Amazon Echo and Google Home can’t answer your questions without searching the Internet first. This means sending your requests to a server somewhere. The good news is that neither Google nor Amazon are recording anything you say until you use the wake word, and you can see what requests have been logged and delete them. Just look in your Alexa App or go to myactivity.google.com to view (and purge) your request history from their servers. You can also keep these devices on mute by default and only unmute them during the times of the day you use them most.
Turn off all location services unless they’re absolutely necessary. Beyond saving your battery, there is no need to share your location with every App you’ve downloaded. Also, it might be tempting to set your smartphone’s auto lock feature to 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or even never, but the shorter the better. Finally, make sure ‘Find My iPhone’ (‘Find My Device’ for Android) is turned on in the event that your phone ends up in the wrong hands.
Some security cameras (like my Nest Cam at home) let you turn off recording while you’re at home. This can give some peace of mind while freeing up extra WiFi bandwidth for cloud-connected cameras. Any network-connected camera should be segmented to its own network to remove it as a potential access point for hackers to gain access to your other connected devices. Any cameras in the home you don’t need (like that built-in web cam you never use) should absolutely be manually covered.
Between your status updates and photos a stranger could piece together quite a bit about your lifestyle, such as when you go on vacation and what the inside of your home looks like. Start with limiting who can see your posts in your privacy settings. Next, turn ‘Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends or Public?’ on (this assigns the same limitations to photos from your past.) Enable ‘Review all your posts and things you’re tagged in’ to see and approve any photos of you before they appear in your timeline. Finally, nobody says your profile picture (which anyone can see) has to be of you. Marty from our accounting department uses a picture of her dog.
If you’re not using a password manager yet (we like LastPass) you should seriously consider it. It removed the temptation to choose simpler passwords by generating, refreshing and centrally managing complex passwords for all your accounts*. Your important accounts like email should also be set to two-factor authentication. This adds a layer of authentication (usually a code that is texted to you) when trying to access that account from a new location. Finally, Chrome, Firefox and Safari all have tracking protection you can turn on your settings to stop aggressive advertisers from following you site-to-site. No need to give out your browsing data for free.
(*One of our employees opts to avoid storing his sensitive information on a network at all. He dedicates a safe at home to a single item: An external hard drive with copies of everything related to finance, identity and passwords. )
The most common mistake people make with their home Internet connection is using the router provided by the cable company. These companies are notorious for using out-of-date equipment, and every home network should have a firewall that can prevent unapproved incoming traffic, prevent and report suspicious activity.