New technology seems to appear daily in today’s fast-paced society. Trying to learn how to operate the latest gadgets and how to avoid the most recent security threats leaves many heads reeling. Meanwhile, safety and privacy concerns abound.
While no measures eliminate all threats — as we learned all too well from the 2017 Equifax breach — taking certain precautions when using today’s latest tech can reduce the chances of losing vital data or revealing personal information. Practice the following tips when using technology to minimize the dangers of constant connectivity.
1. Research What You Buy
All people may be equal, but all tech gadgets are not! Most companies pay close attention to privacy concerns, but using some devices creates risks of exposing personal data in the name of convenience.
When selecting anything from a new laptop to a new baby monitor, use services like Mozilla’s “Privacy Not Included” list to evaluate the privacy the device offers. After purchasing a new gadget, resist the urge to enter all the information the software requests and either skip or opt out of connecting new tools to social media. The world does not need to know who happens to be reading Fifty Shades of Grey on their Kindle.
2. Protect Your Investment
Keep all technology up to date. As hackers launch new attacks, software companies create patches to prevent the threat from spreading to unaffected devices. Failing to update devices regularly means risking falling prey to easily preventable security breaches.
Additionally, always take advantage of any security features new technology offers. While this may mean paying a small monthly or annual fee, the price pales in comparison to the consequences of getting hacked. Anti-virus and anti-malware suites exist for a good reason, so take advantage of them.
3. Realize Hackers Attack More Than Laptops
Many people know to protect their computer and cell phone, but few think about the smart technology in their vehicles or in their video doorbell system. However, these remain vulnerable points for hackers to exploit. For example, as far back as 2015, cybercriminals found a way to unlock the doors of some Chrysler vehicles, leaving them ripe for theft.
4. Educate Yourself on the Latest Scams
Scammers love technology the way George R.R. Martin loves killing off characters in his books. Technology allows hackers more anonymity, making them harder to catch.
One of the largest tech scams occurs when a pop-up appears on computer screens warning users there is a virus on their system. This scare tactic prompts unaware users to take action, and when they click on the message, hackers download malware to their devices. This malicious software allows cybercriminals to access all data stored on the device, including sensitive information like bank account passwords.
5. Stay Safe at School and Work
Many workplaces now allow employees to telecommute at least part of the time, and many schools now provide students with laptops or tablets instead of heavy textbooks. Always exercise caution when using any employer- or school-issued technological device, and refrain from accessing financial accounts or even personal email while signed into them, as passwords and other sensitive bits of information may remain on the hard drive.
Dual-authentication measures verify user identity by requiring a second personal device to generate a code to let employees and students complete login. Organizations do well to employ this type of technology to protect sensitive school records and proprietary business information.
6. And Know Who’s Listening at Home
Sure, it’s fun to say, “Hey, Alexa,” and ask her anything from the current average price of tea in China to who played the role of Gimli in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. But could this technology also spy on what family members do and say while in the privacy of their own home?
Possibly. Last May, a woman reported her Alexa device recorded private conversations and released them to someone in her contact list. Other vulnerabilities include device cameras, which can record images of what people do at home and release them to third parties. Protect privacy by covering camera lenses with dark tape and turning off Wi-Fi when not at home.
7. Beware Public Wi-Fi
Cyber-criminals can hack public Wi-Fi networks — like those at coffee shops and airports — anywhere along the data stream. Catching up on that expense report at Starbucks may reveal sensitive data to thieves.
Turn off the “auto-connect to networks” feature on laptops, tablets and cell phones. If you must access public Wi-Fi, consider investing in a quality VPN service that saves no logs of online activity.
8. Pick the Right Passwords
Yes, it can seem exasperating to create strong passwords and remember them all. But tough-to-crack combinations of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols protect technology users from password-hacking software.
Avoid using the same password for work, banking, and leisure. Yes, creating a different password for every login from Netflix to the local credit union may prove tedious, but the safety payout makes the effort worth it. Write down password combinations in a secure location and keep the list locked in a drawer. Update passwords quarterly.
Keeping Tech Use Safe and Private
Protecting privacy in today’s world of interconnecting technology does require a bit of research, as well as a healthy dose of common sense. But considering the host of benefits these innovations offer to users makes the time spent taking added precautions well worth the effort.
To learn about some of the most common internet scams, check out this infographic created by Pennsylvania credit union PSECU!