Sunday, September 26, 2021

TIP - How do you plan your meals?

Sample portion sizes of a dinner plate on a blue placemat
The Blue Plate Special

Many of us learned to plan meals from our mothers or home economics teachers by listing the main course, and then the side dishes. However, there is a better way.

Since vegetables and fruits should form the majority of a healthy diet and take up half of your My Plate dinner, start your plan by deciding which vegetables and fruits to serve. Then follow up by thinking of a complementary protein (not necessarily meat) and other meal elements.

My Plate logos copyright free can be found here:

Take a Hike!

Sepia colored man and woman walking on a forest trail

Walking is good aerobic exercise. It keeps your heart strong and blood pressure healthy, and it aids in blood sugar control. Regular walking decreases mental health issues such as anxiety and depression and lowers your risk of dying from cancer.

Taking a hike outdoors is great because you are immersed in the natural world. Research has shown that persons spending 120 minutes in nature (2 hours a week) have less stress and a higher sense of well-being than those who stay indoors.

However, due to the ongoing pandemic, it may not be as easy for you to get the outdoor exercise you need. Try bringing the outdoors inside. You can watch a video of a hike through various awesome natural sites while you use the treadmill or stair stepper, or just walk in place. 

Imagine yourself hiking in the Swiss Alps, climbing a mountain in Hawaii, running through a forest in Alaska, or striding rim-to-river in the Grand Canyon. View the natural scenery on YouTube while you exercise safely indoors. Here are some suggested virtual hikes.

If you are counting your steps, you can hike the Appalachian trail, virtually, using an app on your smartphone (iPhone or Android). You will unlock interesting checkpoints when you reach them.

However you do your hiking, whether in the physical world outdoors or indoors viewing a virtual hike, try to complete the recommended 150 minutes of walking per week, for maximum health benefits.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

What is the difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal?

Light brown service dog focusing on the picture-taker
Service dog

Although these two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there are major differences between the two. It is important to know these differences, which begin with the legislation that defines them.

A service animal is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Service animals are limited to two species. The most common service animals are dogs. If the person using the service animal is allergic to dogs or is prohibited from being around a dog for religious reasons, a miniature horse can be a service animal, although this is quite rare.

Service animals are individually trained to do specific tasks necessary for the person they serve. They must always be under the control of their handler at all times. They are almost always permitted to accompany the person they serve in any place where members of the public are allowed.

An emotional support animal is NOT covered by the ADA. Instead, it is defined under the Fair Housing Act. An emotional support animal of any species is identified by its owner as providing emotional support; however, it does not need to have specific training or to perform any tasks for its owner. Emotional support animals are permitted in rental housing if a medical or rehabilitation professional provides documentation of its owner’s need for it. However, emotional support animals are NOT allowed in public places that do not allow other pets. 

For more information about service animals:
For information about emotional support animals:

Saturday, September 18, 2021

What if someone at my school or work is allergic to my service dog?


Greyhound standing at attention

It happens. You have been authorized to take your service dog with you when someone else in that environment says they are allergic to dog dander. (It could also be that someone is extremely fearful of dogs. The same solutions apply.)

In this case, it is understood that both individuals need reasonable accommodations. The difficulty is in figuring out what can be done because their needs are in conflict.

It is not legal to deny the use of a service dog in a public area such as a classroom or workspace because someone else is allergic. Therefore, methods must be developed to minimize contact between the dog and the person with the allergy.

The Job Accommodation Network has developed a set of recommendations of how to manage the conflicting needs by eliminating or minimizing exposure of the allergic person to the dog. Their suggestions include:

  • Flexible scheduling or different work areas for the two individuals
  • Using portable air purifiers and HEPA filters 
  • Asking the service dog owner to temporarily use other accommodations, or to use dander care products on the dog
  • Asking the allergic employee to wear an allergen mask

View other suggestions of how to handle this tricky problem of conflicting health needs here:

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Save The Date! Preparedness Trivia (on Zoom) on 9/15!


Picture of a smiling young girl in front of books with "Never stop learning" spelled on the binders

Wednesday, Sept 15, 1-2pm SLT, 4-5pm ET

Please join the Region 2 National Preparedness Division for Ready Games in celebration of National Preparedness Month this September. 

