Preparing for the Holidays: Device Security, Privacy, & Best Practices
With the holidays quickly approaching, Norton and Lifelock are helping us to share a few tips and best practices for protecting your favorite devices this season. After all, a recent UBIF survey showed that 1 in 3 smartphone users would rather go without shoes than without their device! We’re confident an avoidable technology headache is on nobody’s wishlist.
Protect Yourself Against Common Holiday Threats & Scams
Pick-Pocketing & Theft
Don’t leave your bag, purse, wallet, or device unattended while shopping. During the holidays, thieves commonly target busy shoppers while searching the racks, trying something on, or tending to a child. With reports of theft already rolling in this season, Kansas Police advise holiday shoppers to take additional precautions to protect their belongings.
Planning to take advantage of shipping deals this season? Keep in mind that mail theft increases during the holiday months. Video doorbells are a great way to keep an eye on your packages; however, a simple and free alternative is to ask your delivery handler to leave your items in a specified location such as your back porch or side door. You can also check out this list of apps to track packages and make sure every gift reaches its intended recipient.
Criminals are preparing for people to set holiday shopping records! Without proper vigilance, consumers are vulnerable to fraudsters crawling the web for personal data like credit card numbers. Keep an eye out for any unauthorized charges, credit notifications, or official notifications from your lenders, all of which could indicate a personal security breach.
Fake and Imposter Websites
Of course, the holiday season is teeming with deals and discounts, but don’t be fooled. Imposter websites, product scams, and unsecure websites can trick you into willfully handing over your most sensitive information. A fraudulent site can lead you to hazardous links, and unsafe emails can infiltrate your inbox with malware or a virus-contaminated attachment.
What to Avoid This Season
Oversharing Personally Identifiable Information
Before sharing any identifying information—including email address, name, and credit card information—always check the site’s authenticity and security. Remember that official organizations and companies will never email you asking for login credentials or credit card information. Practice safe shopping and check the site’s URL. A secure site will display “https://” within the URL, especially on the cart and checkout pages.
If you fear you have shared your information with an untrustworthy source, cancel the order immediately and look for charges on your financial statements. If the charge is completed or you notice multiple charges, contact your credit card provider to request a spending freeze until the unauthorized changes are addressed.
Accessing Public Wifi or Shared Networks
Public and unlocked networks are attractive to cybercriminals and may be hacked to monitor activity. When exchanging personal information, making purchases, or accessing banking accounts, make sure you are connected to a secure and private network.
To avoid accidentally connecting to an unsecured network, you can adjust your device settings and disable automatic connection to unknown networks. If public WiFi is the only option, consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your connection to hide your Internet activity.
Duplicate, Weak, or Compromised Passwords for Devices and Accounts
One of the riskiest practices among device and Internet-users is the use of duplicate, weak, or potentially compromised passwords. When it comes to setting up a new device or creating a store account, it is important to create entirely new passwords.
Random password generators can be helpful, but some online services secure their login process using two-factor-authentication (2FA). 2FA is used to monitor accounts, keep track of login attempts, and remotely deny access. Rather than using a PIN or password, consider using biometric authentication such as your fingerprint to ensure that no one can unlock your phone without your permission.
Signs of a Compromised Device
In a perfect world, your device would remain in pristine condition. In reality, day-to-day life can take a big toll on our devices, both internally and externally. It is important to recognize the signs of a compromised device.
A few obvious warning symptoms are noticeable decreases in device power and performance, frequent freezing, unresponsiveness, or random application crashing. If your device’s security is jeopardized, you may also begin receiving strange phone calls, experiencing system or hard-drive crashes, noticing unusual activity on any accounts linked to the device, or continued running of applications despite efforts to close them.
If you install an app and the device performance decreases, it is possible that malware, viruses, or ransomware has installed itself with the app. If you uninstall the app and your device begins working properly again, this means that the app is contaminated with malware and you should avoid downloading in the future. If you think your device has been compromised, try turning on “safe mode.” Each make of smartphone has a different process for turning on safe mode, so run a quick Internet search to confirm the process for your device. If it operates noticeably smoother in safe mode, you know there is something wrong and should bring your device to a repair provider like uBreakiFix for professional support.
The potential for malware can seem scary, but don’t stress! There are steps you can take to avoid them this year:
First, remember that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Keep that in mind when receiving calls offering a free cruise or claiming that you won the latest sweepstakes—these are likely scam efforts to hack your information or record your voice. Other best practices include keeping your device updated and avoiding applications with poor reviews and battery saving apps (which have been known to be used for malware). For an added layer of protection, consider installing ad blockers and a password vault application.
3 Tips for Preparing your Devices for the Holidays
- Start up all new Internet-connected devices and install parental control software before gifting to children or teens.
- Clean and update computers and smart home devices with the latest firmware. Most smartphones have built-in security measures that will get the job done, but always make sure they are updated with the latest software.
- Set up a guest network for holiday visitors that is protected with a separate password containing letters, numbers, and symbols.
We hope that these tips and tricks will set you up for a successful, stress-free holiday season with your favorite technology! In case any of these issues try to steal your holiday joy, Norton Lifelock and uBreakiFix are ready to help.