Tech Talks: How to Protect Your Devices in Seven Easy Steps

Every day, there are thousands of pieces of communication going on around you. From mobile devices to tablets to laptops and more, we’re always communicating. We take pictures, use GPS mapping, send texts, connect with social media, and more. We travel the corners of the Earth and find that our most precious devices always know where we’re going, and where we’ve been.

We now live in a digital world that is being called the “IOT” or the “Internet of Things”.  This includes all those devices that are “smart” and that connect to the Internet. Many times we don’t think about all the devices that are connected. Our cell phones, tablets, and laptops come to mind first, but there are many alternative devices that connect to the Internet on your behalf such as smart TV’s, thermostats, cars, routers, firewalls, DVRs, electrical grids, security systems, security cameras, gaming devices, and more. These devices have operating systems, and all devices with operating systems are susceptible to software flaws and attacks. One example of a type of attack you may have heard of is a botnet takeover, which is when a third party controls your device without your permission.  A botnet called Mirai recently paralyzed a whopping 100,000 devices. It was the largest attack of its kind, which used crowd sourcing to cripple large amounts of devices at the same time.

So when an event like this happens, one of the questions we are most often asked is this: How can I protect my devices from attacks and data theft?  We’ve come up with a quick list of seven steps to follow to best protect your devices and your data on a regular basis:

  1. Make sure to update the software or firmware, depending on the type of device.  Most updates are provided and “pushed” down from the manufacturer. Those updates usually contain extra protection for vulnerability and should be installed right away.
  2. Change the default password that comes with any device.
  3. Choose strong passwords and don’t reuse them. A strong password includes letter, numbers, and symbols, and would be something hard to randomly guess.
  4. Change your passwords often.
  5. Don’t connect to the Internet unless you are using the device. Have you seen or heard stories about webcams being compromised? Don’t leave anything open to being vulnerable that isn’t in use.
  6. Know what you have connected, in the event that you do have a problem with any device being compromised.
  7. Turn off UPnP (Universal Plug and Play). You’ll find this in most home networking devices (like Firewalls or Routers), and it can leave you open to vulnerability.

Knowing what devices connect to your network is the biggest key to preventing many possible compromising scenarios. And not being protected opens the door to device compromises. Follow these seven steps above, and you’ll do your part to keep your devices safe and your data protected. When you need a trusted advisor, Merit Technologies wants to help!