Security advice for setting up new tech gifts safely this Christmas

Olivia Miller
Picture by Unsplash

With new gadgets and technology always popular gift choices at Christmas, Dr Jason Nurse, Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Cyber Security at the School of Computing and member of the Institute of Cyber Security for Society (iCSS) shares his expertise on how to set up new devices safely and securely. His top tips are:

Change default passwords as soon as you can

It is always a good idea to change the default passwords that come with new gadgets. Why? Default passwords are sometimes openly available online to assist with product support. Changing these to your own password will ensure that what you do on the device remains private and only accessible to you.

Use passwords that are hard to guess but easy to remember

Strong passwords don’t have to be complex, the trick is to find a password that is difficult for someone else to guess, yet easy for you to remember. A tip is to use three random words mixed with numbers and symbols, such as ‘&’, ‘?’ , and ‘#’. Unique passwords for different devices and systems can also help, and password managers offer the perfect support for this.

Double check the privacy settings

Smart devices (e.g., fitness gadgets or smart home tech) have a variety of settings which determine what data about you is collected. To protect your privacy, it is always best to have a look through these settings to ensure you are not sharing too much. In particular, check for apps and devices that constantly want to know your location, and disable any features that you do not need or use.

Make sure you install all available software updates

Cyber criminals are constantly finding new ways to break into devices such as smartphones and laptops. The purpose of software updates is to protect against these attacks by fixing security holes and other software problems. Simply put, updates keep you secure and can keep your use of devices private. Installing them is a no-brainer: good for you, bad for the criminals.

Be careful what you share around smart devices

There are lots of fantastic gadgets and gizmos available now for people of all ages, from smart toys and fitness trackers to voice assistants and drones. Remember though that they all come with some risk. Smart toys may expose your children’s data to cyber criminals, unchecked webcams may be used to spy on you as you undress, or voice assistants may listen in on your private conversations. Always be careful with what you share with these devices and the activities you engage with in front of them.