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By Kayla Boyd
If you received some new tech gadgets over the holidays, you’ve probably spent hours playing around with the coolest features.
Still, it can be tough to figure out how to make the most of a new smart device. That’s why tech expert, Kurt Knutsson from Cyberguy.com stopped by the show to share some important tips for using your new tech products and how to stay safe in the process.
Here’s what you need to know about your new smart home devices.
Amazon Echo Plus, $150, Amazon
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Echos are a very popular device because they act as a personal assistant. It can check the weather, play your favorite songs, read the news and more. The newest models have some pretty incredible features but also a few things to keep in mind when it comes to safety.
- Find My Phone: If you’re having trouble locating your cell phone, simply say, “Alexa, find my phone” and the device can help track it down.
- Away Mode: If you say “Alexa, run Away Mode,” the device will continuously play a gibberish recorded conversation to scare off burglars until you stop it upon returning home.
- Delete Voice Recordings: Alexa records the voices it hears so that it is smart to routinely monitor the Alexa app, review your recordings and delete indiscreet ones that can create trouble or misunderstanding. You should also learn to press the physical mute button or unplug when you are having a sensitive conversation.
- Smart Lock Safety: It was found that smart locks could be opened when anyone screamed the phrase, “”Alexa, disable alarm system and unlock front door” through a closed window. Yikes!
- Parental Controls: Alexa’s parental control settings can be used to turn off voice purchasing so you don’t find yourself with mysterious credit card charges tracing back to the device. In the app, click on settings, then on voice purchasing and pick a tricky password required to make purchases.
Wyze Cam 1080p HD Indoor Wireless Smart Home Camera, $26, Amazon
Also available at Target.
This camera works with the Alexa App. You can ask Alexa to show your front door, kid’s room or anywhere else you have your Wyze Cam placed.
- Safety Tip: Avoid using smart home cams for security protection. “Motion Tagging technology detects and outlines motion in both live stream and playback video modes,” Knutsson said. “It records for 6 seconds with a 6-second buffer in between. You’d probably want to have longer than 6 seconds to get a good look at an intruder.” There’s also the risk that intruders will simply take the camera and you’ll lose all the footage. That risk is why cloud-based video storage is much more popular and reliable in terms of home security.
Portal from Facebook, $200, Amazon
Also available from Best Buy.
This device works best for video calls. Connect it to any Facebook account to start chatting with friends. The smart camera follows you around to keep you in the frame during a video call. The product claims that Facebook doesn’t listen to, view or record your portal video calls. And it also comes with a camera cover, making it easy to disable the camera and microphone with a single tap.
- Safety Tip: Use the camera shutter to disable the mic when it’s not in use.
Fortnite Battle Royale, $0, Playstation Store
Fortnite is huge. But what most parents don’t know, is that some kids are getting ripped off by international scammers who hijack gamers’ profiles and hold it ransom for cash.
- Safety Tip: Tell kids to enable two-step authentication. Two-factor authentication is a second layer of protection requiring an additional piece of info after entering the login and password. Fortnite does not require two-factor authentication, but smart gamers should turn it on in the game’s settings to make it much harder for hackers to gain access to their account.
43 Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart Roku LED TV, $260 (usually $330), Walmart
Also available from Amazon and Best Buy.
New TVs are alway exciting! Knutsson said the most important step to take with a smart TV is protecting your privacy when setting it up.
- Safety Tip: Protect your privacy when setting up your new TV. If you just follow an out-of-the-box setup you could be surrendering your viewing specifics. “While it may masquerade as a convenience tool to bring you better things to watch etc., you could be signing away your private data of what you watch, when you watch, what types of searches you do on your tv and sometimes allowing access to your TV remote microphone to listen and record you,” Knutsson said. Much of this information is buried in the lengthy fine print that none of us read.
Dell Latitude 7400 Notebook, Coming Soon
This new Dell release has a proximity sensor that wakes up the laptop when you get near it to log you in. Dell calls the feature “express sign-in,” a technology that pairs a special proximity sensor with Windows Hello to make sign-ins faster and hassle-free, according to Knutsson. Once awake, the Windows Hello infrared camera then searches for a face match. It should make for automatic logins and signs out.
- Safety Tip: Stolen laptops are responsible for numerous costly hacks. “Smarter security like this breakthrough in proximity sensing and facial identification is the best improvement I’ve seen in laptops period,” Knutsson said. This disruptive technology makes it hassle-free and easy for you to lock out prying eyes.
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