Participants will be tested on their preparedness knowledge with true/false, multiple-choice, rank, and short-answer questions. Dot worry about bringing a #2 pencil. Participants should have a second electronic device (mobile phone, iPad, etc.) to log their answers for the test. 

Who should attend? The whole community – individuals and families, volunteer and community-based organizations, local, state, federal government, and private sector. 

Register here:

Saturday, September 11, 2021

September 11 is a Day of Service

Picture of the mirror pool 9/11 memorial
National 9/11 Memorial, New York City, New York

September 11, 2021, marks 20 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Each year, volunteers commemorate 9/11 Day to honor those who served the country. 

This year, thousands of volunteers will find ways to engage in acts of service. Service projects could include disaster preparation activities or neighborhood cleanups, food drives or home repair assistance. Community volunteers may plan to honor veterans, soldiers, or first responders by collecting donations, assembling care packages, and writing thank you letters.

The 9/11 Day website lets visitors search for volunteer activities in their area. You can filter your search by category, including such topics as emergency response, first aid, and food distribution.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

September is National Preparedness Month!

September is National Preparedness Month! This year’s theme is “Prepare to Protect. Preparing for disasters is protecting everyone you love.” has created a week-by-week plan to help you prepare for any emergency this month and all year long. Let’s get started!

September 1-4: Make A Plan

Talk to your friends and family about how you will communicate before, during, and after a disaster.
Consider the specific needs of your household. Does it include children, elderly persons, persons with special needs, pets?

Write out a Family Emergency Communication Plan.

Update your plan based on COVID-19 recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

September 2021 Healthinfo Island Topics

(Note: all images are linked to their associated Second Life locations.)

You can teleport to any of the eight displays and exhibits using the SLURLs in this blog. Click on the poster with the same name as the title of the poster set and you will get a notecard that contains all the text of the posters plus descriptions of the images. 

If you click each poster, you will get a message with additional information and live links.

Image of the central pavilion at Healthinfo Island
Central Pavilion of Healthinfo Island

Central Pavilion of Healthinfo Island

Check out the calming breathing exercise on the back wall!


I'm Tired of Fatigue!

Picture of woman yawning while driving a vehicle

20 Powerful Heart Health Foods

The words "20 Powerful Heart Health Foods" on a multicolored background

September 20-24 is Falls Prevention Awareness Week.

Be sure to take the risk assessment quiz at the link in the first poster.

Text "September 20-24 is Falls Prevention Awareness Week"

Why Bone Health is Important

Plant Foods We Should Cook Before Eating

Text "Plant foods we should cook before eating" on a green background

September is Preparedness Month

Picture of a child, her mother, and her grandmother preparing

Some Possible Reasons for “Brain Fog”

Some possible reasons for brain fog

Who's Who in Eye Care?

 Picture of a woman's brown eye

Thanks to Virtual Ability member Mook Wheeler for assistance with the posters this month.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day

White letters on a green square - "Do you know what an overdose looks like?"

The aims of International Overdose Awareness Day are to:

  • End overdose,
  • Remember those who have died, without stigma, and
  • Acknowledge the grief of the families and friends left behind by those who have died.

The theme of International Overdose Day is “Time to Remember. Time to Act.” Find out more about International Overdose Awareness Day, including ways you can get involved, here:

An overdose occurs when someone has more of a drug or drugs in their body than their system can cope with. Any drug, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, illegal drugs, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, can cause an overdose. Overdosing symptoms vary with the type of drug(s) involved.

What is tolerance?

Tolerance to the effects of drugs build up with regular drug use. Tolerance means that the person needs to take more and more of the drug to continue to get the same effect.

You lose tolerance if you haven’t used the drug in a while. This can happen from being in rehab, a detox program, or in prison without access to drugs. Tolerance wears off. Then if you return to drug use at your former high level, you are likely to overdose because your body is no longer used to that much of the drug.

What is half-life?

Any drug, once taken, begins to become less effective as time passes. Some drugs are metabolized into other substances, others are eliminated from the body. As the amount of the drug in your system decreases, you feel fewer effects from it.

