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Friday December 2, 2016 6:05 am

Keeping your devices and info secure this holiday season (and win a trip!)

iPhone lock screen

With the holiday season in full swing, it’s easy to forget about the importance of privacy and security in this world of endless digital devices. More and more of our electronics are constantly connected to the Internet through cloud services, providing more and more entry points into our homes for those with nefarious intentions. McAfee reached out to me with some tips on staying secure when using different devices, and they’re good enough to be shared, as they just might help you avoid a privacy-related disaster. Additionally, McAfee is running a sweepstakes where the grand prize winner will receive a trip for two to Iceland. More details on that at the end of this article.

I want to focus on mobile devices and tablets - basically, anything that runs iOS, Android, or a variant of Windows, because these are the easiest to lose. There are a few simple steps you can take in order to stay protected here in the event that your device makes it into someone elses hands.

The first, and simplest, is to require a passcode to log in to the mobile device. The longer the passcode, the better. On my devices, I actually use a six-digit password rather than the default 4-digit version. You can also use biometric means of protection, like a fingerprint, although contrary to popular belief, this isn’t as effective as a nice, long passcode.

Another great step here is to keep your operating system updated. The software that powers these devices is very complicated, but often bugs are found that allow people to get around the built-in protection mechanisms. Luckily, the makers of these operating systems are able to quickly and efficiently squash these bugs in new software releases - but no matter how many bugfixes are released, it’ll mean nothing if you don’t keep your devices updated. Either enable automatic downloads of updates, or be sure to check for new updates every two weeks (it literally just takes a few seconds to do!)

McAfee Mobile Security

Finally, through McAfee’s tips, I learned about its Mobile Security app. You can download it for iOS and Android devices completely for free, and you’ll get privacy protection and anti-theft on both platforms, with Android also offering antivirus and performance boosting features as well. You can store files and even photos securely in the password-protected Mobile Security app as well. It’s definitely earned a spot on my iPhone.

McAfee also has tips for other categories of devices, all of which you’ll find on the company’s Island of Hackable Toys Web site. Some standout tips include:

  • Scheduling regular backups for your laptops and PCs
  • Checking (and enabling) security settings on your connected home devices, including changing any default passwords
  • Being sure to check, understand, and follow the FAA guidelines for flying a drone (this will be a hot holiday gift this year) while respecting the privacy of others
  • For all devices, be sure to have a product like McAfee protection installed to protect from malicious software

McAfee Island of Hackable Toys giveaway

Be sure to check out the Island of Hackable Toys Web site for all the tips, which will do nothing but put you in the position to stay safe. Need another reason to visit the microsite? As I mentioned earlier, McAfee is running a sweepstakes where the grand prize winner gets a trip for 2 to Iceland. Even cooler, five first prize winners will each receive a Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro tablet with a 1-year McAfee LiveSafe subscription included. So, go and check out the site, enter the contest, and most of all, have a #SafeHoliday this upcoming season and onward with your digital devices!

This post was sponsored by Intel Security.

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