Secure Your Holiday Gifts in 3 Easy Steps

january 04, 2021 | internet security
Secure Your Holiday Gifts in 3 Easy Steps

You’ve heard the saying, “Good things come in small packages.” Many of us dream of tiny gifts this holiday season – tiny enough to hold in the palm of one hand. That diminutive present on your wish list, small in measurements if not price tag, might contain jewelry or electronics. It's not easy to hack a gold necklace, but brand-new electronic toys are another story, and hacker Grinches are lurking everywhere.


If a new treasure, complete with new apps, puts a twinkle in your eye, don't enter a new digital world without some commonsense measures to protect your data.


How big is the threat?


Demand for the latest tech has exploded. We're talking smartphones, laptops, smartwatches, fitness trackers, photo sticks, and home assistants. Even drones and the lowly internet-enabled light bulb make the list.


The ideal time to study device security is before purchase, but gift buyers may skip that step. So consider safety before you add these new toys to your Internet of Things (IoT) network.


Anything that connects to your home WiFi, including something as simple as a smart light bulb, could let hackers access your broader home network and security cameras. Health tracker devices collect a wealth of medical data that could be sold if your device leaks data. Each internet-connected item carries some level of risk, but those items that monitor your messages and reads them aloud when they recognize your voice top the list.


3 rules to get you on the road to increased security.


Rule #1 for 2021: Make a resolutions list for the New Year that starts with security. Sure, you want to play with the bells and whistles but put safety first.  


Rule #2: There could be new apps asking for permission to access data. Studies document that most users just check "Accept." Stop and reflect first. Do you really want to grant these apps administrator privileges or let them track your locations over the river and through the woods? Please don't give any app permissions that are unnecessary for your devices to perform their intended tasks. The designer could be simply collecting your data to sell; grant only the minimum access required and guard your privacy.


Remember, updated apps could be different from their predecessors.


Consider what happens if another firm buys the app maker. Your user profile and data get sold too. Notifications could be iffy, and you'll end up bound to the terms and conditions of the new company. There are strong reasons to read those privacy policies.


Rule #3: This is probably the most straightforward rule, but it often gets overlooked. Understand how the manufacturer updates its products in the event of a security bug or safety issue. Does the company notify purchasers? Program your phone to remind you to check for periodic updates to software and firmware every few months.


If that sounds too difficult, you can opt for auto updates but remember, there is a risk of getting a buggy update on occasion.


How to detect compromises.


When tech gets breached, a red warning sign does not always pop up. A Grinch can invade your smartphone or computer without leaving obvious clues. Some hackers want access to your device to launch Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. These botnets often target businesses to swamp and crash vital networks.

Here are a pair of telltale signs:

  1. Is your device slowing down even with the newest updates?

  2. Have you noticed an increase in pop-up ads?

Either change might indicate that a botnet army has recruited your device. Run some malware and anti-virus scans ASAP.


What's the solution?


Data can be very slippery; here are some ways to lock it down:


  • Make a backup or two. It needn't be everything, just anything you don't want to lose!

  • Encrypt sensitive information.

  • Investigate security tools your device maker provides

  • Consider anti-virus for Android or Apple smartphones.

  • Add a guest login to your home IoT network to give friends and visitors access without sharing your passcodes.

  • Set up a secure home network.

Hackers seek the easiest path to access IoT devices. Creating a more complex one will serve as a significant deterrent.


IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. For complete terms, coverage and conditions, please see an identity theft plan. All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. This is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations.

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