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Entertainment 2.0-Episode 41: Pete Stagman and PC Security

Print Back for another great week of Entertainment 2.0!  This week, Josh and I are joined by Media Center MVP Pete Stagman.  Pete helps us walk through this week’s news and shares his experience with PC security and making sure your home network is protected from all sorts of attacks.  He’s been doing this a long time and we appreciate him sharing his knowledge with our listeners!

We also get to announce the winner of our AverTV Combo G2 this week!  The winner of this great tuner is Phil Lozen of Living High Def.  Thanks to everyone who donated.  It’s a personal cause for me so it is greatly appreciated!

We’ve received some great emails and comments lately.  Keep them coming!  Don’t forget, you can reach us by leaving a comment or using our contact page.  You can also leave pictures of your HTPC and comments on the Entertainment 2.0 drop or call us and leave a voicemail at 1-877-856-4933.  Leave a good message and we’ll get you on the show!

Click here to download Episode 41!

Show Notes:

Thanks again to Pete for taking time to speak with us this week!


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About the author

Adam Thursby

Adam Thursby is the founder and creator of The Digital Media Zone.


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  • Without the SSID broadcasting, it's harder to detect and guess the network. You can tell a network is there, but can't connect without knowing the SSID.

    It's not ANY harder to connect to the network if it's not broadcasting. You just have to know the network name.


  • That's not true if you have the right tools; which one would expect the bad folk you're trying to keep out to have. Ultimately you've only stopped the incompetent hacker, who wasn't getting in anyway because you have WPA2 enabled with a strong key.

    Actually XP didn't handle the no-SSID AP very well at all, many of the “why does my wireless card randomly disconnect” issues can be traced back to this piece of unsound advice.

    “Security” through obscurity is bad policy; even more so in this case because all it does create inconvenience with no tangible benefit.

  • Security through obscurity is NOT bad policy. It's the first step to a secure network. It's not the end of the security policy, it's the beginning. Nor is it a “Piece of unsound advice”.

    By hiding the SSID you:
    1) Stop the casual neighborhood hacker. The guy who is within wireless range of you and just happens to see your SSID broadcast and decides to “Give it a try”.

    2) Helps stop “WarDriving”. The people driving around a neighborhood looking for SSID broadcasts to try to hack.

    Is it going to stop a determind hacker? No, it's not. That's where the rest of your security policy comes into effect.

    The other “Unsound peice of advice” I gave was to, “At the very least change the SSID from the deafult”. Anyone who happens on the SSID doesn't see the name “Linksys” or “Netgear” and now KNOWS that whoever set up the wireless has no clue what they're doing and it's going to be an easy hack.

    Windows XP is 10 year old technology and did not handle 802.11 very well. Vista was actually pretty good at it and Windows 7 is better yet. If you want to trust your security to technology that was admittedly not good at security, you deserve the result.

  • If by “stop” you mean inconvenience, I'll go with that; but those guys aren't going to break your WPA2 key so there's no tangible difference. All you have done is made it more inconvenient for yourself. Focusing on real security (the stuff that stops the determined hacker) will stop the incompetent one too; why bother with the useless stuff?

    XP was meant as an e.g.; other devices have issues too.

    Changing the SSID is smart because it stops collision issues, not because it adds security.

    Security through obscurity is bad policy; because obscurity doesn't net any additional security only inconvenience. The only real value is the false sense of well being for the novice. Pretending otherwise is unsound.

  • Although I still disagree that disabling SSID is a BAD idea. (I'm of the opinion that ANY security is good security.) The comment I made on SSID was “you should disable SSID or at the very least change the network name”. Over the course of a 1 hour interview that was the least time I spent on any point.

    We've latched onto a very small part of the things that I said in that podcast. The big point that I was making is that, for the most part, home users ignore security and they need to start thinking about it NOW.

    I say “If it helps at all, use it.” Doesn't matter if it's SSID, Port forwarding, UPNP, DHCP, NAT, Packet filtering, VPN or Virus/trojan/rootkit scanning.
    The home user NEEDS to start using any and all security at their disposal.

