The Stranger in Your Gifts

By Ben Halpert, CISO Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

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The holidays, a wonderful time of year, bring us closer to our friends and family — and ushers in a season of giving, receiving, and upgrading.  Unfortunately, when technology-enabled gifts enter our lives, so do strangers that we didn’t invite to our festivities.

On the top of many people’s wish lists in past years (and this year too!) are phones and tablets that are more powerful and capable than computers built just a few years ago. Android and iOS (the base software that makes your devices work) smartphones and tablets literally open up the world to us. When our children or grandchildren are researching new subjects for school projects on their tablets, or when we are using our phones to communicate with relatives, share our family adventures, or shop to avoid the traffic, no doubt about it, these devices significantly enhance our daily lives.

Yet before the new glow and nicety of technology enhancements fade, we should take a few minutes to understand — and ultimately reduce — the not-so-nice and naughty aspects of technology-enabled devices. In the media we often hear of crimes being committed using technology to target unsuspecting individuals, both adults and children. Thankfully, iOS and Android devices provide settings that can help to increase our privacy  (in this case, establishing limits to the detailed information about us that is exposed when we use devices).

So what can you do?

Go through your location settings and turn off location services for all apps that don’t need to be tracking your whereabouts. And for those apps that need your precise location (Waze, Uber, Lyft, etc.), select the option to enable location-tracking only when the app is in use (if that option is available).

In addition to the more obvious apps that need to use your location information to be functional, there are other apps that also like to gather information about you — for the provider’s or creator’s own purposes and uses. So turn location-tracking off for those apps, including your browser app that sends your current location to every website you visit and your camera app that shares your personal information (like your home address) on photos that you post on social media apps.

Don’t overlook the social media apps you use. Use all of the privacy setting options (including denying access to your physical location) available to you to ensure you are only sharing your personal and private information with your friends and family, not some stranger that claims to be your friend online.

If you are looking for more specific information on privacy settings for your phones or tablets, leverage the Apple and Android location privacy guides.

 

Savvy Cyber Kids (SCK), a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to enable youth, families and school communities to be empowered by technology, recognizes that children may be Digital Natives, who, without intervention, completely lack an understanding of the implications of their digital actions. Founded in 2007 by Internet security expert, noted speaker and author Ben Halpert, Savvy Cyber Kids provides resources for parents and teachers to educate children as they grow up in a world surrounded by technology. Savvy Cyber Kids is grateful for the ongoing support of its presenting sponsors, Digital Guardian and Ionic Security and for the support of its education series partner, Earthlink.

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