Did you buy any tech during Prime Day? If you’re like many of us, you might have snagged a discounted phone, tablet or laptop during the sale. And now that your new gear is on its way, that means it’s time to think about securing it against hackers.
Believe it or not, Windows PCs aren’t the only machines vulnerable to malware anymore. Macs, Android phones and even iPhones all have their own share of threats to deal with. Tap or click here to see a dangerous Android malware that hackers can rent.
To keep your identity, apps and bank accounts safe from hackers, it’s important to be proactive about cybersecurity. If you’re not sure how to start protecting your devices, don’t worry — we’ll walk you through the essential security steps.
1. Keep your devices up to date
Hackers are all about exploiting weaknesses in devices and software. When a new bug or security flaw is found, you can bet hackers will be all over it like flies on honey. That’s why it’s so important to keep your devices and software up to date.
When vulnerabilities are found, software developers work to patch them before hackers can take advantage. Ignoring these updates means leaving holes in your system that hackers can exploit. Don’t give them the chance.
Here’s how you can update some of the most common gadgets:
Update your Windows 10 PC:
- Click the Start Menu and select the Settings gear icon.
- Click Update and Security.
- If an update is available, follow the on-screen instructions to install it. Otherwise, click check for updates to refresh. If none are available, you may already be up to date.
Update your Mac:
- Click the Apple icon from the menu bar at the top of the screen and click System Preferences.
- Click Software Update.
- Follow the on-screen instructions that appear to complete your updates.
Update your iOS device:
- Make sure your device is plugged in and connected to Wi-Fi.
- Open the Settings app.
- Tap General, followed by Software Update.
- If an update is available, tap Download and Install Now.
Update your Android device:
- Make sure your device is plugged in and connected to Wi-Fi.
- Open Settings.
- Tap About Phone.
- Tap Check for Updates. If an update is available, a button labeled Update will appear.
- Tap Update to install. Depending on your device, you may also see Install Now, Reboot and install, or Install System Software instead.
2. Register your devices
It’s always worth visiting your product’s official website and registering it with the manufacturer. Doing this lets them know who bought the product, what warranty you’re eligible for and what support options they can provide you.
It’s also a smart way to recoup your device if a hacker somehow takes it over, or worse. If you’re registered as the owner, the manufacturer has proof the device is yours no matter what changes a hacker makes to it.
Most manufacturers have their own unique registration process. Check your user manual to see if it mentions any steps you need to take.
Already throw out the manual? No problem. Tap or click here to access thousands of user manuals online for free.
3. Back up all your old data
When you get a new device, you don’t have to start over from scratch. Instead, try to back up and transfer your old data.
Unlike with broken devices, lost data can’t be pieced back together again. Regular backups are one of the most important steps you can take to protect your devices and information.
Plus, having a complete backup of your old device makes moving to a new one much easier. It’s also the best defense against threats like ransomware.
If you have an iOS or Android device, you can back up your data right inside the operating system. Here’s how:
To back up your iOS device to iCloud:
- Open Settings on your device and tap your name at the top.
- Tap iCloud.
- Scroll down and tap on iCloud Backup.
- Turn the backup on (if it isn’t already) and tap Back Up Now to get started.
You may need to sign in with your Apple ID and password if you haven’t logged on in a while.
To back up your Android device to the cloud:
- Open the Settings app on your phone.
- Tap System, followed by Backup. If you don’t see it, try searching the Settings app for the word backup. If you still can’t find it, check out Google’s list of manufacturers to find a guide for your device.
- Tap Back up now and tap Continue to confirm.
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4. Add your emergency contacts and set them as Favorites
If you bought a new smartphone or tablet, take a moment to add your emergency contacts. It’s not just a good idea — it can potentially save your life.
When you add emergency contacts to your phone, the best way to make them stand out from your other contacts is to set them as Favorites. This means you’ll have them on speed dial for whenever you need them most.
On iPhone, open the Phone app and tap Favorites on the bottom left corner of the screen. Then tap the + icon in the upper left corner and select your emergency contacts.
You may also like: Adding this to your smartphone could make all the difference in an emergency
On Android, open the Phone app and tap Favorites in the bottom left corner. Then, tap Add on the top right corner of your screen and select the contacts you wish to add to your favorites. You can also add any contact to Favorites from within the Contacts app by tapping the Star icon in the upper right corner.