It is important to understand the half-life of drugs. This is the time that it takes for a dose to drop down to half strength in the body. For instance, the half-life of Valium is 24 hours. This means that a day after taking a dose of Valium, half of it remains active in your body. If you take the same dose 24 hours after taking the first dose, you will then have 1 ½ doses active in your body at the same time, which could be an overdose. Understanding half-lives is particularly important when multiple drugs are involved.

Doesn’t Naloxone help?

Yes, Naloxone (Narcan) is a medication used to revive people who have had an overdose of opioids (methadone or oxycontin, for example). It is very effective for this use. However, an important caution after being administered naloxone is that you risk having an urge to take more of the drug that caused the overdose in the first place.

This is because of a difference in half-lives between naloxone and opioids. While the half-life of opioids is around 12 hours (meaning half the overdose amount is still in your body half a day later), the half-life of naloxone is much shorter, only 60-90 minutes. Naloxone is powerful immediately after being administered, but its effects wear off much faster than do the effects of the opioids. It is important for people who have been revived with naloxone to not return to taking the drug that caused the overdose.

Remember, overdose death is a preventable tragedy. Your advocacy to end overdose could save lives as well as sorrow.

NOTE: Memes and logos here:

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Too Good to Be True? Free and Low-Cost Tech Education to Boost Your Career

Woman sitting behind laptop showing "Never Stop Learning"

One result of the pandemic is the opening up of numerous technology-related jobs which can be done from home. This can be a boon to a person with a disability, if they possess the requisite tech skills. If you are hoping to educate yourself in a skill area that interests you, or if you need certification of your skill set for your resumé, TechRepublic has listed a number of tech education opportunities that just might be what you need. And best of all, most of these are being offered for free, or at a significantly reduced cost.

Web development is a hot tech career right now. You can learn the necessary skills in MySQL, PHP, GitHub and more to move into this high tech area by studying the programming languages and database skills in the low-cost “Modern Web Development & MySQL Programming Bundle”.

If that sounds too advanced, you might want to start with the “2021 Ultimate GitOps Certification Bundle”. This package of various courses for beginners in technology fields teachers about the Python programming language, GIT, Kubernetes and even offers a guide for developing websites without coding.

Learn basic Kotlin software development for free. Kotlin is the language used for Android app development, which is an exploding career field.

With the “Raspberry Pi and Arduino Bootcamp Bundle,” you will build up to working in robotics. The price of this educational package has been greatly reduced.

Cisco certification will prepare network administrators for work with hybrid-cloud networks. Studying for the certification exam is aided by a deeply discounted “2021 Cisco CCNA and CCNP Certification Training Bundle.”

Take advantage of these free or inexpensive educational opportunities to bolster your technical capabilities and improve your career opportunities.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Ewwww!! Jellyfish!!

Jellyfish with long tentacles swimming in the ocean

If you go to the beach on coastal waters during the summer, you may notice strange gelatinous blobs lying on the sand. You may see what looks like a swarm of plastic bags floating on the waves. If you encounter the trailing tentacles of these creatures, you may develop a burning stinging sensation which is impossible to forget once experienced. Here’s what you need to know about jellyfish.

Although aquatic, jellyfish are not fish. They usually consist of an umbrella-shaped bell from which dangle tentacles armed with stinging cells. These nematocysts discharge a barbed stinger that injects venom into anything it touches; the jellyfish uses these stingers to catch prey and ward off enemies. Since the tentacles of some species of jellyfish are many meters long, you can be stung even if no jellyfish are visible. The dead jellyfish on the beach are also capable of stinging.

If you are stung by a jellyfish, some first aid measures are more effective than others. It appears that common treatments (vinegar, hot water, ice packs, meat tenderizer, even urine) may be ineffective or may only work for stings from certain kinds of jellyfish.

Start by scraping the affected skin with something stiff like the edge of a credit card to remove the jelly, tentacles and nematocysts. Dispose of the removed material; don’t leave it on the sand for someone else to step in. Then apply hydrocortisone cream to the damaged area to reduce both pain and inflammation. If the pain involves itching, antihistamines may help. Seek medical attention if these measures do not bring relief.

