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Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday: Being safe with ‘Internet of Things’ devices

Oregon FBI Tech Tuesday Holiday Internet of Things

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- This week, the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment focuses on building a digital defense against all of those Internet of Thing devices that are sitting under your tree right now.

What’s included in the Internet of Things or IoT, as it is called? Everything in your home that connects to the world wide web. If you look at the holiday wish lists that your kids, spouse, and parents conveniently texted you – there are probably a number of items that count as IoT. 

There’s the fun stuff, such as remote-controlled robots; games and gaming systems; interactive dolls; and talking stuffed animals. Then consider personal electronics - digital assistants, smart watches, and fitness trackers just to name a few. Add that to items you may already have plugged into your home such as security devices, thermostats, refrigerators, and even light bulbs – well all that and more makes up your Internet of Things. 

What these all have in common is that send and receive data. But do you know how that data is collected? And where it is going? 

Another concern is that hackers can use that innocent device to do a virtual drive-by of your digital life. Unsecured devices can allow hackers a path into your router – giving the bad guy access to everything else on your home network that you thought was secure. Private pictures and passwords safely stored on your computer? Don’t be so sure. 

Here’s what you can do to build that digital defense: 

  • Change the device’s factory settings from the default password. A simple internet search should tell you how – and if you can’t find the info, consider moving on to another product. 
  • Passwords should be as long as possible and unique for IoT devices. 
  • Many connected devices are supported by mobile apps on your phone. These apps could be running in the background and using default permissions that you never realized you approved. Know what kind of personal info those apps are collecting and say “no” to privilege requests that don’t make sense. 
  • Secure your network. Your fridge and your laptop should not be on the same network. Keep your most private, sensitive data on a separate system from your other IoT devices.  
  • Make sure all of your devices are updated regularly. If automatic updates are available for software, hardware, and operating systems – turn them on. 

As always, if you have been victimized by a cyber fraud, be sure to report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov or call your local FBI office.

Have a great holiday everyone, and remember to shop safely.

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