So you got some new tech for Christmas. You’re having the time of your life learning the ins and outs of these cool gadgets. There’s just one issue — with new tech comes new problems.
Hackers work faster than the speed of light nowadays, and they’ll attack anyone and anything, including your new goodies. Even the U.S. government isn’t safe from network-crippling cyberattacks. Tap or click here for fresh information on the new cyberattack assaulting multiple agencies.
Bottom line: It’s time to prepare for cyberattacks. If you want to keep your identity, apps and bank accounts safe from hackers, you’ve got to be proactive. Not sure about how to start protecting your devices? Don’t worry — just follow these essential security steps.
1. Set up a guest network for all your connected devices
What’s the first thing you do after you set up a new device? Usually, you’ll connect it to your home’s wireless internet. We all have tons of connected devices — new laptops, video game consoles or even a friend’s phone.
Of course, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose track of what’s connected to your private internet. Worried you forgot something? Tap or click here to see all the devices connected to your network.
Unfortunately, every connected device is a potential Trojan horse for malware. That’s why you should set up a guest network. By creating a separate guest network for all of your smart home gadgets and IoT devices, you’ll protect your main network.
Using a guest network gives your connected devices access to the internet — without putting your important files at risk. Here’s how to get started:
- Open your router’s admin page and look for a section labeled Guest Network or Guest Networks.
- Enable your Guest Network and make sure SSID Broadcast is turned on.
To get to your router admin page for the steps above, you’ll need the device’s IP address and admin password. These may be written on the user guide for your router brand, but some sites can help you find them if you don’t have this information. Tap or click here for a list of default passwords for 548 router brands.
Once you’re in your router’s settings, whatever you do, don’t click any options that say something like: “Allow guests to see each other and access my local network.” This could make your system vulnerable because it allows users and devices on your guest network to access your main connection.
2. Strong, unique passwords
When you get a new gadget, the first thing you should do is wipe away the default passwords. These are weak by design and easy to remember since new users will have to keep track of them. Once you get your machine set up, make sure to set a strong, unique password.
When we say “strong” and “unique,” we’re not talking about codes that include your kids’ birthday. We’re talking about long passwords with a mixed combination of letters, numbers and symbols.
These are great because they’re impossible for a person to predict. The only downside is that it’s tough and time-consuming to create new, hard-to-crack combinations. Here’s a much easier solution: Try a free password generator like Random Password Generator.
Just type in the kinds of characters you want in your password, as well as how long you want it to be. Then, in the span of a single second, you’ll get a nearly unbreakable code. Watch the video below for five solid steps towards an ironclad password.
Now that your password’s covered, it’s time to check your settings.
3. Go into the tracking/privacy settings
It’s always a good idea to poke around your settings. That way, you get a thorough idea of what you’re working with. When you get a new gadget, look into its tracking settings. Chances are, it’s keeping track of your every move so it can sell your secrets to advertisers.
Here’s how to turn off location settings on Apple devices:
- Open Settings and select Privacy.
- Tap Location Services and scroll down and select System Services.
- Tap Significant Locations to see the logged record of where you’ve been and toggle it off. You can also clear your history by clicking Clear History.
Here’s how to change these settings on Android devices: (Note: Steps may differ depending on your Android model.)
- Open Settings and scroll down to tap Location.
- At the top, turn Use location off.
- To delete your device’s cache, tap Delete Location History at the bottom of the screen under Location History.
Now that you’ve changed your location settings, take a look at the ad tracking on your device. Otherwise, that new smartphone you got for Christmas is following your every step and charting a map. If you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, here’s what to do:
- Open Settings
- Tap Privacy
- Tap Apple Advertising
- Toggle Personalized Ads off
Note: Turning off personalized ads limits Apple’s ability to deliver relevant ads to you. It may not reduce the number of ads you receive.
Want to limit ad tracking on Android? Follow these steps:
- Go to Settings.
- Tap Google, then Ads.
- Toggle Opt out of ads personalization on.
Of course, even if you turn off these settings, Google Chrome could still be tracking you. Tap or click here for more details on what Google knows about you. That’s why we recommend looking into new browsers that offer more privacy. Tap or click here for a few options.
4. Update software/firmware
Next up, make sure your current setup is compatible with any new devices. For example, you may be working with an outdated version of Windows, while your new device only works with Windows 10.
Make sure you check your phone, computer and everything else connected to your main network. If they aren’t updated, they could be vulnerable to security flaws that hackers are well acquainted with. That’s why you should stay up-to-date with the latest software and firmware updates — it’s the best way to stay prepared!
5. Two-factor authentication
This last step throws up an extra layer of protection between your login process and potential invaders. When you swipe your credit card and enter your ZIP code, that’s an example of two-factor authentication. Basically, you’re providing an extra bit of proof that you are who you say you are.
In the digital world, 2FA can be as simple as answering a security question or typing in a CAPTCHA. More often, though, you’ll receive a text message with a code from the website you’re trying to access. Tap or click here to set up two-factor authentication on your personal social media accounts.
Whether you got a phone, a laptop or even a security camera this holiday season, you should set up 2FA. Otherwise, your account could get breached and your login details could be spilled on the Dark Web.
If you’ve got some extra time on your hands, give our new “Tech You Should Know” episode a listen. You’ll get the grisly details of what could happen if your account gets breached.
It’s a great way to remind yourself: Always follow these steps! A little time is worth it to protect yourself.