The best way to deal with jellyfish stings, though, is to avoid them. Pay attention to beach safety flags. Purple means marine pests such as jellyfish are present (but this doesn’t include sharks). Warning signs may also be used to help swimmers stay safe. It is wise to heed warnings about the presence of jellyfish, as the sting of some species can be deadly, especially to small children.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Healthy (and Unhealthy) Cooking Oils

Bottle of olive oil with pour spout on a kitchen counter
Healthy Cooking Oil - Olive Oil

There are many kinds of cooking oils. It can be difficult to decide which ones are healthiest. 

Unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are better to lower cholesterol. Fats which stay solid at room temperature, such as butter, lard and coconut oil, are high in saturated fats, and are unhealthy with regard to cholesterol. So are liquid oils made from tropical plants (e.g., coconut oil and palm oil), which are higher in saturated fats than other plant oils.

But beside the amount of unsaturated fat, you should also consider the oil’s smoke point. When you heat any oil, it begins to break down. Heat it hot enough and it begins to smoke. It is not healthy to cook anything in oil that has degraded to the point of smoking, so for higher temperature cooking, you will want to use an oil with a high smoke point.

This means the best oil for cooking depends on what you are making. For low temperature baking and sautéing (up to about 350-400 degrees F (175-200 degrees C), you can use canola, grapeseed or olive oil. For browning or roasting in an over up to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) or searing, peanut oil or avocado oil would be better.

Choose the right oil for the task and you will be happy with the results. So will your arteries.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

The Peale Founder's Day Celebration

A sign is posted in the Peale courtyard saying "Happy Birthday to the Peale - Join us for our Founder's Day Celebration Sunday, August 15th at 3 pm SLT - Click for Details."  8 balloons are beside the sign.  Fun and colorful strips hang from a cord by the balloons.  In front of the strips is a round table with a two-tier cake in front of it.  Another set of 8 balloons is on the other side of the strips.

Sunday, August 15

3 p.m. SLT/Pacific -- 6 p.m. ET

The Peale Museum

Join us on The Peale Museum island for a screening of the Founder's Day event to celebrate the 1 year birthday of the Peale in Second Life, and the 207th birthday of the physical Peale, located in Baltimore, Maryland. This live broadcast will be "projected" into the courtyard of the Virtual Peale, providing a portal into the physical Peale. Meet RL artists, staff and partners from the Peale, and see the progress of the ongoing restoration of the oldest museum building in America, established in 1814 by artist Rembrandt Peale. The hour-long event will also feature a musical performance by Scott Patterson for the Proximity Project, a history and demonstration of silhouette cutting with Lauren Muney, and a look back at Out Of The Blocks with Aaron Henkin.

The event includes live human generated captions and American Sign Language interpretation. For more information about transcripts, captioning, and other accessibility resources, please visit the Peale's accessibility page. If you have any additional accommodation requests ahead of time, questions or feedback about access, please contact our Accessibility Manager Robin Marquis at

Saturday, August 7, 2021

TIP - Increase Your Fiber Intake, One Meal at a Time

By Gentle Heron

If you are in serious need of more fiber in your diet, it is important not to increase how much you eat all at once. Instead, try making a small change once a week, one meal at a time.

For breakfast, increase the fiber content of your cereal. Fiber-rich offerings contain at least 5 grams of fiber in a single serving. Read the nutrition label to check how much is in different brands and flavors of both hot and cold cereals.

Build your lunch sandwich on whole-grain bread. Read the nutrition labels of different breads to find those with at least 2 grams of fiber per serving. Beware of deceptive brand names like “multi-grain” or “enriched,” which may not indicate the bread is whole-grain.

Choose your supper carbs wisely. Cook brown rice instead of white and use whole-wheat pasta for an extra fiber boost.

Dietary fiber is important for your health in many ways. It reduces constipation by helping food waste move smoothly through the digestive tract. It stabilizes blood sugar and helps you maintain a lower blood pressure. Make simple food substitutions to increase the amount of fiber in your diet.

