With winter holidays now over, many Americans are pleased to have received tech gifts. However, a new gadget also means a new target for hackers looking for victims in the upcoming year.
“Most shiny new things have very few default cybersecurity settings installed. Especially the Internet of Things devices. Your new smartwatch may be very good at tracking your running route, but will it ensure this data doesn’t reach any malicious third party? No, not if you don’t take proper steps to secure it,” said Daniel Markuson, a cybersecurity expert at NordVPN.
Below, the expert proposes several tips on how to set up your brand-new gear before exposing it to the cruel world of internet dangers.
- Set up strong and sophisticated passwords
Not only should your passwords differ from one internet account to another, but from one device to another as well. Your laptop password should be completely different from the one you use to unlock your smart speaker or smart TV. A strong password typically consists of no less than 20 characters, including numbers, letters, and symbols. You can use a password manager to both generate and store your passwords. Remember: If the password is easy to remember, it is not strong enough.
- Turn on two-factor authentication (2FA)
Every year, hackers come up with new ways to crack users’ devices, so a password is no longer enough to protect your gadgets. That is why our expert advises using two-factor authentication on every device that offers this possibility.
The 2FA process adds an extra layer of security to your device, making it much harder for malicious actors to attack and steal your data. Just entering a password won’t be enough — hackers would also have to get access to your phone or email.
- Review app permissions
If you received a phone as a gift, don’t forget to double-check the permissions you give to the apps you install. Some apps can request more data than they actually need. For example, your calendar app does not need permission to access your camera or microphone. And surely none of the photo editing apps need to know every person on your contact list.
- Install cybersecurity tools
Not every new device is equipped with antivirus software or a VPN, so cybersecurity apps are the first thing you should download to your laptop or smartphone. Only after installing these apps can you ensure that your connection is secure and you will not get any viruses while setting up your device further.
- Set up automatic updates
Once you have installed everything you need, set up automatic updates so that you never miss one. Many people disregard updates because they don’t want to waste time installing them or just don’t see the point. However, that is a big mistake because most updates are aimed at patching serious vulnerabilities that manufacturers find in their devices.
“Even though new devices bring new vulnerabilities, there is a secure way to enjoy them. All it requires is a little more attention to what we install, which links we click, and how we act online. If we prepare our gadgets properly, they will serve us without compromising our data,” says Daniel Markuson, a cybersecurity expert at NordVPN.