Kim Komando, Signal Contributing Writer
Christmas has finally arrived, and folks across the country are enjoying their high-tech gifts from friends and loved ones.
No matter what you got beneath the tree this year, there are some basic steps you can take to ensure your tech is working safely.
1. Stay ahead of hackers
When a bug or a security flaw is discovered, you can bet hackers will be all over it. That’s why updating software and firmware is critical to safeguarding your devices and data.
2. Register your devices
This will be more specific to each device, but it’s always worth registering the product with the manufacturer. This lets them know who bought the product, what warranty services are available and the support options available.
It can also help you recoup your device in the event that a hacker does take over, or worse.
3. Back up all your old data
When you get a new device, don’t just start fresh. Back up and transfer your old data to your new gadget.
4. Add your emergency contacts and set them as Favorites
It’s great to unwrap a smartphone or tablet. They give you the tools to communicate with anyone no matter where you are.
5. Create strong, secure logins
Weak passwords are the bane of cybersecurity experts everywhere. In fact, they’re one of the top causes for hacks globally, and millions of bad passwords are already on record for hackers to use and abuse
6. Stop your new smart TV from spying
Smart TVs are hot gifts everyone loves, but did you know there’s someone behind the scenes watching your viewing habits? Smart TVs deploy a feature called ACR, or “Automatic Content Recognition.”
ACR scans the programs you watch and sends the data back to streaming services and marketing firms so they can advertise to you. Fortunately, you can disable this feature.
7. Set up your smart speaker to delete recordings
A huge scandal erupted when it was revealed that Amazon was recording users and transcribing the data on Alexa products. But it’s far from the only company doing this. Google and Facebook are equally guilty of relying on user recordings to improve their respective AI.
8. If you got a Ring, don’t bother using the Neighbors app
Thanks to Ring Video Doorbells, Amazon now controls one of the nation’s largest surveillance systems — and people willingly paid for it.
If you avoid posting to Neighbors, you will enjoy more privacy along with your Ring doorbell.
9. Manage privacy settings
Just like smart TVs, streaming devices keep tabs on your viewing experience to better target you with ads and marketing. Fortunately, you can turn this off no matter which brand you use.
Roku Open Settings, then Privacy, followed by Advertising and check the Limit ad tracking option.
Apple TV Open Settings, then General, followed by Privacy and turn the Limit Ad Tracking option on.
Amazon Fire Sticks Open Settings, then Preference, followed by Privacy Settings and turn off the Interest-based Ads option.
This will limit your device’s ability to track your viewing habits and will keep your private media time between you and your family.
For information on Kim Komando on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks, visit her at Komando.com.