Monday, August 2, 2021

By Gentle Heron

You can teleport to any of the eight displays and exhibits using the SLURLs in this posting. After you arrive, click on the poster with the same name as the title of the poster set, and you will get a notecard that contains all the text of the posters plus descriptions of the images.

If you click each poster, you will get a message with additional information and live links.

Central Pavilion of Healthinfo Island

1. What is Spasticity?
image of hands, image of an OT pressing the knee of a prone client

2. Scoliosis
3 x-rays, 2 pictures of the spine, doctor examining the back of a patient

3. August is Water Quality Month
August is Water Quality Month

4. Hydration for Health (get a free glass of water to sip!)
Turquoise Rectangle with Hydration for Health in it.

5. Contact Lens Health
Blue gradient background with the words Contact Lens Health

6. Eye Health and Amblyopia Awareness Month
Blue to green gradient background with the words August is Eye Health and Amblyopia Month

7. Viral Variants
Lab technician uses an instrument, 10 viruses pictures, This information is current as of July 2021

8. August is Immunization Awareness Month
Green gradient background with the words August is National Immunization Awareness Month

Also check out the calming breathing exercise on the back wall!

Saturday, July 31, 2021

‘Conversation about Long–COVID’ Webinar on Monday August 2nd at 1 p.m. SLT

By Gentle Heron

On July 26, 2021, the US federal government released a package of resources to support individuals experiencing long-term symptoms of COVID-19, known commonly as “Long–COVID”. This guidance, a collaborative effort between the Departments of Health and Human Services, Justice, Education, and Labor provides information about where individuals can access resources and accommodations and clarifies the rights for health, educational, and support services.

The White House Office of Public Engagement, in conjunction with agency partners from HHS, Education, and Labor, invites you to a Conversation about Long–COVID on Monday, August 2nd from 1-1:45 p.m. SLT (4-4:45 p.m. EDT). The agenda is to review the published guidance, provide information on how to access support services, and answer questions from the audience.

If you wish to attend the webinar, please register for it at this link below:

Each individual attendee must register in order to gain access to the meeting.

ASL interpreting and CART will be provided. If there are any other accommodations that would make this meeting accessible to you, please indicate it in the registration form.

**Note that this conversation will be off-the-record and is closed to the press.

Are You Dense About Food Density?

Food density is not about brick-like Yule fruitcakes. It means caloric density, or the number of calories in a volume of food.

High density foods have a lot of calories in a small amount of food. These are fatty foods such as fast food meals and fatty meats, and sugary items such as candy, cakes, cookies, and sodas.

Low density foods have fewer calories in each amount. They often have a lot of water or fiber, and tend to be low fat. Most fruits and vegetables are low density foods.

Eating low density foods is helpful for your diet, because you feel fuller with a lower calorie intake. The water in vegetables and fruits increases the volume in your stomach, allowing you to feel satisfied with much fewer calories. The fiber in whole grains and vegetables not only increases your sense of fullness, but helps you feel fuller longer because it takes longer to digest.

Switching to lower density foods should be done gradually. Let your body accommodate itself to the increase in fluid volume and fiber content. You will improve your health overall by making this switch.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

TIP - Two Things to Be Sure Are Full Before You Grocery Shop

1. A list - Between shopping trips or online orders, make an ongoing list of items you are running low on. You really won’t want to run out of milk, eggs, or toilet paper. If you plan meals ahead (and that’s a good idea!), add any ingredients to your shopping list that you will need.

2. Your stomach - If you shop when you are hungry, you are more likely to pick up junk food. It’s easy to avoid that temptation by eating before shopping.

When you head to the grocery store with a full stomach and a complete shopping list, you will probably come home with nutritious and healthy foods.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Did You Know That Your Diet Can Help You Fight Aging?

Two-Tiered Cake With 50 at the Top

By Gentle Heron

Here are some mealtime ideas that will help you feel younger and stay healthier longer as the number of candles on your birthday cake increases.

• Drink more water. Older people do not feel thirsty as readily as younger people, so they risk dehydration. Drink water at every meal; it’s better for you than drinks with sugar, alcohol or caffeine.

