Privacy checkup: 4 simple ways to protect your tech

It’s a major hassle to deal with security and locking down your gadgets, but get over it. It’s part of life. Hackers, scammers and thieves are after you, your private information, and of course, your money.

Millions of people have had their login credentials stolen and sold on the Dark Web simply because their passwords were too weak. Tap or click here to find out if your credit card number is one of 30 million records hackers are selling online right now.

Far too often we put ourselves at risk by assuming the default settings baked into our tech will protect us. Sorry, Big Tech isn’t looking out for you. Tap or click here for 5 steps you must take to stop your phone from tracking everywhere you go.

That’s why keeping your security in check is critical. Actively ignoring the basics is just asking for hackers to come knocking. But you can stay safe with these simple tricks. Let’s start with the all-important updates.

1. Stop hitting ‘Remind me later’

Frequent updates are the bread and butter of strong cybersecurity. Ignoring or waiting to update can give hackers the upper hand.

Remember, cybercriminals are constantly poking around behind the scenes for vulnerable code to exploit. Don’t give them a chance to wreck your life.

To check if your devices are up to date, make a list of every gadget you own and operate on a regular basis. This includes but is not limited to:

● Smartphones

● Tablets

● Laptops and desktop computers

● Routers

● Security cameras and other smart home tech

● Smart TVs

● Smart toys and games

● Video game consoles

In addition to these, make a list of your most frequently used apps and online accounts, as well as your login information. These might include:

● Facebook

● Instagram

● Twitter

● Google

● Amazon

Now that you’ve got your lists, it’s time to check if updates are available.

For your hardware, confirm which operating system you’re using. This will determine how you can update your device.

iPhone – Open the Settings app and select General. Then, choose Software Update and follow the onscreen instructions if an iOS update is available.

Android – Open the Settings app and select About Phone. Then, tap Check for Updates and install any that are available.

Windows – For Windows 10, click on the Windows icon in the bottom left of the screen and click the Gear icon for Settings. Then, click Update & Security. If an update is available, you’ll see an option to download and install.

Mac – Click the Apple icon on the menu bar in the top left of the screen and select System Preferences. Then, choose Software Update. If an update is available, you’ll have the option to update by clicking Update Now.

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Other devices like game consoles and routers will usually have their respective updates somewhere in the Settings menu. It’s especially important to update and secure your router, and it’s not as complicated as you think. Tap or click here for step-by-step directions.

If you’re not sure how to reach the settings, refer to their manuals. If you lost the manuals, tap or click here to find them online.

While you’re at it, make sure automatic updates are set up if the option appears.

As for your apps and services, make sure to check each app in the App Store or Google Play to see if an update is available. If it’s an option, it’s also a good idea to set up two-factor authentication for your accounts to protect your logins. Tap or click here to see how to enable 2FA for all of your internet-connected services.

2. Be smart about what you share

By default, our devices are enabled to share content with other users. But this can put you in harm’s way — especially over public connections.

To see what you’re connected to, open the settings apps of your devices and look at Wi-Fi and Bluetooth options. Under Wi-Fi, if you’re connected, make sure it’s to a private network you trust. Also, enable any Ask to join networks options so you’re not automatically connecting to public networks without your knowledge.

For Bluetooth, verify the devices listed are all frequently used by you. Anything that doesn’t belong should be removed or deleted from the list, like those old headphones you gave away. Tap or click here to troubleshoot some of the most common Bluetooth pairing issues.

If you’re an iPhone owner, you should also limit who’s able to send you files via AirDrop, or consider disabling the feature altogether. Open Settings, followed by General and select AirDrop. Turn Receiving Off or to Contacts Only, depending on your preference.

For those with Samsung Galaxy phones, you might be familiar with the Direct Share menu. This lets you share files with your contacts, but an accidental press can send files where they don’t belong. To disable it, open Settings and type Direct Share in the search field. Tap on Direct Share when it appears and toggle it off.

In fact, if you’re not actively using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, simply turn them off when you’re out and about. You can re-enable them when you’re no longer in public places.

On an iPhone X or higher, swipe down from the upper right hand corner of the screen and tap on the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth icons to disable them. If you’re on an older phone with a home button, you’ll swipe up from the bottom of the screen for these options. Do the same to turn them back on when you’re ready.

On Android, swipe down from the top of the screen two times to open the Quick Settings panel. Alternatively, you can swipe down using two fingers. Tap the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth icons to disable them, and tap them again to re-enable.

3. Stay one step ahead

This one is less device-focused and has more to do with your account privacy. Each social network and internet service collects data from you and, depending on what you’ve shared with them, your entire life may be online and up for grabs.

This is how businesses like data brokers and people search websites function. By scraping social media, they’ll build your profile and sell it to anyone with enough coin — from private investigators to clandestine stalkers.

Thankfully, each of these platforms have unique ways for “participants” to opt out. Tap or click here to see how to remove yourself from these websites.

It may also be worth looking deeper into your accounts and removing as much personal data as you can. You never know how much a company knows about you until you start deleting information.

If you don’t really use your social networks anymore, it’s a good idea to just delete them altogether. Tap or click to learn how to delete your social media accounts and change your privacy settings.

But what do you do if you can’t remember every site you’ve signed up for? This might seem like a blind spot at first, but thankfully, there are apps and services out there that can hunt down old accounts you’re not using and delete them for you. Tap or click to wipe your digital slate clean.

4. Keep your wallet safe

Do you do much online shopping? If you use Chrome to buy on the web, it might have saved your card number and login information to complete online purchases more quickly. This can be dangerous if your browser gets hijacked.

To block websites from accessing payment information from Chrome, follow these steps:

● Open Chrome Web Browser select the three dots on the upper right portion of the browser menu.

● Select Settings.

● Choose Advanced from the side menu.

● Select Privacy and security from the side menu.

In the first section, toggle Allow sites to check if you have payment methods saved Off.

You can also visit Google’s payment methods menu and delete any information you no longer want to keep. This is useful if you rely on Google (as most of us do), but don’t use Chrome as your browser.

BONUS TIP FOR EXTRA KNOW-HOW: How to erase your Google search history

Does the idea of Google knowing your every move creep you out?

Think about it, the tech giant knows every car that you’ve ever looked up and it knows more personal details, like what medical conditions you have, which coworkers you’ve searched for and even your home address.

Google knows all of these things from your many internet searches. It’s understandable if you consider this is a terrible privacy risk — because it is. Here’s how to erase everything you’ve ever searched for and how to stop data tracking.

Tap or click to protect your private info in just a few clicks.

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Learn about all the latest technology on The Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.