This year, tablets and smartphones are likely to be at the top of many holiday wish lists, but excited consumers should think twice before immediately loading personal data, contact information, photos and applications to their new devices. McAfee warns that typically, these devices come completely unprotected and can be vulnerable to online risks designed to steal personal information. In its official statement, McAfee is advising consumers to live their digital life more confidently by issuing tips to help consumers secure these devices.

Cyber criminals continue to widen their nets to target even more devices and platforms as new devices come on the market and gain popularity. McAfee Labs reports that SMiShing (or phishing text messages); PC, Mac and mobile device malware; and malicious mobile websites are on the rise. These increases complement Android’s hyper-growth and give it the distinction of being the most targeted operating system for mobile threats. Wireless devices also present the risk of being hijacked by hackers when used over public Wi-Fi where networks are not secure.

Additionally, children are acquiring more gaming and entertainment devices than ever, including iPads, Xbox 360and Nintendo Wii, all of which are Internet-connected. Aside from the malware susceptibility, children can also put their parents at risk by downloading hundreds of dollars’ worth of apps while playing their favourite games and inadvertently charging their parents accounts simply by entering device passwords.

This holiday season will further contribute to the trend of consumers having three or more devices to meet their online lifestyle needs,” said Gary Davis, Vice President, Global Consumer Marketing, McAfee. “With the increased amount of devices per person and household, comes the increased chance of cybercriminals gaining access and stealing personal information and data. Consumers deserve to have confidence that they can live their digital lives sharing any information, from anywhere and on any device without the risk of an attack or scam. The best way to ensure this is to take the time to secure their personal data as soon as they open their new tech gifts.”

McAfee encourages consumers to take some simple precautions to keep their digital lives and devices safe through the holidays and into 2013:

Complete security package

Tips for secured devices

Mobile devices

Know that threats aimed at mobile phones are growing, with Android being the most targeted platform.

McAfee advises users to be careful of the third-party applications they install— they could end up infecting their phone or sharing their personal information. Only download applications from a reputable app store and read users reviews. One should ensure that they are aware of in-app purchases and of the kind of information the app wants to access. Threats aimed at Android smartphones can also affect Android tablets.

In the US, 62 percent  of smartphone users don’t use a password to protect their homescreens. Additionally, users should restrict access to their phone with a password or PIN.

Phishing text messages, known as “SMiShing,” are on the rise. Users should ensure that they never send personal information via text. They should also protect data on their phone by backing it up on a regular basis and using a product that can restore their information, help locate a lost phone and remotely lock and wipe the device if it is lost or stolen.

Apply system or application updates

Users must apply any system or application updates when prompted. These updates almost always include security patches and make their devices easier to use.

Turn off antennas you don’t need

If a user is not using any one of the four typical wireless connections (cellular, Wi-FI, Bluetooth and GPS) on their smartphone or tablets, then they should turn them off. It will help keep them safe and give them the best battery life.

Gaming consoles 

Parents of children with a new gaming or entertainment device such as a Nintendo Wii or 3DS, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 should keep in mind that these devices are now Internet-connected and hence, they should set controls to prevent their children from Internet dangers.

They should take advantage of built-in parental controls and web filtering tools that can help shield kids from violent games or limit when the device can be used. Parents should also set expectations with kids about who they play with, as Wi-Fi connected gaming consoles allow the installation of text and chatting/texting. For more information on keeping kids safe, visit McAfee’s Family Internet Safety Center at and check out the 10-Step Internet Safety Plan For Your Family.

PCs and Macs 

Search and shop safely

McAfee Labs counted 43.4 million suspect websites during the third quarter of 2012, up 20 percent over the previous quarter. To weed through malicious sites, be sure to use a website safety advisor that can tell which sites are safe and which are risky.

Be aware of “scareware” and “ransomware”

Scareware tricks users into believing that the computer may be infected to get them to “buy” fake antivirus software and hand over their personal and financial details, usually via pop-ups. Ransomware also appears through pop-ups and typically accuses web surfers of visiting illegal webpages. These pop-ups claim to be from the police and threaten to lock up the user’s computer system until they pay a fine. According to McAfee Labs, ransomware grew by 43 percent in the third quarter of this year, while scareware continues to thrive and is estimated to victimise 1 million people per day.

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