• Be aware of calories. Metabolism slows as we age, so we need lower calorie meals and snacks.

• Get enough protein. A third of older adults do not eat enough protein, which your body uses to renew many tissues. Meat is a good source of protein, but so are dairy products and legumes.

• Adequate calcium is necessary for bone health. Bone mass decreases with age, leading to an increased risk of fractures. Dairy products are a good source of that mineral, but 
lactose malabsorption and intolerance also increases with age. Other sources of calcium include canned fish (with bones), beans and nuts.

You may not taste things as well when you age, but avoid adding extra salt. That won’t help your blood pressure. Instead use herbs and spices which have the added benefit of fighting inflammation.

• Be sure you get enough potassium to help control blood pressure, which tends to increase with age. Good dietary sources of potassium include greens (beets, chard, spinach, etc.), lima beans, and sweet potatoes.

• Avoid constipation caused by inadequate fiber intake. Be sure you get enough fibrous fruits and vegetables as salads, snacks, and desserts.

• Since some vitamins (e.g., B12 and D) are more difficult to obtain from food as you get older, you may need a specific supplement. Check with your doctor first, and if a supplement is recommended, buy one that contains only what you need without unnecessary other ingredients.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Celebrate Your Disability Pride in July

I am a warrior poster with drawings of Wonder Woman and Batman speeding in wheelchairsLogo of the Chicago Disability Pride Parade showing a circle of hands with many skin colors, one signing, I Love You, and another a prosthetic hook.
By Gentle Heron

Disability pride is about recognizing and celebrating our self-worth as people with disabilities. We are a very diverse group of individuals, and we need to band together to support disability justice. Disability pride encourages us to reject ableism, and stop hiding or denying our disabilities because we are ashamed of them.

On July 26, 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This marked a significant step in the progress of persons with disabilities toward independence. The ADA legislation is intended to protect the rights of people with disabilities in five key areas: employment, state and local government facilities and services, public accommodations, telecommunications, and transportation. As such, the ADA is part of the civil rights movement. It not only protects people with disabilities from discrimination, but also allows us to participate in our communities equally with people who do not have disabilities.

Disability Pride Month has been celebrated in July since 1990. Often a city will hold a Disability Pride Parade on July 26 or the last Saturday in July. These parades are meant to celebrate diversity and fight disability stigma. You can participate in a virtual Disability Pride Parade on social media on July 26. Or you can share your Disability Pride throughout July, and the rest of the year as well.

For more information about Disability Pride, please visit the following:

“Disability Pride Toolkit and Resource Guide” from the National Council on Independent Living -

“5 Questions to Think About This #DisabilityPrideMonth” -

“A chance to ‘amplify one another’: What is Disability Pride Month?” -

How will you show your Disability Pride?

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

How Can Whole-Grain Foods Help your Blood Pressure?

By Gentle Heron

Whole-grain foods include the fibrous bran and the germ, not just the starchy endosperm of the grain or seed. They are a good source of healthy nutrients and minerals, in addition to fiber.

Whole-grain foods help reduce your risk of high blood pressure, or might help lower hypertension by providing several health benefits.

Eating whole-grain versions of foods you already enjoy, such as breads and pasta, can help your weight management. They tend to make you feel fuller longer.

Whole-grains contain significant potassium. This mineral has been shown to lower blood pressure.

Blood vessel damage can take many forms, several of which increase the risk of high blood pressure. Whole grain foods reduce damage to blood vessels.

Insulin resistance is a condition where the body does not respond properly to the hormone insulin. Insulin controls the amount of the sugar glucose in the bloodstream. Insulin resistance can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Eating more whole grains increases insulin sensitivity.

The Dietary Guideline for Americans suggests that adults should eat at least 3 ounces of whole grains daily as part of a healthy diet. That’s just three slices of whole-wheat bread. According to the guidelines, at least half of all grain products you eat should be 100% whole grain.

With all these benefits, why not try eating more whole-grain foods?

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

A Fun Way to Learn about the ADA - July 7th


By Gentle Heron

The ten regional ADA centers are doing an ADA Jeopardy game on Zoom on Wednesday, July 7th, at 11 a.m. SLT (2 p.m. Eastern Time).

