A few top holiday tech tips

New smart devices, visiting relatives and online shopping all demand some digital vigilance


The internet has transformed just about everything we do, and that includes the ways in which we celebrate the holidays. From shopping to gathering with loved ones, constant connectivity can make the best time of year that much better. But it also requires considerations that didn’t exist 20 or even 10 years ago.

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your online experiences this holiday, so you can focus less on the tech and more on merry-making.

Shopping online

With Amazon and other online retailers, everyone basically has a mall in their pockets at all times. This makes it easier than ever to get caught up in the Black Friday spirit and go on a Christmas shopping spree. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s worth taking an extra moment for safety, even on a site as generally safe as Amazon.

For starters, remember that third-party sellers abound. While most of them are legitimate, it’s still possible to get scammed. Potential warning signs include super-long shipping times, sellers with a history of bad reviews, and especially sellers making unusual requests, such as asking you to bypass Amazon’s checkout process and pay them directly.

Amazon will generally help if you if something goes wrong, but it’s always better to avoid trouble in the first place. Read more Amazon shopping tips here.

After you’ve ordered your gifts, it’s important to think about how you’ll receive them. “Porch piracy” – theft of packages after they’ve been dropped off – is increasingly common. Simply sending your stuff to an address where someone will be available to receive it is one solution. But that’s not always feasible, especially during the busy holidays. Many folks turn to high-tech solutions such as smart doorbells or Amazon lockers.

Preparing your home network for guests

Maybe you didn’t sign up to run an internet café. But if you’re expecting houseguests over the holidays, sooner or later you’re going to be sharing your Wi-Fi. That can be a problem: Your family and friends likely don’t have nefarious intent, but their phones and other devices could carry viruses or other tech transgressors.

Luckily, most routers — including the Viasat Wi-Fi Modem — offer an option for creating a separate guest network. This gives visitors a separate avenue – in this case a separate network name (or SSID) – for connecting to your internet. That not only helps keep your home network safe from electronically transmitted maladies, but it also restricts access to your computer files and personal devices to you alone.

With a guest network, visitors use their own SSID and password to browse, check email and online shop to their heart’s content – all without using your personal network or learning your password. You can even set the number of guests – or devices – allowed on the network. That’s a nice option if don’t want too many visitors using your internet connection at one time.

Setting up smart gifts

Everything from pet toys to kitchen gadgets is getting smart. So when the last bows are untied and the last bit of wrapping paper is torn, odds are there will be at least one more internet-enabled device in the house.

Properly setting up your new device is also setting up yourself for happiness down the line. For starters, make sure your home’s Wi-Fi is password-protected. Then change the default password on each new device.

Next, it’s worth thinking about how you want to use your device. It’s always a good idea to install software updates from the manufacturer, but beyond that you have some decisions to make. Do you want to share your location with the device? Your credit card number? Do you want to give it free rein on your internet, or would you rather manage your data usage manually?

Try to avoid the “set it and forget it” mentality behind many connected devices. Just like you lock your doors every night, keeping an eye on these digital portals into your home is critical for security.

Besides, tinkering with your new device is half the fun.

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