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Setting Up Your New Holiday Devices Securely 12/31/2020

Did you get a snappy new electronic, internet-connected device for the holidays? If you did, here are the steps you should take to get that new “toy” up and running safely. If you have already set it up, read on to make sure you have done these things before going any further.

Change the Admin Password

Once you’ve plugged it in and let the battery charge, there is a first step that should not be dismissed, forgotten, or delayed. Want to take a guess? Well, you should without shadow of a doubt, change the default administrator password. So, go ahead and do that now. Make sure you follow the strong password guidelines when doing so:

  • It should be at least eight characters
  • It should contain upper and lowercase letters
  • It should have at least one number and at least one special character, such as the “$” symbol.
  • It should not contain any personal information, such as your birthdate, your kids’ names, or even names of pets. Make it as difficult to guess as possible.
  • It should not be an actual word.

All of these are to make sure that the word cannot be cracked by password brute force attacks. You see, the criminals have these tools that contain huge lists of known passwords for all those devices you bring into your homes and plug into the Internet. If you don’t change it, you risk having them let themselves right into your home.

Update It

Log into the developer’s site and download the latest updates for the software and firmware. These devices often sit on store shelves or in warehouses for a long time. During that time, new updates are created and released for those who already have them. Make sure to do this right away so your device is as secure as possible before you start using it.

Protect It From Physical Harm

If you got a mobile device, make sure to set a lock password for it right away. Even if you’re not planning to go outside any time soon, still set a lock password. Have it automatically lock within the shortest amount of time you can. If it’s 30 seconds, choose that. We often get distracted and set it down and look away, when we’re in a coffee shop for example, so you want it to be secure sooner rather than later for just those times. Use the same logic as creating a password for any other device. Don’t use personal information, for example.

Keep it Safe From Remote Harm

There are several ways to do this. First, if it uses apps, always stick to downloading them from the official app stores for whatever device it is. That’s the Apple Store for iOS, the Google Play Store for Android. There are others too, of course. Just stick to the official stores for whatever it is. If you don’t know, do a quick internet search and it should come up quickly. Often, when malware gets downloaded to these devices, it’s via apps that were sideloaded, or downloaded from external sites. Yes, it can become infected from the official store, but the likelihood is much lower.

In addition to that, install security software. These products can help protect it from malware and some even have anti-phishing capabilities.

Don’t Get Lured by Phishing

And while on the topic of phishing, always pay attention to the email you get and look for clues about phishing. If whatever your gift was is popular, the criminals may already be trying to lure you into clicking on attachments or malicious links. Remember that gaming systems are internet-connected and are often targeted by hackers. Make sure you teach your kids not to fall for phishing too.

Back It Up!

These aren’t just important for businesses. Once you get them initially set up, take some time right away and on a regular basis to back up your new fancy devices. It really doesn’t take that long and it can save you a lot of time and frustration should something happen to it. Of course you aren’t going to backup your new router or doorbell, but definitely back up your new mobile devices and computers. External backup drives have become very reasonably priced over the past few years. They are easy to use right out of the box these days.

After performing these steps, go ahead and have fun! You can rest peacefully knowing you did what you could to make it as secure as possible.