Topics for the Jeopardy questions will include:

  • Employment (ADA Title I),
  • State and Local Government (ADA Title II),
  • Public Accommodations (ADA Title III),
  • Accessible Technologies,
  • Effective Communication,
  • Facility Access,
  • Reasonable Accommodation, and
  • Reasonable Modification of Policy and Procedures.

You can ask your own personal question when you register for the session.

Register here:

Saturday, July 3, 2021

What is Internet Security?: Part 1 - How a home network operates

Internet security is a really big topic.  But what does it mean?  Does it mean:

  • Keeping your antivirus up to date?
  • Updating your operating system and applications regularly?
  • Keeping your private information safe from prying eyes?
  • Making sure your data is secure and recoverable in case of disaster?

It means all those things, and more.  In addition to those, and most importantly, it means:

  • Having a basic understanding of how the Internet works.
  • Educating yourself about how Internet evildoers attempt to take over your computer and/or gather your private information.

Why is it important to understand how computers talk on the Internet?

The old saying goes “knowledge is power.”  Without understanding the process of how basic computer communications work it is impossible to decide how to best protect yourself.  Think of it as “if I do not understand my house’s security weaknesses, I cannot protect it.”

How is my home network constructed?

We start at the beginning – the home network.  Here is a standard home network configuration:

Figure 1:  Standard Home Network Configuration

Your devices talk to the home router using either an Ethernet cable or a wireless network connection.  That is fine and dandy, but we need a deeper dive into the home router to understand how information is transmitted to and from your devices and servers on the Internet.

Why is it called a “home router”?

Devices connected to your home router are on one network.  Everything else is on other networks.  Your home router “routes” communications between networks.  If there were no routers all devices would have to be on one network, which is not possible.

Understanding how your home router works requires looking under the hood.  This is how nearly all home routers are constructed internally:

Figure 2: Home router internal breakout

Let’s define each of these components.

  • Switch:  so-called because it “switches” information from one device to another; this is what allows your home router to connect many devices to the Internet and your devices to talk to one another.
  • Ethernet-Inside:  this is the network connection on the firewall that talks to your devices.
  • Ethernet-Outside:  this is the network connection on the firewall that talks to the Internet.
  • Firewall:  the heart and soul of any home router, the firewall acts as a gatekeeper and does the job of routing communications between networks.

How does the firewall act as a gatekeeper?

In general, the firewall allows requests to go from inside your network to the Internet.  When the requested information comes back from the Internet the firewall matches that information with the requests going out.  If they match, you get your email, web pages, Google Docs, OneDrive, and cat videos.  If information comes into the firewall from the Internet and there is no matching request, the firewall will not respond to (“drop”) that connection attempt.  Remember that.  If a server on the Internet attempts to talk to your home router without you previously requesting information from that server, the firewall will simply drop that communication.

How does the firewall keep things straight?

The details would send us down a rabbit hole from which we would never return, so we’ll keep things fairly general.

We’re going to talk about “IP addresses.”  There are two kinds:  Internet Protocol (IP) version 4 and version 6 (IPv4 and IPv6).  We will talk only about IPv4 right now (shown here as IP).  IPv6 will be discussed at some point in the future.

  • Your firewall has two IP addresses.
    • The “Ethernet-Inside” IP address will be something like (emphasis on the 1, here) and is often called the “default gateway.”  This IP address is not routable to or from the Internet.  What that means is if I take a device with an IP address that belongs on my home network and connect it directly to the Internet, nothing will talk to it.  All routers on the Internet will not talk to anything with an IP address that belongs on a home network.  More about that later.
    • The “Ethernet-Outside” IP address will be assigned by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and is routable because this IP address is part of the public IP address space (more about that later).
  • Each device on your home network gets a different IP address that is only accessible to devices on your home network – like 192.168.0.something.  (Something in this case will be anywhere from 2 through 254.)  Your firewall knows the IP address of each device on your network and puts it in a table.
  • When your computer makes a request for data to the Internet (email, web pages, videos, etc.) the firewall adds to the table what server you're trying to talk to on which specific “port.”  To make a long story shorter, the firewall waits for a response from the server on the Internet (from which you requested information) to that specific port.  When, and if, the response comes back to the firewall from the Internet, the firewall matches it to the table; if the ports are the same, it will forward the information back to your computer.

