Digital Cleaning Diligence Protects Your Devices & Identity

July 25, 2017

keyboardBetter Business Bureau of Central New England encourages you to take time to update security software, clean out your inbox and get rid of unused apps to freshen up your online identity. With phishing scams and other ways for hackers to infiltrate devices, a sweep of your electronics could be worth your while.

“We often forget how much gets stored on our devices, and online,” said Nancy B. Cahalen, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central New England. “It’s important to be proactive in keeping information secure and getting rid of anything we no longer need online, spring cleaning is a great time to put these tasks on the to-do list.” Consider the following tips from your BBB;

Update Passwords

  • Make unique passwords. Change passwords that are too short and easy to guess. Longer passwords that combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols provide better protection.
  • Use multiple passwords. Having different passwords for key accounts like banking, email and social networking will help prevent hackers from gaining access to your accounts.
  • Write it down. It’s hard to remember all the unique passwords you create, so write them down and keep a list stored somewhere safe, preferably away from your computer. Using a password manager may be a good option, where your information is stored in an encrypted database.
  • Secure your phone. Use a passcode or fingerprint to unlock your phone.
  • Two-step authentication. If you have the option, turn on two-step verification. Many popular email, social network and financial sites offer this security step for free, you simply need to turn it on.

Organize and Delete Files

  • Email. Your inbox is most likely full of offers, old articles, or outdated correspondence, so delete anything you don’t need or is no longer relevant and remember to empty your trash folder. You can archive any messages you feel need to be kept.
  • Desktop icons. If your desktop is cluttered with icons, it may slow down your computer. Start by deleting files you don’t need, and then condense what’s left into labeled folders. Remove icons you don’t use; it won’t delete the program, but instead just get rid of the shortcut.
  • Subscriptions. Unsubscribe from emails, newsletters, and updates you are no longer interested in receiving.
  • Back up. You should copy important files to either a back up hard drive or secure cloud site where they can be stored safely. Consider using a password-protected drive or device and keep it in a different location than your home network.
  • Apps. Deleting unused apps will give your device more storage space, longer battery life, and make it run more smoothly in general.

Social Footprint

  • Privacy settings. Review the security and privacy settings on any websites you use and make sure they are where you want them.
  • Social media presence. Delete photos and comments that no longer represent who you are and those that may be embarrassing. Think about what a potential employer would see to help decide what is appropriate.
  • Your “online self”. Search yourself on Google, Yahoo and Bing to see what is out there regarding your name. Update outdated or incorrect information, and then do the same on social media via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+.

Security Software

  • Antivirus. Make sure you are running the most up-to-date antivirus, antispyware and anti-phishing software.
  • Updating. One of the best security measures you can practice is to keep software current. Check for updates to operating systems, web browsers, document readers or any other software regularly used.

Disposing Unwanted Electronics

  • Secure disposal. Clearing out all your data isn’t enough. When disposing of old electronics that contain sensitive personal information, search for facilities that shred hard drives, disks and memory cards.
  • Shredding events. Many paper shredding events may also include electronic shredding. It's a good idea to call the company in advance to confirm they can dispose of your old electronics properly.