  • Much of what you said was quality advice, I was just pointing out that disabling SSID wasn't.

    I agree that security is good and that most home users (even technical ones) don't apply it, or use the tools that are provided correctly; but this isn't security it's just a level of inconvenience that, like most obfuscation techniques, ultimately just effects the good people w/o a tangible benefit. Confusing the two is bad for everyone.

  • Quick question to Pete, I enjoyed the podcast and have also dabbled in the *nix firewall security appliances. Do you have any experience with other products similar to Astaro: PFSense, Monowall, or Untangle? Just curious if you had any pros/cons on any of them. I am currently using Untangle as a unified security appliance, and it works great.

  • A quick note about backups in Home Server. You don't have to worry about multiple backups eating up disk space. If you start off with a backup on Monday of your computer and don't do anything but change one word document on Tuesday, Tuesday's backup will point to every file from Monday and save that one file from Tuesday to comprise the Tuesday backup. Only one instance of every file is saved.

    Also, if multiple computers have the the same file on them, WHS will keep one copy of that similar file and have the backup from each computer point to that one file. In an extreme case, if you took an image of one computer, backed it up, reinstalled that image on 5 other computers (in essence having 6 identical computers), changed one file on each computer, backed up the 6 computers after the change to the one file on each, WHS would only have the original backup, the changes to the 6 computers, and pointers to all of the similar files so that the total backup for all 6 computers is only slightly larger than that one original backup.

    WHS really is the best software that Microsoft has put out for home use in a long time.


  • I've never tried Untangle, But I've looked at it. I might download it and give it a shot.

    I did notice that there is a difference between the Open Source and the Professional versions. With the Astaro, the software is identicle and you get all the subscriptions for free.

    If I have the time to do some testing on some Open Source firewalls, I'll try to post reviews.

  • WHS is even better than that. It does backups at the Hard Drive block level.

    If you have a Word document that was already backed up, then make changes to it, no matter how small the changes. Only the changes get backed up, not the whole document. That is how you can roll back changes to documents. You can restore to a version before you made the changes.

    If the computer that was backed up has a drive problem and the files get damaged, you can restore to any point that you have the backups for.

  • How come this episode still hasn't shown up in the RSS feed 2 days after it was posted? Last weeked episode also took several days before it showed up in the feed.

  • I'm not sure why it wouldn't be showing up for you. It was in iTunes the day of publishing and my Zune software as well. They both pull the feed from the site. What application are you using?

  • Pete,
    There are tools, well known tools in the wireless world that will see hidden SSID's in less than a second. There are better tools that will crack WEP 128bit in under 5 minutes.

    Hiding your SSID will only cause issues for legacy wireless client devices.

    I should know I deal with it every day at work. I support a wireless network with over 1500 client devices and many of them are considered legacy and when SSID is disabled we have more issues with them not staying connected, or roaming properly between access points.

    for wireless security your best bet, is get off of WEP, run atleast WPA pre-shared key, with a good 40 character passphrase.

    Next best is WPA2 with again a 40 character passphrase.

    next best after that is WPA2 EAP-TLS with radius based auth.

    – Josh

  • Hey Josh,

    I completely agree, wireless security sucks and I could break the encryption pretty quickly.

    There's not much more to say on that topic. 🙂


  • Magnus. are you using the Zune with the Zune software? If So try deleting your current RSS feed, go to the site here, and re-download the RSS feed or going into the podcast section of the zune software and re-doing it.

    When they switched sites, and all that, I noticed the podcasts were not coming through as fast for me either.

  • yes I know this. I guess it was more about SSID broadcasting. When you have legacy clients, specially CE devices on a network disabling the SSID causes huge issues I had to fight tooth and nail with our security department to get it re-enabled to help fix many issues we had with connectivity and roaming issues with CE devices on our wireless network.

    – Josh

  • Turned out I was still subscribing to the old feed url. Changed to the new url and I get the episodes on time now.

  • Turned out I was still subscribing to the old feed url. Changed to the new url and I get the episodes on time now.