Device Protection - Is Your Personal Information Safe?
Updated: Feb 7
With smart device ownership on the rise, is your personal information safe?
These days, it seems that almost everything is WiFi enabled and continuously collecting and/or transmitting data. From kitchen appliances and televisions to lightbulbs and smart plugs, it’s not as simple as just protecting smartphones and home computers anymore. This month, we discuss how your account holders can safeguard their networks and network-enabled devices from hackers, viruses, and malware. However, if one of your valued account holders falls victim to identity theft our professional Identity Theft Recovery Advocates are here, available to assist with all types of fraud resolution.
A 2021 study by Deloitte found that the average American internet household owns 23 connected devices, an increase from an average of 11 devices in 2019, and that number is increasing each year. When we think of devices, we mostly consider our smartphones, home computers, and tablets. Increasingly, though, additional WIFI enabled gadgets like televisions, thermostats, home security systems, and even kitchen appliances are being included in that list. Some predict that by the end of 2022, the average will have increased to as much as 50 devices per American household. The convenience of adjusting your home thermostat from your desk at work, or looking inside your own refrigerator from the dairy aisle in the grocery store comes with an often overlooked security risk. Every connected device provides a window for someone with malicious intent to access the personal information stored on that device, or even worse, to gain access to your home network. If someone gains access to your local network, they can easily access your personal data by "listening" to your internet traffic, or they can launch various attacks, such as malware or ransomware. This cybersecurity article from the Federal Trade Commission contains more insight about the importance of protecting your connected devices and your home network.
Below, we’re providing a checklist to help you reduce your risk.
Make A List of Your Connected Devices || Identify Your Connected Devices
Have you considered before how many devices in your home are connected to the internet? Start with a list before moving on to the next step. Don’t forget things like smart plugs and WIFI enabled bulbs and appliances.
Check That Each Mobile Device Is Running The Latest Operating System || Complete Any System Updates
Software developers release updates to address vulnerabilities as soon as they become aware of them. Set your devices to update automatically so your information is protected as soon as possible. If you prefer to run updates manually, stay aware of when they become available and install them immediately. This includes your phone, tablets, and the apps contained within them. For smart home devices, the vulnerable connection point is through the apps that manage them, so it is crucial that those remain current as well.
Ensure That Home Computers (Desktops and Laptops) Have Up To Date Security Software || Utilize Security Software
Computers often hold the most personal information of any device in your home. Ensure that you have up to date antivirus software. Most of these applications now go well beyond checking for viruses and malware, as they are constantly running in the background, deleting unwanted cookies and tracking codes. Think of it as an insurance policy for your files and information, and make sure you have current protection on every device.
Double check your online accounts || Secure Your Account Logins
Some antivirus software will also run security checks to inform you of weak and overused passwords. Ensure that your passwords are always at least 12 characters and not easily guessed. Additionally, as discussed in this article, add multi-factor authentication (sometimes referred to as MFA) wherever possible. This extra layer of protection typically means that logging in will require both your password and a code that is texted or emailed to you.
Check Your Home Network Security Settings
While it might seem like there’s no easy way to protect every smart device in your home, the best action you can take is to update your router password on a regular basis. You should never have an open network connection, and your password shouldn’t be easy to figure out. Your password should be at least 12 characters and contain letters, numbers, and special characters. It doesn’t need to be impossible to remember, but think in terms of random combinations of words and numbers, not something easy to guess like your last name and street number. For more information about how to protect your home network check out this article from HP, 10 Best Ways to Protect Your Home Network Security.