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Cyber Secure in 2023

In our mission to better secure Montanans, the DIG provides the following resources to make you more cyber-aware and cybersecure. To have our content delivered to your inbox weekly, subscribe to the DIG's educational cyber tips using the SUBSCRIBE link below. 


Are you purchasing an internet-connected gift for someone this holiday season? There is a good chance those new devices could also bring privacy and security risks to the recipient if they are not set up securely.

Include this printable secure setup checklist when gifting internet connected devices like smart cameras, smart TVs, watches, toys, phones, and tablets. 

Text of best practices to set up a new device.

Use Strong Passwords or Passphrases.

To protect yourself and your information, you'll want to use passwords or passphrases that are long, strong, and difficult for someone else to guess. To do so make sure your passwords are 12 or more characters, use a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. Never reuse passwords across multiple accounts. Strong passwords can be hard to remember so use a password manager to keep track of all of them.


Change the device’s default password.

Many devices come with simple default passwords intended to be changed after you purchase the device. These default passwords are easily found online, so they don't provide any protection. When setting up your new device, don't forget to update to a unique, strong password or passphrase!


Enable Multifactor Authentication (MFA) on all accounts that allow it.

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is an added layer of security beyond just a password. With MFA, every time someone tries to log in to your internet-connected device, they must provide additional proof of identity. MFA can significantly reduce the impact if your password is compromised because the cyber attacker needs the other factor to gain access to your account. If your new device or its app provides the option to use MFA, take it.


Tailor privacy and security settings to meet your needs.

Most internet-connected devices offer a variety of features you can tailor to meet your needs but enabling certain features to increase convenience or functionality may leave you at risk. Review the default privacy and security settings to limit how much data the device collects, stores, or transmits. It is important to examine the settings—particularly security settings—and select options that meet your needs without putting you at an increased risk.


Deactivate features you don’t need.

Many internet-connected devices give you the ability to control them from anywhere. If you only use them on your home’s Wi-Fi network, deactivate remote access. Likewise with voice activation on devices like smart TVs or smart assistants. If you don’t utilize voice-control, turn off microphone access. A device’s features can usually be turned on or off with the controls their Settings menu.   


Connect smart devices in your home to the Guest Wi-Fi.

Many home routers provide the ability to set up a Guest (or secondary) Wi-Fi network. When you are setting up your new internet-connected devices, connect them to your Guest network instead of your primary home network. Several reasons why you should do this are provided below.


The first being anyone with the password to your primary home network will also have access to potentially everything connected to that network.


Secondly, if your primary home network is infected with malware, it can spread to all your connected devices.


Lastly, internet-connected devices are ultimately additional devices you will need to keep up date and track. It can be a big job to manage all of them. Cyber attackers know this and look for these devices and their related weaknesses.


By connecting your internet-connected devices to a Guest network, those attackers won’t have access any of your more important devices, such as your laptop or smartphone. This practice safeguards your primary network and your sensitive information.


If you don’t already have a guest network set up, instructions for your specific router and internet service provider combination should be available online. Each provider or router app will look a little different, but the option to create a Guest network should be easy to find. Once you've reached the Guest Wi-Fi settings in the app, enter your desired network name and password, and then apply the changes. Your new Guest network should now be ready to use.


Keep devices up to date by installing updates.

Like all your existing devices, your new internet-connected devices will need updates every so often. Many of the devices (and their apps) don’t update automatically but instead prompt you to initiate the updates when available. Updates often include essential patches that can enhance your privacy and security. When notified of updates, you should install them right away.

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