Graphic Arts’ IT Guy – May 09

WiFi securityQ. I want to set up a wireless network and my friend tells me all he needs to do is hide the network or use the machine address. Somehow that doesn’t seem very secure. Is that all he needs to do?

A. You are correct to be suspicious of this advice. As wireless networks have evolved, several progressively better encryption methods have become available. You should be aware of the various choices there are for security – you can have no encryption, light encryption with protocols, such as WEP, or more sophisticated encryptions, such as WPA2 PSK or Personal and WPA2 Enterprise.

If you choose to have a wireless network, also known as WiFi, you can have an open network by not employing any security, which anyone within range of your network can use. This is not really a good idea as you don’t know who is connected to your network and what they’re doing.

Every WiFi network is made up of a couple of things; a broadcast name, or SSID, a wireless access point, such as Apple Base Station, and the protocol to support the various devices that will connect to the network.

When a WiFi laptop or smartphone comes in range of a network, it discovers a network by the SSID or name that is broadcast by the access point. If the name of a network is not broadcast, the user wishing to connect to the network has to manually enter in the name of the network. However, the name of the network is actually broadcast within the packets, so with software downloaded off the Internet, a user can easily find the name of the network. You can also use the machine address to restrict which devices are able to connect. Unfortunately, the machine address is also broadcast in the packets and the address can be spoofed easily with software.

Additionally, WEP is easily hacked off the Internet because it is a pretty weak protocol. It actually consists of eight characters, which are basically declaring that its WEP and in the rest is the password. So again, within about 20 minutes, someone can discover everything they need to get onto the network.

WPA and WPA2 are more sophisticated protocols and consist of 128-bit keys. All of the information transmitted is encrypted. There is a “pre-shared key” that is part of the connection. As a 128-bit key, it would take trillions of years to decode the password. WPA2 Personal uses a password only and WPA2 Enterprise is a more sophisticated version of authentication and consists of a certificate authentication method.

So, the bottom line is you should use the best security your equipment can support, preferably, WPA2 Personal for a few computers and WPA2 Enterprise for many computers.

Q. I have a Sony HDD camcorder, and I can connect it to my Mac with a USB cable, but I cannot do anything with the MPEG files. How do I import them into iMovie or Final Cut Express?

A. Sony camcorders save their files in AVCHD format based. In order to import these into either iMovie or Final Cut Express, the files need to be in DV or digital video format.

So, you will need to download a couple of things from the Internet – a free program called MPEG StreamClip and Apple’s MPEG-2 Playback Component, about $30 CDN. You can install MPEG StreamClip by dragging the app to the applications folder. An Apple component comes with an installer.

Connect your Sony camcorder via USB and use the HDD. Your camcorder should appear as a mounted drive on the MAC called “no name.” Locate the folder that contains the movie clips and drag them into a folder. Launch MPEG StreamClip and choose Open Files from the File menu. Choose a single file or a batch and you should see and play the movie file in the preview window. To convert the files, choose Export to DV from the File menu. You can safely save the files into the same folder because the file will be named with the “.dv” extension. You’ll now find that you can import these new DV files into iMovie or Final Cut Express.