The days are getting longer and the nights shorter. Daffodils are blooming and birds are chirping. Spring is in the air! Cracking open the windows to let the warm breeze in, it’s also the time of year when many homeowners participate in the annual rite of passage known as spring cleaning. As you dust and de-clutter your home this spring, don’t forget to do some digital spring cleaning as well.
Just as clearing out the cobwebs and freshening up the floors of your physical space leaves your home sparkling and fresh, digital spring cleaning can free up more space, improve your privacy and security, and ensure that your data and the devices your family uses at home are not only more efficient, but safer!
First and Foremost: 3 Essential Steps to Safeguard You from Cyber Criminals
Lock Down Your Login. One of the first things you should do is ensure that passphrases for your accounts are lengthy, unique, and safely stored. Enable 2-factor authentication on all accounts that offer it.
Update Your Software. Even if it may seem inconvenient at the time, don’t postpone critical software updates. Having the most current security software, web browsers, and operating systems are some of the easiest ways to protect your data.
Back IT Up. Protect your data by making backups of your most important files. Use the 3-2-1 rule to help guide you: 3 backup copies, 2 different media types, 1 offline and in a separate location.
7 Action Steps to Spring Clean Your Digital Devices
Digital devices, including smartphones, iPads, laptops, kindles, and even TVs, cars, and baby monitors store personal data. You can speed up your devices and secure the personal data these devices with these digital spring cleaning activities.
- Update your logins and passwords – With the treasure trove of personal and private information that is stored online and vulnerable to cyber threats, your login credentials are the key that provides access to much of your personal information. Do a sweep of your accounts and review the logins to make sure you use strong and unique passwords and have the strictest authentication options. If you are using the same password for multiple sites – STOP! That is one of the easiest ways for a criminal to get access. Choose a unique password for every device and website.
- Review and update privacy and security settings on your accounts – Many of us select privacy and security settings when initially creating an account and then never look at them again. Right now is a great time to go through your accounts to check that you have enabled the strongest possible security settings. Be sure that only the people you want to see your information on social media sites, and no one else, are able to.
- Clean up the files stored on your devices – Just as you would shred paper files that contain personal information, clean out your digital files as well. Delete old and unused files, downloads, apps, pictures, and emails from your devices. You can permanently delete the files by using a program that wipes them off the device’s hard drive.
- Delete unused programs and apps – Delete any unused programs or apps on your mobile devices and computers. Some apps require large amounts of storage, can introduce new vulnerabilities, and may even slow things down. The fewer apps you have, the more secure your system and your information. Many devices show you how long it has been since you’ve used an app – if it has been more than a few months, chances are you don’t need the app!
- Brush up your browser settings: Review any and all add-ons or plugins installed in your browser. Review the permission settings. Do the plugins really need access to your location, passwords, or contact lists? If you are no longer using certain plugins, delete them.
- Scrub social media: Check out your online presence and own it. Review your privacy settings and delete any photos and videos that are no longer accessed or needed. Limit how much information you share, and even with whom you choose to share it with.
- Eliminate excess email: Perform an email file purge, delete what you don’t need, and organize what you do. Pay particular attention to any sensitive documents, such as those with your date of birth or Social Security number, and permanently delete those!
The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) has a downloadable Digital De-Clutter Checklist you can save and use to check off your digital spring cleaning tasks at home as well as at the office.