12/27/2012 04:28 pm ET Updated Feb 26, 2013

Oh No! Someone Just Walked Away With My iPad Mini!

The iPhone5, iPad mini and Kindle are just some of the exciting gadgets many of you found under your tree this year. As you welcome your new digital gear into your home this holiday season, you will want to protect your personal information, identities and beloved technical equipment in the best way possible.

Our increasing sense of digital dependence raises our vulnerability to theft. In the past, we contained our lives inside our homes, which we protected under lock and key. Today, our lives travel with us. All of our money joins us in the form of credit cards. Our memories follow us on our cell phones, and our personal entertainment accompanies us through tablets and eReaders. All of this convenience and connection represent a major opportunity for hackers and thieves looking to exploit our every mistake, from leaving our computers unattended for just a few short moments at a local coffee shop or to using one of the free charging stations at the airport.

Maintaining privacy and protecting our property requires constant diligence. Help defend your electronic companions against digital pickpockets, hackers and identity thieves by applying these safety principles:

• Protect your device first and its contents second
• Don't leave a computer or tablet anywhere out of your reach or sight and do not place these items in a visible place in your car, backpack or handbag
• Utilize locking devices to protect laptops and tablets
• Avoid open Wi-Fi networks when applying personal information over the Internet, do not provide financial information on unsecure or questionable websites and refrain from downloading content from unknown users
• Password protect your devices and sensitive applications by changing factory default passwords to something stronger and more secure and disable "auto-fill" applications on Internet sites to avoid easy access to information
• Refrain from loaning any device to strangers (or even friends)
• Put your name and email address (even carefully etching it) on the bottom of your devices
• Backup to the cloud and to a hard drive (online storage sites like allow you to backup information online)
• Develop a strategy for lost or stolen items (utilize remote deletion, cell phone disablement tools and location applications like MobileMe, and
• Contact the police to report any thefts (providing the IMEI, SIM or MEID number for cell phones may help law enforcement identify your property)

We may overcome the risks of our evolving connectedness through diligence and digital responsibility. Refer to Protecting Your Memories By Protecting Your Devices for more information on how to protect your electronic property.