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Digital Spring Cleaning

April 2017

Many of us are familiar with the concept of spring cleaning. Increasingly, this applies to the digital world, too! Just like your home, your digital life can become cluttered; things pile up, get out of date, get lost, and occasionally need some care.

A good digital spring cleaning can help keep your devices and information safe and secure year round. It can also help improve the speed and performance of the devices and services you use, and reduce the risk that a hacker could access old information that you’ve forgotten about.

Here are a few tips for refreshing, renewing, and reinvigorating your cyber life:*

1. Review your online accounts.

  • Delete any you no longer use.
  • Is there information in any of your remaining accounts that isn't needed anymore, such as saved credit cards or old documents in cloud storage? If so, delete them.

2. Update your devices.

  • Update the apps and operating system on all Internet-connected devices to reduce risks from malware and infections.
  • Delete unused apps and browsers.
  • Take a few minutes to check your browser settings. Clear out old data, such as stored passwords, and ensure your browser is set not to store passwords.

3. Purge those files!

  • Clean out your old email, files, and downloads. Always empty the trash when you’re done.
  • Unsubscribe from newsletters, email alerts and mailing lists you no longer read.

4. Make sure you’re secure.

  • Make sure all of your devices require a password, passcode, or fingerprint to log-in.
  • Get two steps ahead! Turn on two-step authentication ‒ also known as two-step verification or multi-factor authentication ‒ on critical accounts like email, banking, and social media where available. Learn more about how to lock down your login.
  • Take an inventory of your passwords. Are they all long and strong? Change any that aren’t. And always use different passwords for work and non-work accounts.

5. Tune up your online presence.

  • Are your social media sites up to date? Review and update your online profiles.
  • Review your privacy and security settings on social media sites and other sites you use. Make sure they are set at your comfort level for sharing.
  • Delete old photos, etc. that are embarrassing or no longer represent who you are.
  • Review friends on social networks and contacts on phones and other devices, and make sure everyone on those lists still belongs.

6. Back up your files.

  • Spring cleaning is a good opportunity to make sure you have a complete backup of important files.
  • Check to make sure you can restore the files from your backup, too; a backup that you can't use isn't very helpful!

7. Dispose of electronic devices securely.

  • Just as you would shred sensitive paper information you no longer need, the same should be done with electronic information. Computers, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, external hard drives, USB drives, tape drives, embedded flash memory, wearables, copiers, printers, fax machines, networking equipment, and anything else that has the ability to store information can retain that information even after you have deleted it.
  • The best way to ensure data security is to securely wipe the device or have it shredded by a trusted vendor before disposal.
  • Contact your IT department for information about secure data or device disposal.

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*Adapted from articles by the Better Business Bureau, The National Cyber Security Alliance, Stop.Think.Connect., StaySafeOnline.org, and MS-ISAC Center for Internet Security. Thanks also to UCSD ITS for some of the content.

Image source: Microsoft clipart

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