Wait – you said someone could try connecting to my home router from the Internet.  Could someone be trying to hack my home router?

Yes.  In fact, it happens constantly in an automated process.  There are millions of computers on the Internet constantly scanning for home routers they can access.  These computers are usually controlled from a series of central locations.  Each group of computers controlled by a central location is called a “botnet.”  There is nothing you can do to stop one of those computers from trying to talk to your home router.  What you can do is make sure your home router is configured correctly (so it drops the connection attempt) and keep its software updated.

Update my home router?  How do I do that?  How often should I check?

Home routers are single-purpose computers and, like any computer, are controlled by software.  If you acquired your home router from your Internet Service Provider, generally the ISP will keep it updated.  If you bought your own home router it will be your responsibility to occasionally check for updates.  Fortunately, every home router has a website you can log on to for that purpose.

Your home router has a web page used to administer it.  You will need two pieces of information:

1.       The default gateway mentioned above

a.       To get the default gateway,

                                                   i.      On a Windows computer, in the Search box type “powershell” and click on the app that is presented to you.  Next, type “ipconfig” and press Enter.  Look for the line that says “Default Gateway” with an IP address.  Write that down.

                                                  ii.      On a Mac or Linux, open the Terminal program.  At the prompt, type “ifconfig” and press Enter.  Again, look for the default gateway in the output.  It will be somewhat buried, but you will see it.  It will almost always be the IP address that ends in “1.”  Write that down.

2.       The default username and password

a.     To find the default username, open a web page and use your favorite search engine to look for this phrase:  “make and model of your home router default username.”  So, if I had a Netgear C6230 (you’ll find the make and model on the back or bottom of your home router), you would search for “Netgear 6230 default username.”  Or you can download the manual from the manufacturer’s website and search for “username.”

b.     The password will be listed with the username in the documentation.

The home router’s documentation will explain how to search for updates.  Generally, this is a button that will say “Check for updates.”  If an update is available, follow the instructions on the web page to download and install it.

While you are doing this, change the password for the default username to something secure.  Write that password down and keep it safe.  If any security issues are found with your home router that might allow someone on the Internet to use the default username and password to log on to it this will foil their attempt.

Updates to a home router’s software is infrequent.  Check every three months to six months.

Sometimes your Internet Service Provider will help you do this, but they will tell you they cannot take responsibility for updating the software.

You mentioned that IP addresses on a home network are not routable – what addresses are they?

IP addresses have four pieces, separated by a “.”.  Each piece starts at 0 and goes to 255.  For example, a IP address could be  Here is what it looks like generally:

[0-255] . [0-255] . [0-255] . [0-255]

IP addresses are broken up into six classes with specific ranges.  Those ranges are:

Table 1: IP Addresses by Class






Class A –



Class B –



Class C –



Class D –

Multicast – not assigned to a computer


Class E –

Research only


Reserved –

Loopback, for testing

All the IP address ranges in Classes A through C are part of the public IP address space, except for ranges reserved for private networks.  The ranges are:

Table 2: Private IP Addresses




Class A –

Private IP addresses

Class B –

Assigned by the computer itself if it can­not other­wise get a network address

Class B –

Private IP addresses

Class C –

Private IP addresses

Any IP address in the public address space is routable on the Internet – that is, Internet routers will accept communications from and send communications to any device with a public IP address.  Addresses in private networks cannot talk directly on the Internet – all equipment on the Internet will refuse to communicate with any machine that has an IP address in those ranges.

Figure 3: Internet routers refuse communications with private IP addresses

What it means for you is this:  if your home network is functioning correctly your computer will have a IP address in one of the private IP ranges listed above.  Assuming your home router is working and correctly configured your home computers are safe from someone trying to break into your network.  The firewall and routing functions in your home router will protect you.

Of course, this does not mean you do not need antivirus.  The most common way for hackers to break into your computer is to convince you to let them in.  That will be our next topic.

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