How Can I Protect My Data?

In today's ever evolving world, technology is moving at breakneck speed for many. New trendy gadgets come out every year just in time for the holidays. It use to be every 10-20 years, but now tech is doubled in capability and the price is halved every two years. Over the next 2 decades, it is estimated that time will also be cut in half. Those are some crazy numbers. To make things even a little scarier, there are a new generation of hackers learning as we read. Even now, companies are trying to edge out the competition by getting to the market first with new devices, sometimes letting security lapse. They say we will fix that in the next update. But will they? Don't you have new research and new products to worry about also? Can we expect this trend to continue? Probably, this is why it is so important to make yourself aware on your own vulnerabilities in your system.

Everyone's system is different and is configured differently. Some DIYers have created their own network just for this reason. Others may hire a professional to create and maintain their network for incoming threats. For the rest of us, it will take a little time and some good ol' fashion research. In this blog, we are going to try and break down some of your biggest vulnerabilities and some easier ways to protect yourself. We will also be providing some very valuable links and direct sources for you to take matters into your own hands.

Your Network:

The network is your connection to everything in your home and also your connection to the outside world. This "bridge" may not exclusively be yours. Others may be trying to access your router and/or modem to get at your personal data. So this is the best place to start. You may be leasing your modem and router from your service provider or you may have bought your own for more control or speed. Either way, all routers, modems or all in one devices come with preset credentials. You should never use these except during setup. Setup the device, connect your computer or laptop, and then log into it with the address and user credentials located on the label on the bottom of the router. Next, change the name and password of the router and then update the firmware to make sure you have the latest security protocols. This will instantly give you more security to the entire home and all the devices connected to your network. Below are some links to our cable providers that will walk you through step by step how to so this.

- If you have smart devices in your home beware you have to reconfigure all of these!

- If you have an integrator like Connected Home, this has already been done. Call your integrator to confirm.

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Spectrum Routers

AT&T Routers

ATMC prefers you call in so they can record changes, but you can still log into the modem.

Your Desktops, Laptops, Tablets, and Phones:

I am going to bet you didn't know that you have a free subscription to McAfee! Most of us anyway. Whether you have At&t or Spectrum, they have all signed a deal to give their customers McAfee for free as long as you have a paid internet subscription. This is not only a great tool to protect your personal data, it's FREE. I have personally installed this on many of my own devices and so far has done just fine. If you feel better with the paid service you currently have, by all means keep it if it works. If you do not have any virus control, ad blockers, or browser protection, you should get this installed today. All you need to setup your free service is to create your free provider email address. Unfortunately for ATMC customers, there is a monthly charge for their service provided by Tech Home, but it is fairly inexpensive and you get more features. Below are links to get directions on how to install this software.

Spectrum Security Suite

At&t Security Suite

ATMC Tech Home

Now if you want to be a ghost online leaving little to no trace your were ever there, you need a VPN (Virtual Private Network). VPN mask all you internet traffic and the websites you visit even from your ISP. No one will be able to even know it is you visiting their site. Even better, it tricks your device into thinking it is in a different location. This will throw off anyone trying to pinpoint your location that would normally be broadcasting from your phone. This is an incredibly valuable tool these days to protect your data. The "firewall" apps you get for free on your phone are some of the worst for data mining. Delete then, especially if it is a free app. There is no such thing as a free app. Remember, if it's free, you are the product they sell! I personally use ExpressVPN, but below are the top 10 for 2020.

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Top VPN's of 2020

DIY Security Systems:

Connected Home is an integrator and we always recommend professional grade home security, especially ours, but that may not work for everyone. Many of you have seen the commercials for some of the latest DIy security systems. Maybe you have heard about some breaches in their platform. That is because many people when setting these up, they use a password often used for other accounts, like their email password. Do not use the same password for too many accounts because if hackers can breach one, now they have easy access to the rest of your accounts! Always change default passwords from manufacturers and try to make sure that your wifi, main email, and security systems have the most secure passwords. Remember, the longer and more complex, the better. Plus, if there is an option for 2 Factor Authentication (Like with Your Apple Id), make sure you use it! Below are some links to the most popular DIY security systems security pages.

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Google Nest Security

SimpliSafe Security

Ring Security

Smart TV's Voice Enabled or with Video Calling:

Most televisions manufactured after 2016 do not have cameras in them. Connected Home is exclusively a dealer for Sony and we have not seen a camera in one for years. Even Samsung has removed the cameras from most newer units, especially with the rise of larger pc monitors and devices like Facebook's Portal. But if you have an older television, you need to read up on the security settings to try and disable. In order to guard against possible intrusion, the FBI recommends that smart TV owners educate themselves on their device's security settings (available from a simple Google search), change default network passwords set by manufactures, and understand how to enable and disable microphones and cameras. If a particular smart TV does not allow the disabling of cameras, the bureau says placing black tape over the camera is one basic and simple solution to shutting out prying eyes. The main thing to be concerned with is the microphone, just like the ones found in your Alexa or Google Assistant. Many smart televisions come with Google Voice built in for faster communication, such as our higher end Sonys. We recommend using the microphone button on the remote. This way the mic only listens when you are actually holding in the button. The television is always waiting for a command. Samsung even edited their user agreement to specifically say not to have personal conversations of a sensitive nature around the television. What? You should also turn off the ACR (Automatic Content Recognition) feature if it is enabled. This allows the television to track things you watch for advertisers. Below is more information about disabling some smart TV features.

- Note: this is not only for your television. We recommend doing these steps for your Fire Stick, Roku Player, Apple TV or any other streaming device you may have.