DENVER, CO — In most households, the annual spring cleaning ritual consists of clearing closets, getting rid of unwanted possessions, and reducing clutter around the home and garage. However, due to our growing reliance on computers and other electronic devices in our everyday lives, there can be a high cost if you don’t clean out old files, update your security software and back up your digital information.
Digital maintenance can help prevent the loss of valuable and personal information to hackers, becoming a victim of cybercrime and making your and your family’s online life more manageable on all of your computing platforms.
Better Business Bureau and the NCSA recommend checking out a library of helpful resources available through the NCSA’s “STOP, THINK, CONNECT” campaign at stopthinkconnect.org.
Experts recommend several steps to begin your digital spring cleaning:
- Keep all critical software current – Keeping your 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 programs or apps that you use regularly.
- Clean your machines – Keeping all web-connected devices ‒ including PCs, mobile phones, smartphones and tablets ‒ free from malware and infections makes the internet a safer place for you and your family.
- Don't forget your mobile life – Delete unused apps and keep the operating system on your mobile device up to date. One added benefit of deleting unused apps is more storage space and longer battery life. Getting rid of junk can also help speed up your computer.
- Clear your email – Save only those emails you really need. Your inbox is likely stuffed with offers, logistical arrangements and other outdated materials. Get rid of emails you don’t need and be sure to empty your deleted mail trash folders. If you must keep old messages, move them to an archive.
- Manage subscriptions – Unsubscribe to newsletters, email alerts and updates you no longer want, and going forward, think carefully before giving out your email address and other information to third parties. This can help prevent unwanted email and spam if your information is shared with others. You should be able to opt-out of information-sharing by a website with its affiliates.
- Back it up – You can lose all of your files as a result of internal hardware problems, loss, theft or other damage to your digital devices. Copy important data to a password-protected external drive or a secure cloud site on a regular basis, and keep external drives in a safe place after performing a backup. Delete or archive older files such as numerous drafts of the same document.
- Dispose of electronics securely – Deleting files does not remove them from your computer, and they can be recovered from your hard drive, scanners and even printers. When you dispose of old electronics, look for facilities that shred hard drives, disks and memory cards, or destroy them yourself.
- Get ahead of the scammers – Passwords are easily compromised, especially when you use the same password for multiple accounts. Visit stopthinkconnect.org/2stepsahead to learn more about “two-step verification,” also known as two-step authentication and multi-factor authentication. 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 enable it.
Digital spring cleaning is also a good opportunity to review the privacy and security settings on your favorite websites to be sure that they haven’t changed and that sharing is set to a comfortable level. You will find additional tips on protecting your personal information and more at bbb.org.
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