February 25th, 2024

Must-Know Info

4 easy upgrades to your digital life

Shira Ovide

By Shira Ovide The Washington Post

Published January 22, 2024


A quick win is so satisfying, right?

Here's some of our best advice for relatively small tech changes you can make to upgrade your digital security, give you back time or bring joy - all without breaking a sweat.

1. Pick three passwords to change

Take a look at the passwords on three of your online accounts: your main email, bank account and social media profile.

If you use a simple password on one of those, change it to something with at least 12 to 16 characters. Change the password, too, if you're using the same one or a variation on another online account.

Hackers commonly steal passwords from, say, a dating website and then blast a bank website with those same passwords to see if they can gain entry.

It's worth focusing on your email, banking and social media because hackers can take over them and worm their way into all your other online accounts.

If you're already doing what I suggested, great! Gold star.

You can progress to intermediate and advanced upgrades including a second layer of security or a password manager.

2. Update your WiFi router's software

A reminder that the router is the box that beams WiFi through your home. It can be a gateway to hacking attacks on your home devices, so it's worth keeping the software up to date with the latest security protections.

Unfortunately I can't give you blanket instructions to update your router software because every router is different.

Start in the website or app for your WiFi router, and poke around in the settings for something like "firmware update" or "maintenance." You will have to hunt; routers are not the most user-friendly devices.

If your router allows automatic updates, turn those on. Or Chester Wisniewski, a digital security specialist with the firm Sophos, suggested setting a digital reminder to check for software updates every six months when the clocks change.

3. Pick slower shipping

If you're given a choice at online checkout, getting an order delivered in a few days or a week is better for the climate than speedier delivery.

With a longer lead time, delivery companies can bunch their orders together, fly or drive fewer miles and send vans stuffed with packages on more efficient routes. Rushing to your door requires more fuel-guzzling planes and less-efficient driving routes.

Even better, have you considered buying used? And in many cases, the "greenest" product you can buy is nothing.

4. Try visual searches on Google or Amazon

Love the table lamp in your Airbnb rental? You can open the Amazon app, tap the icon that looks like a square to the right of the search bar and point your camera at the lamp.

Pick "search" and you'll see Amazon product listings for similar-looking lamps.

There's also a visual search feature in the Google app for your smartphone or in the Google bar at the bottom of Android phones. Pick the icon to the right of the search bar that looks like a square camera and point it at any object.

I'm a fan of this feature for translating text. Recently I had a package of noodles with cooking instructions in Korean. Using Google's visual search, I pointed my phone at the package and the words morphed into English on my screen. (Cook for three minutes and 30 seconds, it said.)