Burton Kelso, Tech Expert
How to Secure Your Holiday Technology Gifts
It doesn't matter if you're getting some smart home items, computers, phones, or tablets for holiday gifts, you need to remember to set up those tech items in a way where they aren't going to be compromised by hackers. Cyber-criminals are always on the prowl for your personal information so it's in your best interest to make sure those new tech toys are going to be safe and secure in the coming year. Not sure where to start? These tips should help you get started in the right direction.
1. Create strong security for your online accounts. Usually, the difference between you getting hacked and not getting hacked is the strength of your passwords. In our digital society, most of our online accounts are web-accessible. This makes it convenient for you to get access to your stuff, but that means criminals can get access to it too. Using secure passwords means you minimize the risk that your devices will be hacked. Make sure all of your devices and online accounts have 2 Factor Authentication enabled. Also, you will want to make sure you're not using the same password for your devices and online accounts so you don't fall victim to 'credential stuffing' or hackers using your breached information hiding on the dark web to access your stuff. Also, keep tabs on data breaches by visiting www.haveibeenpwned.com
2. Stop Your Devices From Spying on You. Smart devices are great because of all of the information that they allow us to access. The downside, these devices are keeping track of what you view and what you read. Many Smart TVs use a feature called ACR, or “Automatic Content Recognition.” This feature scans what you watch and sends the data to marketing firms to they can send targeted ads to you. Google and Amazon are guilty of using your recordings to develop their software. Ring users can potentially have their home and office locations made public because of their neighbors' software features. Fortunately, each of these devices allows you to enable privacy settings and remove your user information.
3. Setup Your Devices to Perform Automatic Backups. If you got new tech devices as gifts that store data, make sure you have set up automatic backups for them. You never know when your devices will get hit with a virus, ransomware or just fail. You have many options to choose from such as Carbonite (www.carbonite.com) Google Backup and Sync (www.google.com) and iCloud Backup (www.apple.com).
4. Don't Let Your Neighbors Know What Gifts You Purchased. It's tempting after the gift exchange is done to set those old boxes on the curb. Yes, those boxes are out of the house, but you're also advertising your new tech to thieves who are looking to get some holiday tech gifts of their own. Break those boxes down and hide them in closed-lid recycling containers to keep them out of prying eyes. If you have space, you might want to keep those boxes. Most tech gear is under warranty for at least a year. If you keep your boxes, it's easy for you to ship your items back if you need warranty repair. If you like selling your old tech items, they have more appeal if you resell them in their original boxes.
5. Update Your Devices On a Regular Basis. Hackers are always looking for new ways to get into your devices and the companies that make your hardware devices are aware of this. When a bug or security flaw is discovered, hackers will take advantage of this. That's why hardware and software companies work hard to patch your gadgets to keep you safe. It's always important to make sure you update your software and hardware devices.
6. Register your devices. I never used to register my devices, but I do now. So many changes with tech devices such as product recalls, updates, and security vulnerabilities. When you register your tech gear, you will always know what your warranty is, if there are any product updates, and get faster access to tech support if you have problems with your devices. In some cases, registering your device can help you recover your devices if they are stolen.
7. Enable Device Tracking for Mobile Items. All smart gadgets are sought after by thieves which is why it's a good idea to enable the tracking features of your devices. The GPS feature built into your devices will help you recover your device if it's lost or stolen. If you have Apple products, you can enable the 'Find My' feature for your iPhone, MacBook Pro or iPad. If you have Windows 10 device, you can enable Windows tracking, and Android computers, phones, and tablets have the "Find My Device' feature.
8. Stop giving out your email and mobile number. Email addresses that are out in the public domain allow criminals to log into your online accounts and put you at risk of spam messages in your inbox. Create an email with a free email provider that you share with the public and keep one for your personal use. Same thing with your mobile number. If a criminal get ahold of your smartphone number, they can resort to SIM card fraud which puts your smartphone account at risk of being lost forever.
Hopefully, this guide has given you some clarity on what to do to protect your tech items. Tech gifts sometimes make the best gifts to receive during the holiday season. In our digital age, you need to take extra steps to make sure your devices are protected from cybercriminals and thieves to ensure that you're able to enjoy your gadgets safely and securely for a long time. If you need further assistance, please reach out to me with any questions you might have. I am always happy to help!
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