The Ultimate 2020 Tech Gift Guide

The Ultimate 2020 Tech Gift Guide

This title may be deceiving. You may be thinking that I have crafted some “top 20 tech gifts” guide with links telling you what to buy with some crafty affiliated links. If that is what you are looking for, you are in the wrong place. The angle here is not to tell you WHAT to buy, but instead to tell you how to SECURE what you already have on your shopping list!

If you follow the news much at all, the phrases “cyber-attack” or “hacked” have likely been in a headline or two, and for good reason. While integrating technology more and more into our daily lives has many benefits (this year has certainly proven that), it comes with risks. The main risk being a lack of privacy when it comes to personal data. But don’t worry, I did the homework for you on the most gifted items of concern this year!

So without further ado, here are some of the hottest items for Christmas lists this year along with the security risks they pose and what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones when purchasing.

Video Streaming devices:

Whether you are buying a Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Firestick, the protocol here is the same. Protect yourself with a strong wifi password. If a hacker obtains your wifi password, they can then access everything on that network, including your tv streaming devices and the accounts associated with those services. From there, the bank account or credit card that you have on file with those accounts could be compromised.

If you do not have any financial information linked to your device, the biggest threat is that a hacker could control the device and change what you are watching… and there are some things you just can’t unsee.

Voice Assistants:

Alexa, can you protect me from hackers? No, she can not. You can though.

If you are using a Google Home, Echo Dot, or Home Pod, turn off settings that allow the device to record constantly and turn off auto-voice purchasing. If you don’t, a hacker could retrieve personal information or credentials for anything you say out loud in your home or could even make unwanted purchases for you.

Smartphones and Tablets:

This is likely the most popular used items on the list. Sadly, most of us do not take the security serious enough when using phones or tablets until it’s too late. Aside from always using passcodes and paying attention to privacy settings on devices and individual apps, we should consider adding the protection of antivirus software (yes, phones can get a virus) or using a mobile VPN. Many of us have banking information, personal information, password storages, and a million other things stored on our phones that can be used by a hacker or criminal to create a devastating yet avoidable situation.

One last tip here: Disable “location- off” features from your control panel on the lock screen of your phone. If your device is lost or stolen, location features are your best chance of recovery.

Smart TV’s and Gaming consoles:

Similar to any other device that connects to the internet, installing all available updates on your Smart TV or gaming system is the best defense in avoiding bugs that can make your device vulnerable to hackers who could control the device and/or gain your financial information if successful in an attack. One additional step to protect your data is to use a hard connection such as an ethernet cord to your router on devices that are stationary rather than relying solely on a wireless connection to the internet.

It is also best practice to NEVER click “phishy” links when online. This applies to emails, social media platforms, and gaming systems.

Smart Home Gifts:

Remember that ANYTHING that connects to wifi poses a risk to the security of your home and personal data. While hacked Ring cameras have made headlines with hackers gaining access to home security cameras, other items such as smart kitchen appliances, other security systems, and even lightbulbs can give criminals more personal information and control than you might think.

While your financial information is likely not connected to these devices, your habits and routines certainly are. If your refrigerator never opens, security is never disabled, and cameras detect no motion between 7am and 6pm Monday- Friday, it is a pretty good indication to a criminal that you are not home. If said criminal has gained access to your network, not only do they know the ideal time to break in, but they can also see every device connected so they know exactly what they can take. The best defense here is again… STRONG PASSWORDS!

Wearable tech and Bluetooth devices:

Smartwatches, earbuds, and other Bluetooth devices are not a huge threat. Some smartwatches, like the Apple Watch can store information such as an Apple Pay account. However, access from the watch alone is limited and the criminal would have to have your passcode to unlock the watch before causing any damage. You should keep these devices updated to be safe regardless of the lower risk.

So there you have it!, As you buy gifts for you loved ones (or yourself), don’t forget to consider the steps you should take to secure anything that connects to the internet. Keep your passwords strong and unique to every device or account, be mindful of financial information connected to devices, and avoid phishing attempts by never clicking unknown links. After all, #TheThreatsAreReal 

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