used with permission from Norton by Symantec
by Nadia Kovacs
With the Holiday festivities upon us, it’s likely that Internet connected gadgets have topped many people’s lists of things to buy. As exciting as these gifts are to give, if you end up on the receiving end it’s easy to get caught up in the fun of your new gadget. However, you should be aware of the ways that you’ll need to protect your new device. Just remember—if it connects to the Internet, it is vulnerable.
From laptops to smart watches, to connecting safely online, we have created the ultimate guide on how to protect your new tech.
How to Securely Set Up a New Computer:
1. Install Security Software
The moment you connect to the Internet, your computer becomes vulnerable. While a brand-new computer out of the box may seem secure, it is not. Sometimes a brand-new computer may sit in a stock room for months before finding its new home. One of the very first things you should do with your new computer is install an Internet security software suite, such as Norton Security. An up-to-date Internet security program will defend your computer against viruses, spyware, malware and other online threats.
2. Software Updates
As we mentioned above, sometimes a computer can sit around for a while before being sold. During that time, there’s a good chance that the software installed on the computer has been updated by the manufacturer to help protect against known software vulnerabilities. However, that new computer has never been turned on until it arrives in your hands, and has not had the chance to be updated.
Once you have installed your Internet security software, run all operating system updates. This will protect your computer against the latest, known threats on the Internet landscape.
3. Remove Unnecessary Software
A lot of new computers will come bundled with other software, or “add-ons.” Each program on your computer is essentially a weakness, because it can contain software vulnerabilities. The more programs on your computer, the more vulnerable it is. Go through your applications on your computer and delete the ones you know you won’t use.
4. Put a Password on It
Like the key to your house, the password is the key to your digital life. Secure password use is essential for all physical devices, as it is the first defense against unauthorized access. While you may think your computer is safe at home, things do happen, and in the event that your computer or laptop gets lost or stolen, no one can get into it.
Many people make the mistake of using passwords that are too simple. Yes, your pet’s name is a nice password, however it’s also much easier to crack than a term mixed with numbers and symbols in addition to random letters. In today’s fast-paced, high-tech world, there’s no such thing as a password that’s too complicated.
5. Create a Back-Up Plan
Once you’ve tightened up the Internet security of your new computer, create a plan to safeguard your digital data. There are many ways available to back up your data, both physically and in the cloud. We actually recommend both, as you can never be too safe. Norton Security Premium not only offers Internet security, it also offers 25 GB of secure cloud storage for your PC backup needs.
In addition to backing up to the cloud, it is always a good idea to have a physical copy of your data. External hard drives are extremely affordable these days. When shopping for an external hard drive, make a note of the capacity of your drive and be sure that the external drive you choose is larger than your computer’s internal drive. After you have selected your drive, create a backup regimen. Most computer operating systems come with a built-in utility for backup. You can schedule it for weekly or monthly backups. Once you’ve completed your backup, remember to unplug your hard drive from your computer to keep it safe from online threats.
6. Transferring Data
If you backed up your data successfully before you wiped your old hard drive, putting your files back onto a new computer will be a snap. Just plug in your USB or external hard drive and drag your old files onto your new computer.
How to Securely Set Up a Mobile Phone or Tablet:
1. Back Up Your Old Device First
Chances are, when you get your new phone or tablet, you’ll want to transfer all your old data over to the new device. In order to do so, you’ll need a copy of your old data first. This can be a bit tricky when it comes to mobile devices, as sometimes people will sometimes get a different device than they previously owned. If you are getting a completely different device than what you had previously, your best bet is to go to the carrier’s website and look up how to transfer data from an old phone to a new phone.
2. Update The Operating System
As with computers, new phones and tablets can sit around a while before being purchased. Once you’ve powered up and connected your device, check for operating system updates and install them immediately.
3. Device Passcodes
Phone and tablet passcodes are another important topic. Opening your device with a single swipe may be convenient, but it also means the device is vulnerable to anyone who picks it up. Use a passcode on your phone, and make certain it auto-locks. That extra bit of security can go a long way.
4. Use Internet Security Software
As with computers, the mobile threat landscape is just as active. There are a multitude of mobile threats out there such as mobile scams, fake apps, mobile malware and more. Install a reputable anti-malware app from a trusted and secure source such as Norton Mobile Security(link is external). Every time you download a new app, you should run a scan to verify that the download was successful and did not contain any malicious codes. Malware has been particularly popular on Android devices.
5. Beware of Third-Party App Stores
Always verify apps before you install them on your phone. There are third-party applications available outside of official app stores. While many of these applications are harmless, others may contain malicious code. It is not recommended to visit these stores, and to only visit the official app store. You can also use Norton App Advisor, which is included with Norton Mobile Security. Norton App Advisor scans apps before you download them from the Google Play store to prevent installation of apps with malware. In addition to malware protection the App Advisor will also alert you about apps known to share personal information, consume lots of data, drain your battery or bombard you with ads.
6. Disable Bluetooth Connectivity
Disable Bluetooth connectivity when you’re out in public. Bluetooth allows your phone to connect wirelessly with other smart electronics—and enables other people to connect to your device without your permission if it’s left on and unattended. Attackers could be anywhere, from the local coffee shop you frequent, to the coin laundry spot you use around the corner. Leaving your Bluetooth on puts you and your personal information at a huge disadvantage.
7. Durable Cases
Most devices can withstand getting dropped in a rain puddle, pool, or toilet, but not for long. If you’re concerned about your device being subjected to the elements, consider investing in a waterproof case. If you tend to have a case of the “drops” then you may want to invest in a shockproof case.
Securing the Internet of Things:
Protect Your “Things”
One thing about IoT devices that is often overlooked is that they are ALL computers, connected to the Internet. These computers, even though some are as small as a coin, are still vulnerable to malware, just like standard computers, tablets, and phones. Do some research on your device to see if it has a default password. If it does, the manufacturer’s website should have instructions on how to change it. Make sure the password you create is complicated, unique, and hard to guess. Be sure to not share passwords with other devices as well. It may seem like an easy “hack” to remember them; however, if a hacker gets a hold of one password, they can try that password on other things.
How to Connect to the Internet Securely:
Safe Wi-Fi Use in Your Home
The home router is a sort of front door to your home for the Internet. Naturally, you want this device to be as secure as possible. With the multiple device usage and the Internet of Things, there is a large spectrum of other devices in your home that access the router and connect to the Internet. A small vulnerability in a home Wi-Fi network can give a cybercriminal access to almost all the devices that access the router’s network. Some of the things to factor into securing your router are to change the default name and password on your router and its network, enable network encryption, and even set up a firewall.
Safe Wi-Fi Use On the Go
We use our devices constantly, whether out and about, or at on home on our couch. As a result, we should use caution when using our devices on unsecured public Wi-Fi. There are many risks that come with connecting to these networks such as risk of man in the middle attacks, Wi-Fi snooping, malware distribution and more. Since we carry these devices back and forth from our homes, it is essential that we keep the devices secure while on the go, so we don’t put our home networks at risk.
Keep these tips and suggestions in mind as you embark on the New Year and know your devices are safe from threats, whether in hacker or element form. Stay up to date on the latest security innovations so you can feel good about the safety of your device. The best way to get ahead of the bad guys is to participate in your own Internet security. Educate yourself about the threats out there and how they can affect you. Use security software, research your devices and secure them, and tell your friends to do the same! When more of us stay protected together, attackers will have fewer targets to take advantage of.