Take a roll call of all your devices that connect to the internet. These include the obvious ones – laptops, tablets, and your smartphone. But they also include the ones you may not immediately think about, such as routers, smart TVs and thermostats, virtual assistant technology, and connected fitness watches and equipment.
Each of these devices is known as an endpoint to you. To a cybercriminal, they’re an entry point into your online information. It’s important to secure every endpoint so that you can confidently go about your day-to-day without worrying about your security. Here’s the definitive device security checklist to get you on your way confidently and safely.
1. Laptops and desktops
Laptops and desktops are prime entryways into your online life. Think of all the payment information, passwords, and maybe even tax documents you store on it. The best way to protect the contents of your laptops and desktops is to password-protect your computer with strong passwords or passphrases. Here are a few password and passphrase best practices:
- Make your password at least 12 characters long
- Choose a unique password that is not shared with any other device or account
- Replace some letters with numbers or symbols
- Use a mix of capital and lowercase letters
Especially if you work at common spaces like coffee shops, the library, or even your kitchen table, get in the habit of putting your computer to sleep when you step away. Commit the sleep command shortcut to memory to make it less of a hassle. For example, on Mac computers, the keyboard command is command + option + eject, and for Windows, it’s alt + F4.
Speaking of common spaces, whenever you log in from a public Wi-Fi network, always log in with a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN scrambles your data, making it indecipherable to any malicious characters who may be lurking on public networks.
Multifactor authentication is another way to protect your valuable devices and accounts. This means that anyone trying to log in on your device needs to provide at least two forms of identification. Forms of ID could include a text message with a one-time code or a fingerprint or face scan in addition to a correct password.
2. Smartphones and Tablets
These two devices are grouped because the security features on them are similar. Just like with computers, put your device to sleep every time you walk away from it. It’s much easier and may already be in your routine to hit the sleep button when you put down your cellphone or tablet.
Always put a passcode on your smartphones and tablets. Choose a collection of numbers that do not have an obvious connection to you, such as important birthdays or parts of your phone number. Even if they’re a random assortment, you’ll get the hang of them quickly. Or to make sure only you can enter your phone, set up a facial or fingerprint ID scan. People have several passwords and account combinations they have to remember. To take the guesswork and trial and error of logging in, consider trusting your passwords to a password manager that can remember them for you!
A great mobile phone and tablet habit you should adopt is backing up your files regularly to the cloud. In the event that you lose your device or if someone steals it, at least it’s valuable — and in some cases, priceless — content is safe. You may be able to remotely “brick” your device to keep a stranger from breaking into your accounts. Bricking a device means remotely wiping a connected device and rendering it unusable.
Your router is the gateway to all the connected devices in your home; thus, it’s key to beef up its security. The best way to do so is to make sure that you customize the router name and password to make it different from the factory settings. Always password-protect your home router! Employing password best practices you use for your online accounts and your devices will prevent strangers from hopping onto your network. Another way to keep your Wi-Fi network out of the hands of strangers is to toggle on the setting to not appear to non-users. While it’s fun seeing the quirky names your neighbors choose for their home networks, it’s best to keep yours completely private.
4. Virtual Assistant Technology and Smart Home Devices
There have been some unsettling reports about cybercriminals commandeering smart home devices and virtual assistant technology. For example, a cybercriminal hacked a homeowner’s virtual assistant and blasted music through the home’s speakers, and turn the heat up to 90 degrees. The key to securing the connected devices that are responsible for your heating and cooling, shopping lists, and even your home security system is to ensure it is connected to a secure router and protected by a strong password.
Also, keep an eye on software updates, which include security upgrades. If you don’t think you have time to manually update software, set up your devices to automatically update. This will give you peace of mind knowing that you have the latest security patches and bug fixes as soon as they are available.
IoT fitness watches and machines are fun additions to your workout routines. In the case of Peloton bikes, they track your heartbeat and location and offer a huge library of classes. However, cybercriminals may be able to track your workouts if they break their way into your fitness devices. The best way to keep your workouts private is to turn off geolocation and make sure you are up to date with all software releases and protect your accounts with strong passwords.
Cover All Your Bases
If you’re looking for a tool to put your mind at ease, consider McAfee Total Protection. It includes antivirus and safe browsing software plus a secure VPN. You can be confident that your personal information is safe, thus allowing you to enjoy the full potential of all your devices.