Spring cleaning is an annual event for many households. Often overlooked, however, among the de-cluttering, dusting and sorting chores, are our digital devices. After all, consider the heavy use you get out of them these days. Even before the coronavirus hit, we were relying daily on our phones, laptops and tablets for social media interactions, shopping and various browsing activities. Added to that now is remote working and learning.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reminds you that your digital devices need some attention for your security’s sake. What those devices need are cleaning them internally. (After all, you use them enough to keep the dust off them.) BBB and the National Cyber Security Alliance have put together some advice for increasing your online security. Add the following tips into your spring cleaning chores and reduce your digital data clutter:
• Polish up your login. Your security is at risk when you neglect the importance of your accounts’ privacy. That means you should use passwords and passphrases that are lengthy, unique and safely stored away. Always use 2-factor authentication whenever it is offered.
• Shine up your system and software by updating as soon as you get those notifications. Don’t put it off. The most current software, web browsers and operating systems should always be used.
• Store away backups of your most important files. Try the 3-2-1 rule: 3 backup copies, 2 different media types and 1 offline in a separate location.
• Sweep out unused apps. Most of our phones and tablets become cluttered with apps that once seemed useful but were never used again. Get rid of the ones that fall into that category.
• Inspect your privacy settings on all social media accounts. Review your accounts and be sure you are not revealing personal information to strangers. While you’re at it, look again at who has administrative access to those accounts. And keep your passwords private.
• Don’t overshare. Social media quizzes are popular but some may coax you into revealing too much information publicly. There are snoops out there who can take your answers to certain quiz questions and use them to answer some of the security questions you have set up on different accounts. Watch out for quizzes that ask such things as what street you grew up on, previously owned vehicles, favorite foods or the names of schools you attended.
• Know who you are friending. Never accept friend requests from those you do not know. Watch especially for second friend requests from someone you have already friended. The new request could be an imposter trying to get access to your Friends list and data.
Disposing of a no-longer-wanted digital device can be tricky. Much of your sensitive information can be stored on your computers, phones, external hard drives, USBs and office machines like copiers, printers and fax machines.
Deleting a file and emptying your trash is not enough. Use a program that deletes data, “wipes” it from your files and overwrites it with random data in place of your information. Once a device is clean, your options are selling it, trading or giving it away, recycling or having it destroyed.
Keep your online security in mind when you go about doing some digital spring cleaning. For answers to other questions, contact the BBB by calling 800-856-2417 or online at bbb.org.