It’s exciting to tear into your holiday gifts, but after the excitement fades and it’s time to set up those smart devices and other electronic gifts, there are a few things to remember to keep your home and your information safe from cyber attackers.
First, most devices will need to connect to your home WiFi network. Make sure your router has at least WPA2 encryption enabled (although WPA3 is even better) and that it’s secured with a strong, unique password. You might even consider creating a separate guest network for non-essential smart home devices. That way, if a hacker gets access to one device, they can’t get access to other important devices on the same network.
Entertainment is almost always at the top of the gift-giving lists, and particularly, gaming systems. Most gaming systems require personal information, usernames and passwords, and payment information. Unfortunately, the gaming industry doesn’t have a great track record of keeping personal information safe. Limit what information you provide and consider using fake personal information, such as your name, location, or birthdate.
As with any system that requires a login, make sure you’re using a long, strong password, and make sure it’s not one you use anywhere else. If the password gets hacked, it can put any account that uses the same credentials at risk. Many gaming systems also have cameras and microphones. Be sure to turn them off when they’re not in use, and check the devices setting to be sure you’re not sharing anything you don’t need to, such as your geolocation. Also be sure your gaming system receives regular security updates.
Smart TVs are also popular gifts, and they share a lot more personal information than you think. Newer smart TVs have microphones that are great for voice navigation, but are also constantly listening to your conversations. Turn the microphone off then it’s not in use. Smart TVs also share your information back with manufacturers and app developers. Only download apps from trustworthy app stores, and be sure to check your privacy settings to limit sharing as much as possible. Also, be sure to make sure the firmware is updated regularly to patch any security issues that come up.
Smart Speakers/Home Hubs
Similarly, things like smart speakers and home hubs are always listening or watching. Turn off or mute the camera or microphone when it’s not needed, and be sure to adjust your privacy or data retention settings. Think about a good location for it, and don’t put it near a window or in a spot where strangers can give it voice commands. Hackers have even figured out a way to use lasers to activate these devices, so also make sure it’s not visible from a window. Some smart speakers can recognize your voice so others can’t give it commands. Activating this feature will give you extra protection… as well as turning off the purchase function, or requiring a password before a purchase can be made. Always keep its operating system updated for security patches, and regularly check the settings and permissions to make sure you’re only sharing information with those you intend to.
Computers, Tablets and Phones
Computers, tables, and smartphones are also popular gifts, and they are also what cybercriminals target most, because of all of the personal information on them. When setting up these devices, make sure you use a strong and unique password or passphrase as your first line of defense. Also be sure to limit sharing your information as much as possible. This includes personal information on any apps or programs you install, as well as real-time information, such as your location. Make sure anything you install is from a trusted source, and consider installing anti-virus software as an added layer of protection. Finally, be sure to keep both the operating system and the apps and software up-to-date because new security holes need to be patched on a regular basis. See how you can help protect your phone from hackers.
Health Tracking Devices
Health information is also a huge target for cybercriminals. So if you got a health tracking watch, or another piece of smart health equipment, be careful with how the device shares your health information. Check the devices’ privacy and sharing policies, and change your settings appropriately. Sharing your workouts or other information on social media can tell a cybercriminal more than they need to know about your daily routine.
More devices than ever before connect to the internet, creating more security concerns than ever before. It’s important to remember that most manufacturers want to keep their prices down and make sure the things they make are easy for customers to use. Unfortunately, security is often a second thought. Be sure to put the proper security in place where you can to make sure you and your family’s information is protected.