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Kim's column

Got new tech? Lock it down now before it’s too late

It used to be that Windows PCs were a hacker’s primary target. Those days are long gone as Macs, iPhones and Android phones are being played for anything from a scammer’s profits to a partner’s espionage. Want to be shocked?

There could be a hacker rooting around in your device right now. Tap or click here for 7 clear cut signs that you’ve been hacked.

To keep your identity, apps, and bank accounts safe from hackers, you have to be smarter than the criminals. You lock your door at night. Practice similar common sense with your digital life.

1. Keep your devices up to date

A big danger is zero-day attacks. Hackers and scammers use these exploits before the hardware or software makers have a chance to close the holes with an update. Ignoring these updates leaves holes in your system.

Update your Windows 10 PC:

  1. Click the Start Menu and select the Settings gear icon.
  2. Click Update and Security.
  3. If an update is available, follow the on-screen instructions to install it. Otherwise, click check for updates to refresh. If none are available, you may already be up to date.

Update your Mac:

  1. Click the Apple icon from the menu bar at the top of the screen and click System Preferences.
  2. Click Software Update.
  3. Follow the on-screen instructions that appear to complete your updates.

Update your iOS device:

  1. Make sure your device is plugged in and connected to Wi-Fi.
  2. Open the Settings app.
  3. Tap General, followed by Software Update.
  4. If an update is available, tap Download and Install Now.

Update your Android device:

  1. Make sure your device is plugged in and connected to Wi-Fi.
  2. Open Settings.
  3. Tap About Phone.
  4. Tap Check for Updates. If an update is available, a button labeled Update will appear.
  5. Tap Update to install. Depending on your device, you may also see Install Now, Reboot and install, or Install System Software instead.

SPEAKING OF SECURITY: Yes, you’re being tracked. Yes, there’s a lot you can do to stop it. Tap or click for 5 steps you can take right now.

2. Register your devices

Take the time and register your new tech with the manufacturer. It’s a smart way to recoup your device if a hacker somehow takes it over. The manufacturer has proof the device is yours no matter what changes a hacker makes to it.

3. Add your emergency contacts and set them as Favorites

If you bought a new smartphone or tablet, take a moment to add your emergency contacts. It’s not just a good idea — it can potentially save your life.

When you add emergency contacts to your phone, the best way to make them stand out from your other contacts is to set them as Favorites. You’ll have them on speed dial for whenever you need them most.

On iPhone, open the Phone app and tap Favorites on the screen’s bottom-left corner. Tap the + icon in the upper left corner and select your emergency contacts.

On Android, open the Phone app and tap Favorites on the screen’s bottom-left corner. Tap Add on the top right corner of your screen and select the contacts you wish to add to your favorites. You can also add any contact to Favorites from within the Contacts app by tapping the Star icon in the upper right corner.

GET DIGITAL SMARTS ON THE GO: Get my free podcasts perfect for listening at home, exercising or on the go. Search for “Komando” wherever you get your podcasts or listen at my site here.

4. Stop your smart TV from spying on you

Most smart TVs use ACR, or “Automatic Content Recognition.” ACR scans the programs you watch and sends the data back to analytics services and marketing firms. Then, your data is crunched and studied so they can advertise to you based on your habits.

This is annoying and intrusive, but ACR does have an upside: It makes smart TVs cheaper. Even better, you can turn the feature off altogether. The steps will be different for every brand.

Tap or click here to find out how to disable ACR on your smart TV.

5. Set up your smart speaker to delete recordings

Smart speakers listen all the time for a wake word. You can review and delete your recordings. You can also opt-out of having your data saved and recorded. If you’re concerned about privacy on your new Echo, Facebook Portal, or Google Home device, I have your back with a tutorial on my site.

Tap or click here to optimize your Echo, Facebook Portal and Google Home for privacy.

6. If you got a Ring Video Doorbell, don’t use the Neighbors app

With Ring Video Doorbells, Amazon controls one of the nation’s largest surveillance systems. While this might make you feel more secure, remember these systems aren’t without risk.

If Ring users aren’t careful, they could reveal their home or office locations through the built-in Neighbors social network. Tap or click for details on what you’re really sharing if you have a Ring system.

If you make a post to Neighbors, don’t forget that it’s publicly visible and can be shared with everyone from law enforcement to private investigators. If you avoid posting to Neighbors, the only thing your Ring doorbell will show is what’s in front of it.

7. Streaming devices snoop too

Much like smart TVs, streaming devices keep tabs on what you watch for the same reasons. Fortunately, you can turn this off no matter which brand you use.


  1. From the Roku main menu, open Settings.
  2. Open Privacy. Then, open Advertising.
  3. Check Limit ad tracking.

Apple TV:

  1. Open Settings from the main menu. Then, choose General.
  2. Choose Privacy
  3. Toggle the Limit Ad Tracking option to On.

Amazon Fire Sticks:

  1. From the Fire TV main menu, choose Settings.
  2. Click Preferences, followed by Privacy Settings.
  3. In the menu that opens, turn Device Usage Data, Collect App Data Usage and Interest-based Ads off.

You can also disable Data Monitoring, which tells Amazon even more about how you use your device.

  1. From the Fire TV main menu, select Settings.
  2. Click Preferences, followed by Data Monitoring.
  3. In the menu that opens, turn Data Monitoring off.

NEED A HAND WITH A SLOW PC, PRINTER OR A SOFTWARE PROBLEM YOU CAN’T CRACK? Post your tech questions for concrete answers from me and other tech pros. Visit my Q&A Forum and get tech help now.

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch The Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television, or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.

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