Simple ways to avoid being hacked when you least expect it

Prevention is better than cure: all your internet-connected devices are vulnerable to hackers, even smart TVs

When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a photo congratulating Instagram on hitting 500 million users, all people noticed was that the smiling Zuckerberg’s MacBook was a little peculiar — both the webcam and mic were taped over.

Although some have said he might be acting a little paranoid, taping your webcam and mic has been the simplest and cheapest precaution against hackers. Even FBI Director James Comey has admitted to taping his webcam to safeguard himself from hackers activating the built-in cameras to spy for personal information. Hackers can even lock you out from your device and demand a ransom.

And it’s not just laptops. As long as you own a device that connects to the internet, it’s vulnerable to an attack, even smartwatches and smart TVs! Here are some precautions that you should take to avoid being hacked when you least expect it.

Set up a separate Wi-Fi account for your other smart devices

Your Android-powered Smart TV works like a little computer. But with next to no security built-in, hackers may gain access to your computer or smartphone via the Smart TV. Alternatively, attackers can also find a way to your personal information through malware hidden in your guests’ smartphones or laptops.

If your router allows it, you should set up an additional Wi-Fi network separate from the one your computer and smartphone are logged onto. This isolates your main network and makes it difficult to be attacked through unsecured devices connected on the ‘guest’ network. Just don’t forget to encrypt your main network as well. 

Avoid unknown apps and suspicious links

This is the easiest and most common way for hackers to gain access to your device. Malicious attackers can secretly record you and your information if you clicked on a shady e-mail link that can install malware on your machine, or when you download an app that grants permission to access your personal information.

It’s safe to say that you should be wary of clicking links you’re unsure of, and only download apps from a trusted app store, like Google Play and the Apple App Store. Additionally, don’t use devices other than your secured personal computer for personal matters like banking. It also wouldn’t hurt to get an antivirus for your smart devices. Android security apps like 360 Security work for Android-powered Smart TVs as well.

Get your password right, use two-factor authentication

You know a password should always be a mix of lower and uppercase letters, numbers and symbols. Two-factor authentication adds a second layer of protection — for instance, entering a unique code sent to your phone after you key in your password. Major websites like Facebook, Twitter, Paypal, Apple and Google have already implemented this.

And never use the same password for multiple websites. We’ve heard this countless of times before but even Mark Zuckerberg is guilty of it. It may be a pain, but you can use password managers like LastPass to help manage your library of passwords. Lastly, make it a habit to change your e-mail and online banking passwords regularly.

It pays to be vigilant in today’s digital age. Don’t forget to always back up your data and update your devices’ firmware. And if you don't need them, taping your webcam and mic might be a great idea too.