5. Create strong, secure passwords
Weak passwords are one of the top reasons hackers around the world are successful. In fact, millions of bad passwords are already publically exposed for hackers to use and abuse. Tap or click to see how bad passwords led to millions of stolen accounts ending up on the Dark Web.
Despite how important strong passwords are, it’s not super difficult to make them. You just have to be creative.
Never use your own name or common expressions that others can guess. Include numbers that aren’t personal to you and consider substituting some of them with letters.
Here’s an example we use here at Komando.com: T/Vho2nnL
It comes from a random sentence — a Metallica lyric. “Take my hand, off to never-never land.”
To start, we took the first character from each word to get “tmhotnnl.” Then we added some symbols and numbers in place of letters. M becomes /V, the “to” from the original lyric becomes 2. Finally, we capitalized some of the letters to make a strong password that’s easy to remember: “T/Vho2nnL”.
Want a few more pointers or need more help? Tap or click here to learn how to make stronger passwords.
6. Stop your new smart TV from spying on you
Smart TVs sell like hotcakes on Prime Day, but not everyone knows how much data these gadgets collect on viewers. It’s all thanks to a feature most smart TVs use called ACR, or “Automatic Content Recognition.”
ACR scans the programs you watch and sends the data back to analytics services and marketing firms. Then, your data is crunched and studied so they can advertise to you based on your habits.
This is annoying and intrusive, but ACR does have an upside: It makes smart TVs cheaper. Even better, you can turn the feature off altogether. The steps will be different for every brand. Tap or click here to find out how to disable ACR on your smart TV.
7. Set up your smart speaker to delete recordings
Remember the huge scandal where Amazon was caught transcribing Alexa recordings? Believe it or not, it’s far from the only company doing this. Google and Facebook are just as guilty of using transcribed recordings to improve their voice assistants.
Fortunately, each of these companies gives you a way to opt-out of having your data saved and recorded. If you’re concerned about privacy on your new Echo, Facebook Portal or Google Home device, just follow the steps in the article below.
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. While this might make you feel more secure, remember these systems aren’t without risk.
If Ring users aren’t careful, they could reveal their home or office locations through the built-in Neighbors social network. Tap or click for details on what you’re really sharing if you have a Ring system.
If you make a post to Neighbors, don’t forget that it’s publicly visible and can be shared with everyone from law enforcement to private investigators. If you avoid posting to Neighbors, the only thing your Ring doorbell will show is what’s in front of it.
9. Manage privacy settings
Just like smart TVs, streaming devices keep tabs on what you watch for the same exact reasons. Fortunately, you can turn this off no matter which brand you use.
- From the Roku main menu, open Settings.
- Open Privacy. Then, open Advertising.
- Check Limit ad tracking.
- Open Settings from the main menu. Then, choose General.
- Choose Privacy
- Toggle the Limit Ad Tracking option to On.
Amazon Fire Sticks:
- From the Fire TV main menu, choose Settings.
- Click Preferences, followed by Privacy Settings.
- In the menu that opens, turn Device Usage Data, Collect App Data Usage and Interest-based Ads off.
You can also disable Data Monitoring, which tells Amazon even more about how you use your device.
- From the Fire TV main menu, select Settings.
- Click Preferences, followed by Data Monitoring.
- In the menu that opens, turn Data Monitoring off.
10. Remove all the bloatware
Mac users are lucky. Unlike PC users, they don’t have to worry about useless bloatware apps that come with computers straight from the manufacturer.
Thankfully, Windows 10 has a settings menu that lets you pick and choose the apps you want to keep on your system, making it easy to get rid of programs you’ll never use:
- Click the Start menu and open Settings.
- Click Apps, followed by Apps & Features
- Scroll down to the app you want to remove.
- Click the app and then click Uninstall to confirm.
Bonus: Whatever you do, hang on to that box!
When returning any gadget, the box is the second most important thing to hang on to besides your receipt. Many stores don’t even accept returns without it, and keeping the box gives you a place to put your gadget when you’re not using it.
Plus, boxes for tech products tend to show important information like serial numbers and product codes — both of which are usually needed to register your device and get support.
Plus, if you ever sell your gadget, having a box gives you a reason to charge more. It’s another way of showing you how much you cared for it. Tap or click here for more details on selling your old smartphone.