When the holiday season rolls around, it’s not just Santa Claus that’s coming to town. Scammers, hackers, bots and all sorts of other nefarious actors will always be around, waiting in the wings to take advantage of eager and ignorant consumers, travelers and revelers. Beware, but do not fear! At the advent of this year’s season of cheer, here are some of Vermont Panurgy’s top tips to keep yourself, your loved ones, your data and your finances safe and sound, enjoying the yuletide with concerns at bay.
Jump To a Tip
- Shop Safe, Shop Smart, Online
- Set up Your New PC for Success
- Getting Rid of Your Old PC
- Travelling with Technology – Dos and Don’ts
- Gift Gadgets with Gusto
- Tech Gifts for Kids: Caution is Key
- Stay Organized and On-Task
- Daily Deals for Days
- Track Your Spending
- Secure Travel Tips
- Think Long-Term Tech
- Keep Tech in its Place
1. Shop Safe, Shop Smart, Online
Whether you are ordering something for a distant relative or finding that rare gem that only exists on that one independent internet store, it’s important to follow some important safety tips when shopping online.
- Make sure the website you are shopping on is secured by looking at the URL (make sure it starts with https://, not just http).
- Avoid making purchases online using public computers or connected to public Wi-Fi. Use only private computers with antivirus and Wi-Fi that is secured with a secret password. If you’re at the library or coffee shop and find something you want to buy, bookmark it and then make the purchase when you get home.
- Make sure your passwords are strong and contain numbers, letters and special characters.
- Use unique passwords for each website and enable multi-factor authentication whenever possible.
- Do not click on suspicious links and beware of spam advertisements on websites that are designed to look like legitimate buttons or links.
2. Set up Your New PC for Success
Got a new PC for the holiday? Here are a few tips to make sure your old PC can be safely recycled, and the new one is all set to go.
- After setting up your new PC for the first time, make sure to check for and run both Windows Updates and any updates available from your PC manufacturer. Who knows how long that gift has been sitting in that box!
- Install and keep up to date antivirus software, preferably with advanced ransomware protection and cloud-based detection response technology.
- Uninstall any software you don’t want/need, and only install software you trust and need to use, downloaded from reputable sources.
3. Getting Rid of Your Old PC
Before you dispose of your old PC, whether donating it to a friend, family member or charity, reselling it or recycling it, make sure all of your personal data is wiped off the hard drive.
There are more options than just throwing your old PC in the trash! There are local companies all over the world that will take old PCs off your hands for free or even pay you if the PC has value, to refurbish and resell. There are also companies and public utilities that take e-Waste and properly recycle them. Don’t add to the landfill more than necessary!
4. Travelling with Technology – Dos and Don’ts
Visiting relatives, taking a long-needed vacation, delivering presents just like Santa; there are a lot of reasons people travel during the holidays. Here are some tech tips for travel so you don’t have to worry while you’re dashing to your connecting flight on Christmas Eve.
- Make sure to power down your laptop, tablet, or other devices before stowing it for travel. Don’t just put it to sleep.
- Keep your original power adapters close and don’t lose them! Beware, many third-party power adapters are not made well and can cause problems with your device’s battery or power supply. And don’t even think of buying a power adapter overseas; voltage differences can cause huge issues with your tech.
- Turn down the brightness on your display. The battery will last longer, and your eyes won’t be as strained; it’s a win-win.
- Avoid exposure to extreme temperatures. If the device does become extremely hot or cold, let it return to normal room temperature before you turn it on.
5. Gift Gadgets with Gusto
There are tons of ads out there during the holiday season aiming to seduce you into buying new technological gadgets. Things like that fancy new smart razor for your husband; a sleeved blanket that pairs with your smartphone and glows in the dark; talking dolls, internet-connected coffee makers; the list goes on. The biggest tip here is to pay attention to the brand. So many cutting-edge gadgets are poorly constructed or sacrifice quality for cheapness, many of them won’t even last until next Christmas. Only buy tech toys like these from brands you trust, and know that as a general rule, you get what you pay for .
6. Tech Gifts for Kids: Caution is Key
So many kids these days are gaga over gadgets, and it can be so fun and rewarding to satisfy their desires, but whatever you do, inform yourself before you buy something! The internet is wide-open, full of potentially damaging behavior and content. Anything that connects to it has the potential to expose your child to things they – and you – may not be ready for. Here are some top tips.
- Learn about the dangers of virtual reality.
- Get to know and use parental controls; make sure inappropriate content is blocked everywhere.
- Teach your kids about online stranger danger. Catfishing is real.
- Configure safe accounts for your children to use, and separate administrative accounts for you.
- Talk to your kids about healthy boundaries and accountability. Depending on their ages, consider setting expectations with a tech contract.
7. Stay Organized and On-Task
There’s so much to keep track of during the holiday season! Decoration inventories, Christmas wish-lists, gift ideas, party invitations, grocery lists, it can quickly make the most organized of us want to throw up our hands and yell “Bah, humbug!”
Keep your lists in order with an organizational tool like OneNote, Evernote, Sticky Notes, even the built-in Notes app on your phone can help a lot! With the ability to organize folders, format text, add images and links, and sync across devices, these tools can be invaluable to the home holiday organizer.
8. Daily Deals for Days
Even with Black Friday and Cyber Monday over and done with, there are still many ways to save money on tech gifts this holiday season. Many electronics retail outlets extend their Cyber Monday deals or run separate holiday promotions that extend into December. Keep an eye on manufacturer websites and sign up for their email notifications for more opportunities. And don’t forget the daily deal websites! During the holiday season, sometimes they will ramp up the offerings to take advantage of the increased traffic.
9. Track Your Spending
The holiday spirit can get us quickly carried away with our purse strings. Keep an eye on your spending with modern financial tools and apps that connect to your bank account or credit card and monitor your purchases. To get your holiday financials under control you can create budgets, create alerts to let you know when you’re close to maxing them out and configure summary reports. At the very least, download your bank or credit card’s smartphone app and keep an eye on it as you go. Help yourself stay in control of your holiday spending.
10. Secure Travel Tips
Beyond keeping your own technology safe, keep yourself and your property safe too by following these critical recommendations. Don’t leave home just to find The Grinch waiting for you when you return!
- Disable instant connection to unsecured Wi-Fi networks.
- Double-check wi-fi network names before joining, and only join networks you trust.
- If unsecured wi-fi is required, never do anything sensitive on it.
- Disable location services while traveling as savvy criminals can use this data to know your home is empty!
- Don’t post pictures or post about holiday travel until you get home. Even with location services off, it doesn’t take much to know you’re not home when you’re telling the world about it!
11. Think Long-Term Tech
The allure of hot tech products can be quite the siren call but resist the urge to drop that cash immediately and consider tech needs down the road. Got a kid graduating in the Spring? Maybe a new laptop for them would be a better idea than another TV for the den. Big travel plans in the summer? Get a jump on it with some new headphones, tablet or e-reading device.
12. Keep Tech in its Place
Probably most importantly, remember that the holiday season is a time of sharing, giving, love and praise. Whatever you do, don’t let your technology take you away from those most precious moments with family and friends. You can use features on your phone like Do Not Disturb and Focus settings to suppress notifications and reduce distractions. You can set schedules and custom wallpapers to remind you to put your phone down. You could even disconnect completely and turn your phone off (don’t worry, you’ll be fine!). Technology has its uses, but when you are in the presence of loved ones, make sure the focus is where it should be.
Happy Holidays from your friends at Vermont Panurgy!