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With the holiday season upon us, many people will be away from home for long periods of time. Consequently, crime takes a turn for the worse at this time of year—for all the goodwill in the air, thieves know that an empty home is an easy target.
But what if the home didn’t appear to be empty? Smart home technology makes it possible to give the appearance of presence in the home, even if you’re a couple of flights away.
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No security system is foolproof, but thieves want easy targets. If you make your home too difficult to easily rob, most would-be burglars will go somewhere else. We’re not going to talk about security cameras here as we’ve covered that before and that’s an obvious first-choice deterrent.
This article will walk you through how to safeguard your home for the holidays. We previously covered how you can protect your smart home devices from hackers, but here we’re going to talk about using smart devices to protect your home.Move The Blinds & Shades As Normal
Smart blinds enable you to open and close the blinds from afar. Opening them in the day and closing them in the evening makes it feel like someone is at home. Drawing the blinds can hide any valuables inside your home, but if they are closed for multiple days in a row, it’s a sure-fire sign that you’re away.
If you open your blinds however, make sure any tempting items are hidden from view. For example, don’t leave expensive game consoles in plain sight or keep jewelry on the windowsill. You can program smart blinds to open and close at set times of day, or you can do it yourself from your phone.Use a Smart Thermostat
Protecting your home while you’re away isn’t just about keeping unwanted elements out—it’s also about keeping the items inside your home safe.
Many people drop their thermostat to much lower temperatures while they’re away during the winter to conserve energy, but if it gets too cold it might damage temperature-sensitive items in the home. You also burn a lot of energy bringing your home back to its normal temperature when you return.
A better alternative is to use a smart thermostat and place it on its “eco” mode. This mode takes weather data from the internet and sets the temperature based on the temperature outside. It will prevent your home from getting too cold (and keep you from an uncomfortable return from your travels) while simultaneously keeping your utility bill under control.Set Outdoor Lights To a Normal Schedule – But Keep Indoor Lights Random
Outdoor lights should be turned off during the day and turned on at night. A deviation in this pattern, like leaving the lights on all the time, signals that no one is home.
If you have a smart switch, you can set it to an “Away” mode that causes it to turn on and off at random. If you keep a lamp plugged in, the light will power on and off as though someone is inside the home. Smart bulbs can do something similar.
It’s also a good idea to plug your TV into a smart switch so you can turn it on and off.Install a Security System
One of the primary benefits of a smart home is how easy it is to link a smart security system to it. Security systems offer a lot of benefits, such as live video feeds of your home, motion detectors, sirens, and more.
These devices alone are often enough to deter would-be thieves, especially if they are visible from the outside. If someone sets off the siren in the home, it will draw more attention than most burglars want.
However, you can link a smart home system to a home security system for even more effect. If someone sets off the motion sensors, the lights inside the home can come on. You could make the lights flash and strobe. It gives you the ability to take a security system to the next level.Use a Smart Lock To Monitor Your Door
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You might not find this information overwhelming on its own. This information, when combined with data gleaned from other web users, can reveal important details about your life like the medical conditions you are researching and where your children go to school.
Why Security Matters in 2023 and Beyond
Advertisers are selling your online habits to make a profit. Criminals on the dark internet could use your information against you if it gets into the wrong hands.
There are many ways to protect yourself from dangerous information leakage. Here are some ideas:Top 5 Tips to Protect Your Data at Home 1. Take Care When Browsing
You can protect yourself against information leakage by thinking before you search or visit a website. Consider why you are accessing the site, and whether it will use your information in a manner that is acceptable to you.
Also read: 10 Business-Critical Digital Marketing Trends For 20232. Search privately
For browsing online, you might consider using a private search engine such as DuckDuckGo or StartPage. These search engines do not record your data. Instead, they present results that are more relevant to your needs than those that are based on your data.3. Protection from Identity Theft
It is essential to protect identity information from ID theft, especially since cybercriminals can leak data. Identity theft protection software is a must-have in these times.
Also read: Top 10 Best Software Companies in India4. Securely delete Confidential Data
You can delete data that you do not want others to see. Identity thieves can use your browsing history, search results and other information against you even if it isn’t disclosed.
There are many ways you can erase this information. Search engines can be prevented from collecting more information by deleting search history.5. Dark Web Monitoring
Also read: Top 10 IoT Mobile App Development Trends to Expect in 2023Final Thoughts
Although online information leaks might seem like something you don’t think about, there are many ways they can occur. These techniques will help you avoid allowing cybercriminals to access your personal information via the dark web.
