Tedious and time-consuming chores are easy to put off. When the job is one of tidying up our digital devices that can be especially true. After all, my phone, laptop or tablet seems to be working okay – so it’s not an emergency, we reason. Here is the reality: once the emergency does arise, it is too late. A hacker, a crook, an identity thief has stolen from you and recovery from such theft can take months and make your life miserable.
The smart thing to do is block out a period of time to do some digital cleaning now, before the headache arrives. Your Better Business Bureau has some suggestions for sweeping out your devices and keeping the grime of digital crime away.
Over time it’s inevitable for digital devices to become cluttered up with links, apps, files and messages that are no longer used or needed. Here are some tips for de-cluttering:
• Bookmarks – Take a moment to review your lists of bookmarked sites and consider which you no longer visit, and then delete those bookmarks.
• Emails and texts – These can quickly accumulate if you are not in the habit of deleting them as soon as you read them. Review and get rid of any that aren’t vital to preserve.
• Unsubscribe – This is a good time to look over all those notices and offers that you signed yourself up for and gradually lost interest in reading. Get off their list by unsubscribing.
• Apps – We all download apps in moments of enthusiasm, and then never use them again. Now’s the time to decide which fall into the “obsolete” category and purge them once and for all. This will increase your battery life and your storage space. You can always download them again should the need arise.
• Files – All those music and image files that you never listen to or look at should be deleted. You can store them externally if you think the day will come when you may need them again.
• Contacts – Go ahead and get rid of those contacts that you may have established four years ago and never once had reason to call up again.
Keeping all software up-to-date can increase your resistance to attack by infection and malware. Pay attention to those notices for app upgrades. Often they contain more advanced security improvements. This is especially true when it comes to security software. All of your browsers and operating systems should be the very latest version as well.
We cannot say it enough: Change your passwords frequently, make them long and complicated, and don’t re-purpose the same ones over and over. Always use two-factor (sometimes called “multifactor”) authentication.
If you just delete files, then empty your trash, you are still not invulnerable to hackers. To completely destroy the files you must use a program that “wipes” the data. Then if you want to dispose of the device you can have it destroyed, recycle it, sell or trade it. But beware: On failed drives, wiping can also fail. They must be destroyed. It’s hard to do this yourself and you’re advised to use a professional device shredding company.
Digital cleaning is a vital step to be taken to guarantee that a hacker won’t end up taking you to the cleaners. If you have questions or concerns about how to go about it, contact your Better Business Bureau at 800-856-2417, or visit the website at bbbinc.org.