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Top ways to secure your family’s smart home and digital devices this holiday season

Households are more technologically connected than ever before, from Amazon Echo to smart thermostats to the proliferation of personal digital devices such as tablets, smartphones, and computers. The pandemic increased our reliance on technology, and now families are spending more time online browsing social media, streaming movies, and on third-party apps. With the holiday shopping season is already underway, parents should take steps to secure new and existing devices in the home and protect the personal information of all members of the family – from teens to grandparents. 

As a mom, security leader and educator based in Philadelphia, I’ve seen firsthand the damage that cybercriminals can cause by breaching personal devices and compromising personal information. I have made it my mission to break down the complexities of cybersecurity into best practices that anyone can follow to secure their home.  I’ve seen firsthand how high the stakes are when it comes to securing our online presence. We all have a role to play in improving our security at home. 

Whether you’re shopping online for the holidays or preparing to set up new gifts, here are some simple steps you can take to secure home devices and avoid compromising your family’s personal information.  

1. Manage Your WiFi 

WiFi networks are an easy target for bad actors looking to score sensitive data. Managing your WiFi is an essential step in warding off cybercriminals and protecting your home and your family from security threats. Changing the name and network password for your WiFi from something easily recognizable to a more complex combination will help guard your network from threats. It is also critical to change the password and network from the factory setting that came in the box. This provides an additional layer of protection to keep attackers from infiltrating your network. 

2. Balance and Prioritize Online Privacy 

Children are spending more and more time online, and 71 percent of parents are concerned about their child’s screen time. Parents have a key role to play in prioritizing the security and privacy of their children. For example, following your child on all social media platforms will help monitor their account activity. Parents should look out for anything unusual and should address it immediately with their child. Having an open line of communication is important and allows for discussion on anything alarming or concerning.  

3. Back-Up Personal Information 

Securing your family’s devices and personal information extends beyond monitoring for unusual login attempts or avoiding email scams. Families should make sure to back up important documents such as family photos or bank documents on a hard drive, cloud service, or second desktop. We don’t often think about backing up our digital information until it has been compromised or lost. Taking these steps to secure your personal information will help ensure that the data can be guarded from outside threats and keep our most personal and important content safe.  

Implementing better data privacy and device security practices may seem daunting, but by following these simple steps, all members of your family can better protect your household from outside threats. With the holidays approaching, now is the perfect time to improve the cyber hygiene in the home. Educating the whole family on how they can best protect their online presence, devices and personal information is key to staying cybersecure. Anyone can fall victim to a cyberattack, but by following these simple steps, you can decrease the likelihood of a cyber incident.  


Heather Mahalik is a SANS Institute Faculty Fellow and Senior Director of Digital Intelligence at Cellebrite 





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