Consumers who outfit their homes with home automation devices without considering security may be inviting hackers and thieves inside.
Repeatedly, studies have revealed that devices designed to automate the home have serious vulnerabilities. Many devices have weak password policies and do not protect against man-in-the-middle attacks, according to an HP survey of 10 off-the-shelf home security systems. Others do not prevent access to the device’s debugging interface, which could allow easy hacking of the device, according to an April study by code-security firm Veracode. And, if an attacker is able to gain access to the device, almost all devices could be easily compromised and turned into a Trojan Horse, according to a study by security firm Synack. In fact, it only took between 5 and 20 minutes to find a way to compromise each device, once the researchers unpacked the hardware.
“These companies are really pushing to get a product to market to really compete in this Internet of things boom, but they don’t have a security guy on their team, so there is a lot of small stuff being overlooked,” says Colby Moore, a security research analyst for Synack. “The majority of companies are ignoring the basics.”
Buying a used Nest could be a bad idea. Criminals could install custom firmware that enables them to compromise a host of other devices on your home network.
By the end of the year, about 2.9 billion consumer devices will be connected to the Internet, according to market researcher Gartner. While the Apple Watch may be the best-known device among the Internet of Things menagerie, many of the “things” that you will connect in the future will be part of your home. Unfortunately, the rush to deliver home automation capabilities to users has resulted in poorly secured systems creating additional avenues of attack for online miscreants.
“It’s hard to not be excited about what the IoT has enabled and will bring in the future, although that doesn’t mean cybersecurity should be sacrificed in the process,” Brandon Creighton, Veracode’s security research architect, said in a statement.
Each device had security shortcomings. Consumers’ desire to control their home from the smartphones, for example, means that losing the device can have some significant consequences for home security. In addition, so many products do not use encryption technology.
“I can’t say that I was shocked, but it was pretty shocking,” Moore says.
For those consumers embarking on a journey into home automation, here are some mostly simple steps to protecting the devices as much as possible.Lock down the router
Routers are the digital doorway to the home, and a poorly-secured router can allow an online attacker easy access to all the home automation devices in your network. In May, for example, security firm Incapsula found that a group of attackers had turned routers with default passwords into a botnet that they then used to take down Web sites using a denial-of-service attack.
Users should invest in a router with a good security track record, make sure that the default admin password has been changed, and that it’s running the most current firmware.
Don’t let your router be the weak link in your connected-home system. Make sure it’s secured with strong passwords and keep its firmware up to date.Prevent tampering with devices
Getting two minutes with devices in the home did not give the attacker enough of a window to modify the devices, according to security firm Synack’s study. Devices with a USB update mechanism, however, were vulnerable to quick compromise.
Home users should put devices in places where untrusted people cannot easily access them, with particular emphasis on devices with a management port.Go with a cloud service
Cloud services designed to help a consumer manage home-automation devices, such as Vivint, ADT, or a similar service provider, typically cost money and can open up privacy and security issues if not properly secured. Yet, for most situations, the service provider does a better job securing the service than a home user can. If you do not use a cloud service, you will be responsible for checking the security of the systems yourself.
So consumers should shell out the cash to make their home-automation more convenient and more secure at the same time. However, users do need to pick a complex password and should also ask about two-factor authentication, which adds another layer of security to accessing the account.
Many of the developers creating the software for home-automation products are relative novices when it comes to security. David Jacoby, a security analyst with Kaspersky Lab, attempted to hack his home and found a number of simple vulnerabilities in his home storage product that gave him a beachhead into the network.
“The developers have the excuse that they are not security people,” he says. “But we need to get the vendors to patch the vulnerabilities that they learn about.”
Because so much security functionality needs to be improved, applying updates is a critical step to insuring home-automation devices remain secure from the simplest attacks, he said.Go with a name brand
A company that is just dabbling in home automation will not take the security of their products seriously. Consumer should focus on companies that have committed to their products and the security of those products, says Synack’s Moore.
“You want someone who has been around, someone with a reputation,” he said. “At least they will stand behind their product and push out updates.”
