Holiday Gifts a Security Risk?

Many of the hottest gifts this past holiday season were Internet-connected: fitness trackers, smartwatches, tablets, drones and interactive toys like Mattel’s Hello Barbie™.  Unfortunately, cyber security experts say some companies failed to incorporate adequate safety measures in their rush to market new smart products. These weaknesses could potentially allow thieves to access a home network and sensitive information on its main computers.

The problem isn’t new.  According to a 2014 study from computer manufacturer HP, seven out of 10 Internet-enabled devices (including TVs, home alarms and thermostats) contained security vulnerabilities. But the problem will undoubtedly grow, with analysts predicting another 20-30 billion Internet-connected devices will hit the market in the next three to four years.

Thankfully, there are simple ways to help keep your home network from being hacked through your connected devices.  Don’t jump on all the latest trends. Smaller companies in particular may rush a product to market, and the first models could become security guinea pigs.  Later models are more likely to have security flaws resolved. Research a prospective brand to see if it has had security incidents in the past.

Always switch preset manufacturer passwords immediately, and create strong passwords that are somewhat complex and hard to guess. Check manufacturers’ websites regularly for firmware updates, which can provide another layer of security. Avoid public Wi-Fi. Turn Bluetooth off when you’re not using it. If your device has the option to do so, make Bluetooth “invisible.”

Install a respected anti-virus program on your computer. Use a router-based firewall and set up guest accounts for connected items. This allows a device to connect to the Internet but prevents access to personal files and the installation of software or hardware. Be sure to wipe any device clean or have it factory reset before giving it away or disposing of it. Finally, be alert to requests for personal information. If a communication seems odd, trust your instincts.

The importance of securing your family’s personal information cannot be overemphasized. You may not be able to keep every device you own from being hacked, but you can take proactive steps to minimize risks. You can find additional tips on securing your home network at staysafeonline.org. Protecting your personal and financial information is our top priority. If you would like more information about the safeguards we have in place to protect your identity, please contact our office. Contact Jordan Dechtman, your Denver registered investment advisor representative at 303-741-9772, email him at Jordan@JordanDechtman.com or visit our website at www.JordanDechtman.com to schedule an appointment.