after upgrading to Mojave, disable TLS 1.3 by doing:

sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/ tcp_connect_enable_tls13 0

from a terminal session.]

Europe Addresses Privacy and Copyright Enforcement

Privacy and copyright are more closely related than you might think. While most open Internet advocates love privacy and hate copyright enforcement, there’s a property rights argument for privacy and a copyright argument for privacy.

Sensitive personal information means as much to ordinary people as copyright does to artists who depend on the sale of their works to make a living.

So it should come as no surprise that Europe would be doing its best to lead the way on both privacy and copyright enforcement. Both fronts are works in progress, worthy of close scrutiny to ensure they accomplish their desired goals without impairing the ability of web site creators to monetize their work.

See Europe Gets Serious About Copyright to see how this is going. GDPR still needs a lot of work, of course, but regulated data sharing isn’t going to happen all by itself.

So there you have it, news you can use and news you need to know, all in one nice little podcast. Enjoy.