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How secure is your console really?

This post has not been edited by the GamesBeat staff. Opinions by GamesBeat community writers do not necessarily reflect those of the staff.

We’ve all made the Star Trek joke of looking at a laptop and saying “Computer…” and then instructing it to do something. Heck, most of us have made that joke about the majority of machines in our lives and if you haven’t, well, you need to make a “Stove, make my dinner” joke tonight. Your friends might roll their eyes but you’ll be laughing on the inside because that’s gold and we both know it.

Part of the fun of the newer XBox systems is being able to actually say things like “XBox On” or “XBox DVD” and having the machine respond accordingly. XBox isn’t the only system that does this. IGN has reported that the PS4 will allow you to use voice commands too, as long as they’re issued through the PlayStation headset.

When the news first broke about being able to issue vocal commands to the newest generations of the massively popular gaming consoles (including turning them on, which doesn’t even seem like it should be possible), conspiracy theorists flooded the Internet. The fact that Microsoft was reportedly banning users’ Skype accounts for previous behaviors didn’t help things. They worried that the infrared cameras use to detect movement and the microphones used to detect vocal commands would allow any hacker (or the US government) to spy on the people in a household. They sounded crazy, but it wasn’t long before major media outlets picked up the scent.

Forbes Magazine published an article titled The Five Biggest Problems With the XBox One with privacy and the chance of personal data being stored and used for spying topping the list.

Time Magazine did its best to dispel fears by reminding readers that they are already carrying around constantly recording-capable machines—aka their smartphones.

While we doubt the NSA is going to have people sitting around watching you hoover ramen and Mt. Dew while you watch Netflix or play dancing games (yes, even you, you think you’re so sneaky playing your little sister’s games while she’s at school) just in case you start revealing state secrets to the mail carrier, it does make us wonder: how do we ensure that our constantly on and constantly connected consoles don’t accidentally leave the rest of our machines open to security threats?

Seriously—everything is networked now.

What’s to prevent some hacker from using the XBox or PS4’s gateway to steal personal information from your laptop?

The key seems to be protecting your entire network as well as your individual machines. Experts at Trend Micro say that good security starts at the router level and stops the threats before they get past a single firewall. You need top-notch network security software and consultation for this, so do your research on safe gaming practices.

Beyond this, obviously you’re going to want to put individual protection on each machine that will allow it (as of yet, there’s no way to install malware protection on a gaming console without jail breaking it). This way, in the event that something does find a way through, it will encounter more barriers at each of your machines.

It’s also a good idea to keep anything sensitive that you don’t want to somehow find its way onto the web on a thumb drive or portable hard drive that you only plug in when you want to access that specific file or folder.

Beyond these things, changing your passwords regularly, not saving any private data in your computer (auto-fill is hacker bait) and cleaning your computer out regularly are also important.

Are we missing anything? Have you found a way to secure your consoles?


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