Spring Cleaning for Your Data

With cyber crime on the rise, you want to make sure you’re not leaving any valuable pieces of data where thieves may gain access. That’s why The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and Better Business Bureau (BBB) suggest that you do a bit of “digital spring cleaning” to unclutter your digital life, and protect your data.

The two organizations say you should add to your spring cleaning ritual, and include such things as updating security software, unclogging your inbox, and ridding your smartphone of unused apps.

NCSA and BBB are offering these tips:

Keep Clean Machines

Keeping all web-connected devices — including PCs, mobile phones, smartphones, and tablets — free from malware and infections makes the Internet safer for you and more secure for everyone.

  • Keep all critical software current: Having all software current is one of the best security measures you can take. This includes security software, web browsers, document readers, operating systems, and any other software you use regularly.
  • Clean up your mobile life: Most of us have apps we no longer use as well as ones that need updating. Delete unused apps and keep others current, including the operating system on your mobile device. An added benefit of deleting unused apps is more storage space and longer battery life.

Make Sure You’re Secure

Enhancing the security of your online accounts is a fast and simple way to be safer online.

  • Get two steps ahead: Turn on two-step authentication? also known as two-step verification or multi-factor authentication.on accounts where available. Many of the Internet’s most popular email services, social networks, and financial institutions offer this key security step free of charge, but you must opt in to turn it on. Visit stopthinkconnect.org/2stepsahead to learn more and view a list of the websites that offer two-factor authentication.
  • Make better passwords: If your passwords are too short or easy to guess, it’s like leaving your car unlocked in a parking lot. Longer passwords and those that combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols provide better protection.
  • Unique account, unique password: Having separate passwords.at least for key accounts like email, banking, and social networking.helps to thwart cybercriminals.
  • Write it down and keep it safe: Everyone can forget a password. Keep a list that’s stored in a safe, secure place away from your computer.
  • Secure your phone: Use a passcode or a finger swipe to unlock your phone.

Clean Up Your Online Reputation 

Take an active role in shaping your digital footprint.

  • Own your online presence: Review the privacy and security settings on websites you use to be sure that they remain set to your comfort level for sharing. It’s OK to limit with whom you share information.
  • Clean up your social media presence: Delete old photos and comments that are embarrassing or no longer represent who you are.
  • Search for yourself online: Update information that is no longer current.
  • Update your “online self”: Is your LinkedIn profile current? Are other social media sites up-to-date? Review your personal information and update it where needed.

Digital File Purge and Protection

Tend to your digital records just as you do for paper files.

  • Clean up your email: Save only those emails you really need. Your inbox is likely stuffed with offers, logistical arrangements, and other outdated materials. Delete what you don’t need and be sure to empty your deleted mail folders. If you must keep old messages, move them to an archive.
  • Manage subscriptions: Unsubscribe to newsletters, email alerts, and updates you no longer read.
  • Update your online photo album: Delete or back up old or less flattering photos of yourself, your family, and friends. In addition to not showing your best side, they take up space.
  • Empty your recycle bin.
  • Update your online relationships: Review friends on social networks and contacts on phones and PCs and make sure everyone on those lists still belongs.
  • File upkeep: Delete or archive older files such as numerous drafts of the same document.
  • Back it up: Copy important data to a secure cloud site or to another drive where it can be safely stored. Password-protect back-up drives and keep them in a different location off the network for maximum security.
  • Dispose of electronics securely: Wiping data isn’t enough. When you dispose of old electronics, look for facilities that shred hard drives, disks, and memory cards. BBB is hosting “Secure Your ID Day” paper shredding events in communities nationwide, and many of these will include electronic shredding. Some municipalities also offer this service.

That’s a pretty extensive list, but we would have to add another thing:

Beware of the analog risks!

Cyber thieves often gain access to our data by finding hard copy in homes, offices, vehicles or trash bins. You should be careful to shred or secure any documents that contains sensitive information. For instance, leaving financial statements or bills lying around is a bad practice, since thieves can use them to steal your money, or your identity.

NCSA and BBB tell you to write down passwords and keep them away from your computer. That’s fine, except that cyber thieves often look for just these hard copy records to break into password-protected devices. So, be careful.

Our suggestions include signing up for paperless statements and bill pay whenever you can. Try to minimize your paper trail, even as you clean up your digital devices.

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