The conclusion of Synack’s testing resulted in a positive recommendation of Nest thermostats and home automation equipment. Of course, the study was sponsored by Nest, now part of Google. Hive, a home-automation integrator, also did well in Synack’s tests, according to a presentation on the study. SmartThings, which grew out of a 2012 Kickstarter project, garnered high the best performance in Veracode’s study.
Firefox Private Network is an extension for the Firefox browser that aims to protect you from hackers and trackers. You can use it on your home computer but it’s especially useful on a laptop that uses public Wi-Fi networks.
Most web browsers don’t include built-in protection from hackers; you normally have to rely on third-party tools. This is what makes Firefox Private Network so exciting for Firefox users – plus it installs quickly and works with zero hassle.
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Whether you think you’ve been hacked already or you just want to protect your online identity to the best of your ability, Firefox Private Network is an awesome way to help.
Note: Firefox Private Network is free while it’s in beta, but it’s currently only available for people in the United States.What Does Firefox Private Network Do?
Firefox Private Network makes Firefox safer by encrypting two things while you browse the web – the URLs you visit and the data you send to most websites. This information is then sent through a Cloudflare proxy server to hide your identity.
However, Firefox Private Network isn’t all-inclusive:
Only the data transferred through Firefox is encrypted and hidden, so you can’t expect it to protect your other programs and browsers.
Not all web traffic is encrypted; specifically, non-TCP traffic, such as some video conferencing services, are excluded and will not be hidden.
All of the encryption and proxy details happen automatically in the background as you use Firefox. There aren’t any settings you have to change or options to pick from. When you install Firefox Private Network, there’s just a single button for enabling and disabling it.
You can even use Firefox Private Network with your existing VPN service or with other privacy protection tools running on your computer. You shouldn’t even need to make any changes to those programs; just install this one in Firefox and enjoy the extra layer of protection.
Tip: Firefox has another security tool you might like called Firefox Monitor, which tells you if your email address has been part of a data breach.Is Firefox Private Network Safe?
Since you’re concerned with privacy, let’s be clear what Firefox does and doesn’t collect about you while you use this extension:
Firefox doesn’t use the tool to collect information about your browsing habits.
Firefox does collect generic details like how you interact with the extension, when you turn it off, and behind-the-scenes details about how the extension is functioning.
Cloudflare receives your computer’s IP address, the IP address of the site you’re browsing to, the time you visited, and a unique identifier.
Cloudflare doesn’t share the data it collects with others, and deletes it after 24 hours (unless it needs to retain it for security or legal reasons).
You can read more in the Firefox Private Network Privacy Notice.
Not everything about a good tool is always rainbows, and that’s also true for Firefox Private Network. Depending on the existing speed of your computer and internet connection, running this anti-hacker software might make your connection really slow since data is being encrypted and then fed through a remote server before any webpages are sent back to you.
If your browser is also running a lot of other extensions – and there are plenty to choose from – adding this one to the group might lower the overall performance of your computer, not to mention it (probably) won’t make Firefox any faster.
However, what’s important to question is if the cost of running this tool is worth the benefit. We think that’s a solid yes! If you find that using it poses other problems, remove some of those extensions you don’t use and stop streaming movies while also trying to browse the web. You can then most likely use Firefox Private Network without any performance or bandwidth issues.How To Use Firefox Private Network
Open Firefox and visit Firefox Private Network. Select Add to Firefox.
Select Add on the prompt to install Firefox Private Network.
Select the extension icon at the top-right corner of Firefox, and select Sign in.
Log in with your Firefox account details. You can create a Firefox account here if you don’t already have one.
Wait a few seconds for the extension icon to change to include a green check mark. This is how you know that Firefox Private Network is enabled and protecting you.
Windows 10, Microsoft’s flagship operating system has been on the market for quite a few years now and although privacy options have been dramatically improved, there are still a lot of options within the operating system that need to be manually tweaked to get the best privacy results. So if you are unfamiliar with these options, follow along as this article takes you through some of the most important ones.
How to Delete Your Full Windows 10 Activity History.Use a Local Account Rather Than a Microsoft Account to Sign into Your Windows 10 PC.
If you don’t feel comfortable with your friends at Microsoft knowing exactly when you sign in and out of your computer, you can use an old-fashioned local account, just like in previous versions of Windows. If you are setting up your PC from a clean install, you will be able to select this as you progress through the Windows setup process. Even if your computer is already set up, it’s not too late to change the way you log in.
