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Know how your Christmas gifts spy on you (and stop them)

When it comes to gifts in the department of IoT (the internet of things), no guy is wearing a white suit with a full bag of surprises.

In fact, you will hardly be able to distinguish pitter-pat of the digital feet while you connect that Internet Of Things gift to Wi-Fi whether it belongs to cyber thieves or your team member.

You might have an idea what I am talking about but let me end all the guessing. So, everything smart and innovative such as lights, televisions, fitness wearables, alarms, medical devices, and baby monitors with several other connected devices is available right in the stores near you.Christmas gifts spy on youYou might have heard this before, thanks to the social sites – they act more like a news channel these days. One thing to consider is that when someone offers you something without any fee online, you are the product then.

In fact, you are pitching the product to acquaintances who want to buy the same thing without knowing – or you are helping the product that you have just purchased and subscribed to.

In the real world, Internet of things is now in its Wild West evolution. More importantly, when it comes to security, companies are rushing Internet of things (IoT) products to beat big brands that are at high stakes to roll out their new products with more cautions and deliberations.

Hence, you cannot pretend that your data is safe – not at all. Over the past few years, we have learned that in regards to cybercrime, there is no such thing to keep you completely safe and secure online. However, there are some organizations that are doing the downhearted jobs of protecting you.

In the year 2014, Jawbone sold a fitness tracker that collected the data about the sleeping pattern of users and published it after the California earthquake.

Users protested because they did not know at first that the privacy policy of that device could allow it to do so. They always thought the data “actually” was anonymized – isn’t it an unreasonable expectation?

Similarly, a device called FitBit transmitted the sex life information of users. Both of these information gushers were allowed by problematic privacy policies unread (and unjudged) by the users and their false assumptions that these devices came with tight privacy set as default.

Afterward, Forbes revealed a report that FitBit stopped tracking the sex life of users. However, Re/code reported that according to Jawbone the company does not share any data with individuals without any consent and its privacy policy is clear – which “definitely” wasn’t the case.

Now this year right before the Christmas of 2017, feds warned that the toys connected to the internet might be inviting the hackers into your residence.

According to the feds, the only way to escape hackers is not to let such toys enter your home – but you can stay safe by following some simple tricks (going to give later below)

So, the fact is, not all of us know much about (IoT) and it does not mean that we want it on our bodies and in homes without any stress about the risk of our privacy.

Having said that all, many get Internet-connected products with reckless abandon as the gifts in Christmas season though – and the most critical issue that everyone faces is the protection and privacy of their data.

Undoubtedly, as it seems, the IoT devices are here to stay – and in fact, the numbers of such devices are likely to grow over time. Getting internet-connected gifts for homes or your personal use is going to be a continued-era for us all, we cannot deny this assumption I believe.

But what we can do is better prepare ourselves to deal with the IoT gifts we get, not just on Christmas – as a whole.

Our privacy is our very own responsibility so we ourself will need to take some action about it, don’t you agree? Is not buying or accepting the IoT powered Christmas gifts is the only solution? No.

What can I do to keep myself secure even if my Christmas presents have a potential to spy on me?

To stay secure, you’ll have to take some strict precautions. Some of the fundamental steps that I can tell you to keep your home and family safe from the online dangers are:

  • Set a long and secure password with the combination of lowercase letters and numbers. If you don’t know already, every gadget comes with a preset password – you should upgrade the password of a device as soon as you get it
  • Frequently update your password. Do not have a password for more than a month or so, keep updating it
  • Turn off features with spy-potential like the voice recognition
  • Turn any tracking feature off that’s available on the gadget. You can do that by just going in settings, usually.
  • Always, always keep your software updated – all of them! Even the apps on your gadgets should be updated to their latest versions for stealthy privacy-guarantee

Before I forget to mention, delete your voice recording if you are using Amazon echo or Google home. To remove your voice recordings from both Amazon echo and Google home, you need to make almost the same adjustments in your settings.

Playing with settings to disable such features is easy, you just go to the Alexa app and select which part of your voice you want to remove.

Final thoughts

So hackers are always on a role to find ways to spy on you, via every single high-tech gift you get! Of course, they do it to steal your personal information and then use that for illegal acts.

And you must act before things get any worse! It might look like a part you would not want to think about often, but it is critical for us all to understand what is going on in this virtual world.

Imagine you have a camera in your home, it turns and looks at you while you’re in bed – does it sound possible to you or just a scene from a horror movie? The truth is, that is possible nowadays. In fact, a general consumer might even won’t be able to guess at what extent the spying is happening to him.

I’ll give you a hint here; even your smart toilet devices record how many times you flushed – oh come on, is that something someone would have interest in? You and I might think no, but large corporations and hackers have interest in anything we do. As simple as that!

Finally, here you have it everything you need to know regarding the true-face of your high tech gifts. And of course, you also have simple tricks with you now to stop such devices from doing any wrong to you. Feel free to speak your mind on the topic via our comment section available right below.

Asad Gilani
the authorAsad Gilani
Staff Writer
Asad is a freelance blogger from Pakistan. He is interested in technology and in particular the subject of online security. An open supporter of freedom of speech, privacy, and equality for all. On a personal level, he likes to stay socially active, loves playing snooker, cricket, enjoy seafood, and loves listening to the folk music.

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