From your phone to your smart TV, your virtual assistant to your streaming devices, your favorite video game system to your smart home devices, your home is filled with devices that make life easier. Unfortunately, these same items also open you up to security risks. With all of your Internet-connected devices, how do you keep your home safe? Here are a few cybersecurity tips and recommendations to ensure that your devices give you the entertainment and convenience you want and none of the risks you don’t.
10 Cybersecurity Tips for the Internet-connected Home
1. Always Update Your Software
It can be frustrating when you sit down with your popcorn to watch a movie and a software update alert pops up on your streaming device. We know it is sometimes tempting to click the “install later” button when an update appears, especially when the update doesn’t promise a cool interface or fun new features. But, those updates often contain important bug fixes and remedies for identified cybersecurity issues and breaches.
2. Make It Automatic
Set up your devices to automatically download and update your apps, browsers, and operating systems. While we are used to updating our phones and computers, it’s also important to remember to enable automatic update settings on all of your Internet-connected devices, including smart TVs, streaming devices, smart assistants, and even the GPS in your car.
3. Create Strong Passwords For Your Devices And Update Them Regularly
Most devices come with a default password as part of factory setup. Unfortunately, those can usually be found pretty easily on the internet, generally, with no ill intent, someone may have uploaded the user manual or posted the information on a troubleshooting forum. But if you can find it when you are having an issue, that means that someone else with more nefarious plans can also find it.
4. Use a Password Keeper
You have to keep track of passwords for your devices, your Wi-Fi, apps, websites, and programs. That is a lot to remember and many of them have their own specific requirements. Once you come up with a password that checks all of the boxes of upper and lowercase letters, plus a number and a special character, it can be tempting to use the same one everywhere. But using a password any more than once increases your risk. You don’t have to challenge yourself to remember all these new passwords. A password keeper allows you to keep all of your logins safely encrypted.
5. Twice as Nice
Two-factor or multi-factor authentication is a more secure verification method than just a password alone. It allows a user to gain entry only after presenting multiple pieces of information. This is often a password and then a code sent to your email or cell phone. We recommend you turn on this added layer of security for any of your apps, devices, or websites that connect to financial data like a bank account, but it makes sense to also have it turned on for any app, program, or device that offers it.
6. Turn Off Data Gathering
When you download a new program or install a new device, or if an app or device crashes, there will often be a prompt to share that information with the manufacturer or developer. While it sounds like sending that information may help you and other users avoid those issues in the future, a database full of user data is a very compelling target for hackers.
7. Only Turn On What You Use
Disable any and all features that you don’t use. For example, if you are never going to use voice activation to find a channel on your cable box, or won’t use a video chat feature, turn it off. If your computer doesn’t leave your desk there’s no reason to have location services on. Does something you use have both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity? If you only use one, disable the other.
8. Know Who Is Listening And When
Asking Siri to set a timer or Alexa to give you the Pirates score is so convenient. But you want to make sure that these helpers are only listening when you want them to. Learn how to mute your smart assistant when you’re not using it. And check the microphone on your other devices and in-camera settings. If they have always-on access you will want to limit or disable that. If something is voice-activated or listening for a word or command, you could start a recording without meaning to.
9. Know What Is Connected To Each Other
Sometimes it’s very convenient to have things talk to each other, but a lot of things don’t need to connect. And each open connection is a potential insecure gateway. This interconnectivity between devices can be very useful. For instance, you may want your smart thermostat to be connected to your virtual assistant, so you can turn up the heat from anywhere. But you may not need everything in your house to be connected. Review your settings and make sure that only the things that need to talk to each other are able to.
10. Take Out the Trash
Remember that program you downloaded but didn’t like? Or that app you used for your virtual doctor’s appointment? Those are still on your phone or computer with a login and password. By logging out and uninstalling them, you can reduce your risks. As a bonus, you will probably also increase your processing speeds. Check out our partners at FSA Consulting to learn how to clean out your digital clutter.
- Stay Safe Online | National Cybersecurity Alliance
- Securing Your Devices at Home | Federal Trade Commission
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