Cyber-security is much like driving a car: one accident can change everything, sending ripples of misfortune through every aspect of your life. Protecting your devices may seem excessive, even silly. Do you really need two-factor identification? Aren’t all those complicated passwords just a little annoying? Isn’t public Wi-Fi use acceptable in small doses?
Then someone drains your bank account. Or your identity is stolen. Or your credit score plummets, and you have no idea why. You would do anything to go back in time. Here are five spy hacks to do now before it’s too late.
1. Stop your Smart TV from spying on you
On paper, the smart TV is a thrilling idea: Combine the best parts of a computer and television into one super-machine. These are the two devices that dominate most our conscious lives, and the interface of a computer can radically boost your entertainment experience.
But the risks are serious – and they have made smart TVs extremely controversial. It’s now common knowledge that the technology is susceptible to ransomware. In addition, certain models are susceptible to hacking, allowing cybercriminals to remotely monitor your activities in real time, using a microphone and possibly a camera in the busiest room in your home.
It may seriously hamper your enjoyment, but you’ll sleep better knowing that your TV isn’t doubling as surveillance equipment.
2. See all the information Google has on you
Most people are aware that Google compiles an enormous amount of personal information. We entrust Google with our passwords, our documents, and our photographs, but the company also absorbs types of data that you may not have considered.
The most notable example is Google’s GPS system, which tracks your every movement through your phone, whether you are actively using Google Maps or not. Google also retains the entire breadth of your search history; deleting this history from your browser won’t erase the archive of past URLs. Many other apps use Google data to help them function – and then there are targeted ads, which accumulate cookies over time.
The good news is that you can find out how much of your information has been logged with Google so you can take steps to get rid of it.
3. Check your smartphone for spy apps
In theory, a “spy app” can be very handy, especially for parents monitoring their children. But these kinds of apps can easily be used for secret eavesdropping. Worse, this kind of monitoring can be recorded, manipulated, and distributed around the world in a matter of minutes.
Even now, your phone may have a spy app, enabling strangers to listen to your calls, read your texts, and rifle through your photos. The best way to determine whether your phone has been compromised (or prevent it from being so) is to know what kinds of spy apps are out there.
4. Turn on these Amazon Echo privacy settings
Like your smart TV, Amazon Echo is designed to sit prominently in your living space, and its built-in microphone system listens to every single sound, including discreet conversations. This listening is benign enough: Echo is waiting for a “wake phrase” that will call the device to action.
But again, privacy – and the potential for hackers to listen in – have been valid concerns in recent years. Equally alarming is the way Echo records your every command. The purpose of these recordings is to improve its voice recognition software. Many consumers worry about someone breaking into that bank and pillaging their voices for criminal use.
The good news is there are ways to make things more secure. Click here to learn about 3 Amazon Echo privacy settings you should turn on now.
Bonus: Turn your webcam into a spy cam
Household security is cheaper and more versatile than ever, and if you find the right system, it will be worth the investment. Most people don't think about setting up a monitoring system until they're already out of the house. Yet an internet-enabled security camera is accessible almost anywhere. You can view your home in real-time, whether you’re out to dinner or vacationing in Thailand.
One of the most cost-effective solutions is to use the webcam on your desktop or laptop computer. A well-positioned webcam can be extremely effective, especially if you can access the live feed from a mobile device.
What other ways can you protect yourself?
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Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.