The season for giving and getting is once again upon us and the most sought-after gifts are the shiny gadgets and gizmos designed to entertain us as well as make our lives easier. Millions of people will get new phones, computers, Amazon Echos, Google Homes, smart coffee makers, and the like from the internet of things. But all that glitters is not gold, it has been said. In this context, it should mean that all things shiny and new come with their own privacy, surveillance and, hacking risks.
Before Giving Comes the Buying
Since many will be giving devices ( that means buying them first) it is worthwhile to explore some security precautions to take in the buying process. More and more people are avoiding the crowds at brick-and-mortar stores to partake in hassle-free online shopping. But this comes with its own set of security risks and precautions should be taken. Fortunately, there are steps recommended by security experts that you can take to enhance your security and to protect your privacy.
- Beware of clicking on links delivered to your email. A phishing attempt may come via an email with a link to a fake website built to steal your personal information. Not only should you not click on these but also be wary to avoid emails or websites with typos and grammatical mistakes, which are common characteristics of phishing attempts.
- Shop at trusted sites and research less familiar sites. On the internet, some websites are created by people just wanting to steal your information. Consider checking out the company’s social media following, customer reviews, its record at the Better Business Bureau, and even contact the business directly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the site.
- Price seems suspiciously low? Watch out! A word to the wise: if the price looks too good to be true, it most likely is. Compare prices on other websites. If the price is extremely lower, then it is probably a scam to acquire your information.
- Be alert for fake shopping apps. Bogus retail apps which are designed to steal your credit card information are popping up in Apple’s App Store and Google Play. Instead, download the legitimate version of retail apps directly from a store’s website. Alternatively, check user reviews if downloading from an app store.
- Weigh website security. Look for the padlock symbol in the address bar, or a URL that begins with “https” as opposed to “http,” with the “s” standing for “secure.” Also, some vendors will offer a green payment bar (as opposed to a red one) telling you it’s safe to divulge your credit card info.
Don’t Allow Your New Device To Get Hacked
Before delving deep into security issues and tools, realize that tools aren’t the only defense against data breaches. There are some common sense things to be aware of during this time of the year when travel is common. Try to minimize publicly broadcasting your itinerary and location. This is especially important if traveling, say, to a business conference. And, by all means, don’t put it out there on Twitter.
Consider things like a ’’burner phone” for travel rather than your usual smartphone as well as creating a special email for travel. Also think seriously about turning off the location identifier on your phone so as not to enable someone to access your location.
This season, more pet owners are contemplating getting surveillance devices to monitor their pet’s behavior when they are away. Just be aware that these gizmos are fraught with danger for you and maybe your pet if they are hacked. And speaking about surveillance gadgets—like Google Home—your mom might be initially thrilled but no so happy later if something goes awry. Holiday gathering tip: put them in the bin with a cover during the festivities.
Yes, this holiday, you may be sorely tempted to ’’wow” your recipient with the latest tech devices. Keep in mind that privacy- piercing is most prevalent when devices are connected to the Internet which makes it easier for a bad actor to view or to eavesdrop. Along those lines, consider adjusting the settings for, let’s say, the less tech-savvy person—like me, for instance. Have a happy and safe holiday!