Note: Having a local account will stop some features like Cortana functioning fully.Turn Off Cortana, Microsoft’s Built-in Assistant (No Longer Possible After Fall Creators Update)
Note: If your Windows 10 version is post-Windows 10 Anniversary, use this guide: Remove Cortana After Anniversary Update.
Cortana can be a handy addition to your Windows experience, allowing you to set reminders, send emails and do plenty of other random trivial jobs. However, something you may not know is that Cortana also collects information for Microsoft in a very Google-like manner. Because if this, you may wish to disable her. Thankfully, turning off Cortana is super easy and in some cases, she may already be off by default or not even be available in your region, Poland for example.
Related: How to Delete Telemetry Data Microsoft Has Collected From Your PC.
Related: How to View and Delete Your Windows 10 Activity History. (Browsing History, Search History, Location History, Voice Activity, Cortana’s Notebook & Health Activity)
Note: How to Turn Off Cortana After the Windows Anniversary Update is available here.A Few More Settings in the General Settings Tab to Look Out For.
In the settings menu, you can be as ruthless as you like, if it’s not an option you are going to use, like location services on a desktop PC, you might as well turn it off. Start from the top of the list and work your way down, you will find yourself turning off a lot of features and blocking access. Remember, you can come back at any time to turn them back on if you change your mind or need a feature for a particular reason.Turn Off Wi-Fi Sense & OneDrive Sharing Options. Use a VPN to Secure Your Internet Connection.
Virtual private networks (VPN’s) have a lot of handy uses, one of the most helpful for protecting your privacy online and helping you stay much more anonymous. They can even mask your physical location. Setting up a VPN will ensure that your browser traffic and download habits are encrypted end to end. As there are so many options available on the VPN market choosing one may be a little frustrating, especially when you are trying to decide between paid and free versions. Just make sure you spend a bit of time researching the one you want to use.
If you’re already thinking about setting up your smart home, you should familiarize yourself with the smart home systems that are currently available on the market, weigh the pros and cons, and then choose the one that’s right for you.
Apple, Google, and Amazon are the main leaders in the field of smart homes: their voice assistants are not only a convenient way to order connected smart home devices but also help to bring their work to automatics. Of course, Control4 and Xiaomi’s systems are already making a good name for themselves on the market, and while they don’t reach the technological mastodons like Apple or Google, they’re still the best on the market.Buying smart home devices
If you’re tired of dealing with standard household issues, you can install a smart home system that does everything for you. It will take into account all your wishes, provide security, and organize a comfortable temperature in the room with an air conditioner. Do not forget that such technological installations in the smart home needs quality air conditioner servicing. In addition, smart home controls doors, gates, electrical appliances, air conditioning, and ventilation systems.
The possibilities are endless. With its help, you do not have to think about energy accounting – it will all be carried out automatically with the provision of detailed statistics. It is convenient that to save energy, Smart House will turn off devices or transfer them to energy-saving mode before you come. You can save on the purchase and installation of the system by choosing the basic models. Later you can expand the capabilities of the system by adding new components.Apple HomeKit
The HomeKit platform is a software framework that has been built right into Apple devices. If you use this system to control your smart home on your iPhone, you don’t need anything more than a single app with a perfect design and intuitive interface.
Thanks to Apple’s clever ecosystem, you can set up home control through the Home app on iOS, iPadOS, or macOS. The whole thing works perfectly with Siri. So you can change the temperature, adjust the lights, or entire triggering algorithms just on your iPhone.Amazon Alexa
The Amazon Alexa digital assistant appeared on the original Amazon Echo smart speaker in 2014 and has since spread to many speakers and other smart devices. Amazon’s smart home system itself only includes speakers that can control other companies’ smart devices. Connecting a couple or three devices into a system isn’t too difficult, but when it comes to a fully smart home, you’ll need quite a bit of time to set everything up.Control4
You may never have heard of this smart home system. Control4 doesn’t have its voice assistant, which Google, Apple, Amazon, and even Xiaomi do. However, the company’s products are mostly lighting, smart locks, home security systems, garage doors, wireless audio, and more.Reasons to install a Smart Home system
If you’re still in doubt about whether to install this system, consider the benefits it provides:
Remote access to multimedia devices.
Restricted access to electrical outlets, protecting children from trouble.
Round-the-clock monitoring of certain items in the home.
Economic power management reduces electricity and heating costs.
Remote control and monitoring via smartphone, laptop, or tablet.
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