Be Unhackable: Here’s Your Post-Holiday Gift Safety Checklist

‘Twas the night after Christmas, when all through the house
All the smart toys were buzzing and beeping about,
The chargers were plugged near the chimney with care,
Without a clue that the hackers soon would be there.

With the height of the season now behind us, you may be experiencing a bit of a holiday hangover. But as you wade through the holiday fallout of wrapping paper, instruction manuals, batteries packs, and downloads, don’t forget that the most important step to your family enjoying its cache of digital gifts is protecting them.

McAfee’s Most Hackable Toys  2017 survey revealed our shared habits of connectivity minussolid safeguards. What we know: While most of us realize the importance of protecting our internet-connected devices, we aren’t too concerned with making device security a priority.

So, now that you’ve purchased that new smartphone, drone, smart toy, or appliance, take that next simple step to secure your expanding digital home. Here’s a short, post-holiday checklist to help get you started.

Smart Gift Checklist

Settings, passwords, software. Once you’ve powered up your new device: 1) Make sure it’s password protected with tw0-step authentication. 2) Set a pin or passcode to lock your device. 3) Install the latest software versions as soon as possible and update them regularly. 4) Protect your new devices with additional security software if possible. 5) Avoid downloading suspicious apps and never click on strange links that arrive via email, messenger, or text. 6) And here’s a biggie: If you are selling, donating, or recycling your old devices, make sure you wipe them clean.

Research the risks. According to the same McAfee study, some of the most popular digital gifts of 2017 include tablets, smartphones, drones, digital assistants, and connected toys and appliances — all of which come with inherent security risks. With the growing list smart devices, hackers have a million new entryways into our homes. Google the name and model of your new gift and read about possible security holes. Another valuable resource is online reviews posted by people who have encountered security issues.

‘Take Five’ before having fun. Securing a new gift often takes five minutes, but it’s a must in today’s wired world. Go into your new product’s privacy settings and change manufacturer settings and set a new password. Keep the process simple and allow your kids to do it alongside you so that device security is more likely to become a habit.

Don’t be duped by cute. From fuzzy talking puppies to adorable dolls, toys can also carry massive security risks. It’s important to research if there have been any reported security vulnerabilities with toys you’ve purchased or have been gifted, so you know how to secure them. Don’t let a toy’s appearance lull you into a false sense of security. Remember: It may look like a kitty cat, but if it connects to the world wide web, then it’s a computer that could be transmitting data to a remote server. When using connected toys: 1) Use toys in places with trusted and secured wi-fi. 2) Monitor your child’s activity with the toys (such as conversations and voice recordings) through the toy’s partner parent application, if available. 3) Take time to read the toy’s disclosures and privacy policies.

Refresh passwords on your home network. Secure all of your connected devices and your home internet at its source — the network. Avoid routers that come with your ISP (Internet Security Provider) since they are often less secure. And, make it a point to change your passwords regularly.

It’s impossible to protect against all risks, but you can frustrate a hacker’s plans by putting up some security obstacles. Even though security and privacy risks come with our new gifts, it’s clear that the demand for faster, better, more impressive digital products is here to stay. Taking the time to boost your family’s security will help make sure this holiday remains a happy one into the New Year and beyond.

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