- 5 December 2012 16:37
How to have a relaxed Christmas - protected from Scammers, Spammers and Hackers
Michael McKinnon, Security Advisor at AVG, said: “Every Internet-connected mobile device holds valuable and private information and should be consciously treated as the powerful computers they are. They need to be secured as you would your desktop.”
The 8 best ways to protect your online activities these holidays are:
1. Inside the wrapping paper
As soon as the wrapping paper comes off your new smartphone, tablet or gaming console, change every default setting to a strong individual password, review all privacy settings, and switch on every security option available on the device.
2. Keep your new toy safe
Before you leave the house for the first time with your new smartphone or tablet, make sure you’ve installed and activated options for Remote Tracking and Remote Wiping. The risk of physical loss or theft of shiny new and coveted gadgets is very high. We all know how easy it is to leave items in a taxi, on a plane or in a cafe – particularly those that our brains have not yet added to the list of things to pick up. Specifically designed security software for smartphones, laptops and tablets such as AVG AntiVirus for Android and its built-in phone locator, phone locker and remote wipe facility can save you considerable time and effort in the recovery of your phone and most importantly, protection from third party use of your data.
3. Don’t get more than you bargained for
If you buy a new mobile device this Christmas, be sure to disable In-App purchases, particularly for devices used by children, so you can’t be automatically charged to your credit card.
While many Apps are initially free, they often want you to buy extra functionality or in-game currency like “Gems” and “Berries” to enjoy them fully. And at regular intervals during the year, there can be fees for In-App upgrades, such as Christmas editions of popular games.
4. Beware of being too friendly
Switch off geo tagging. The precise time, date and location metadata now being automatically captured when you take photos using your smartphone can be easily lifted from Facebook and other social networking pages. At best you’ll only reveal your secret fishing spot, at worst you may be telling the world you're not home or inadvertently reveal you were somewhere you shouldn’t have been.
5. Prepare for unexpected guests
There are also risks to your home systems with the arrival of friends and family over the holidays. If you leave yourself logged in and your desktop open, their “Could I just use your computer to …” or “Do you mind if the kids use your computer to…” could result in the inadvertent downloading of malware. Protect your devices and information by running the latest applications and operating systems; plus always on, automatically updated security software on every networked device; and set up a ‘guest’ login for your home WiFi.
6. Should your ‘friends’ be on your Christmas card list?
As we would once have filtered our address book each year to decide who was still a friend and who should be sent a Christmas card, we should also review our social networking friends list. If you’ve drifted away from someone then ‘unfriend’ them; it’s a silent operation and they aren’t notified, so don’t feel obligated to keep divulging personal information to these people.
7. New Year resolution to be a good digital citizen
Cybercrime affects us all and is so insidious because it doesn’t have witnesses, it only has victims. People can feel isolated as they’re attacked via their devices in the privacy of their own homes.
By immediately reporting any instance of suspicious online activity or a direct scam to the organisation being used as a cover – be it a bank, retailer or government agency – the faster these disruptive, costly criminal pursuits can be shut down. All the major companies have dedicated security teams to take action often with direct access to Google, Firefox and so on.
The Government’s SCAMWatch and Stay Smart Online sites are also excellent resources for checking the current status of emerging scams and improving your own awareness of issues.
8. Scammers’ Little Helpers will find you
Just because you’ve joined the Do Not Call Register, don’t lower your guard. You’re not protected from scammers just by signing up as it’s only adhered to by legitimate organisations. People are continuing to fall for the “Microsoft” Technical Support (MTS) scam, often because they believe the Do Not Call Register affords them a measure of safety; all unsolicited calls should be viewed with caution.
There are even reports of people who’ve fallen for the MTS scam now being contacted by criminals purporting to be from an Indian Government Department, claiming they’ve arrested and jailed the original scammers and offering “compensation” to those who provide their credit card details!
Have a merry and safe Christmas.
Keep in touch with AVG Technologies AU
• For breaking news, follow AVG on Twitter at twitter.com/avgaunz • Join our Facebook community at www.facebook.com/avgaunz • For security trends, analysis, follow the AVG blog at resources.avg.com.au
AVG (has a comprehensive range of security tips on its web site at http://www.avg.com.au/resources/security-tips/. For video tips from AVG, see http://www.youtube.com/user/avgaunz.
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I’m dating myself, but I remember when holiday shopping involved pouring through ads in the Sunday paper, placing actual phone calls from tethered land lines to research product stock and availability, and actually driving places to pick things up. Now, holiday shoppers can do all of that from a smartphone or tablet in a few seconds, but there are some security pitfalls to be aware of.