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Guidry: Don't trust default security settings

Security settings are found in any device connected to the Internet – from your computer and phone, to fitness gadgets and smart watches.

In theory, these settings protect devices and data. In practice, default security settings often offer less protection than if you’d customized them yourself.

Default settings typically are too permissive. In corporate IT departments, we lock down everything, then enable access only to the specific resources needed.

You wouldn’t grant access to an entire server when all an employee needs is the data in one folder. In contrast, nearly everything on a consumer’s device is open, unless the consumer locks it down.

Your devices by default may be broadcasting information, such as addresses, contacts, calendars, photos and even your exact physical location.

What’s more, default settings offer little protection against viruses and malicious apps. The information settings broadcast
can be used for burglary, identity theft and other crimes.

To prevent this, you need to evaluate your security settings.

System software is the foundation of any electronic device. If your system software is not secure, nothing else on the device will be.

For optimal security, you should use the current version of your system software with all recent patches installed.

System security settings on Windows and Macs can be found in their respective control panels, excluding Windows 10, which puts the control panel under the renamed “Settings.” For iPads and iPhones, look for your iOS system options, as well as individual app options in “Settings.” Android users also will find security options in the “Settings” panel.

Security “gotchas” include programs that demand more data than they need, require location data or request access to social media or email accounts. Check with the
manufacturer for security settings specific to your computer.

After you’ve evaluated your system security, evaluate your apps. Many apps have their own settings, although some do not.

Pay particular attention to your Web browser, since it’s a primary avenue for viruses. Again, you should run the latest versions of your apps with all updates installed.

Next, log onto your social media accounts and check those settings. A number of excellent guides are available on how to restrict account permissions on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. But you’re generally looking for permissions that are set to “Public” or
“Everyone,” instead of “Friends Only” or “Only Me.”

It’s a great time to set new passwords unique for each site. Even better, enable two-factor authentication (password plus passcode) where available.

You should use trusted antivirus programs on computers, tablets and smartphones but watch out for fake apps disguising themselves as antivirus software.

Finally, don’t forget to re-check your security settings on a regular basis to make sure they stay configured to your satisfaction.

• Triona Guidry is a freelance writer and IT specialist. Her blog, www.guidryconsulting.com/techtips, offers computer help and social media advice. Reach her at info@guidryconsulting.com or via Twitter @trionaguidry.

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