Every year as the weather starts to warm, brooms across the country are prepped for annual spring cleanings. With a majority of folks at home during this unprecedented time, take a moment to clear your browser. What most people don’t realize is that your digital life is vulnerable to clutter, too.
In a study conducted by Risk Based Security, there were over 3,800 publicly disclosed data breaches that exposed 4.1 billion records in the first six months of 2019 alone. In this digital age, spring cleaning should be about more than just purging homes; it should be about cleansing your digital footprint as well to ensure your personal information is organized and safe.
Many people are unaware of the importance of a digital cleanup, while others avoid tidying their cyberspace because they don’t fully comprehend all the harmful effects a disorganized digital presence can have. Cluttered devices and outdated profiles are all signs of a security breach waiting to happen. By following a few easy steps, everyone can take solace in knowing that their digital life is clean, secure and at less risk.
Empty The Trash
An easy first step is to literally take out the trash: Empty your desktop recycling bin. Nothing you delete is permanently gone until you’ve done so. All those old documents, embarrassing photos, and programs you no longer use are still lingering on your hard drive, taking up space and putting you at risk of old files resurfacing. It’s important to remember that once you’ve taken the time to clean out old files and downloads, always trash the trash.
Declutter Mobile Devices
Have you ever downloaded a seemingly “cool” app that you ended up using only once? Make sure you delete all those unused apps that are taking up space on your mobile devices. Most likely you were prompted to provide personal information upon downloading the app, and now that information is sitting on your device, at risk of being compromised. In addition to deleting unused apps, it’s important to make sure that the apps you do use are up to date, as outdated apps are at risk for malware and viruses.
The security settings you agreed to when you set up your Facebook account in 2005 are likely extremely outdated. Take the time to review privacy and security settings on all your social media accounts and online profiles to make sure you are comfortable with how much you are actually sharing and with whom. Having your location services turned on for all your accounts or apps is a decision you may have made years ago, but it may be time to reconsider. Do your acquaintances from college need to see all your family photos? What you’re making for dinner? Consider reviewing your list of friends to make sure everyone still belongs.
Minimize Your Online Accounts
With the rise of e-commerce and online shopping, it’s likely that you’ve ordered items from websites you no longer frequent. Unfortunately, that means that your credit card and other personal information may still be floating around in cyberspace. Make sure you delete any online accounts that you don’t actively use to minimize the odds of having your personal details be part of a data hack. Remove saved personal information in accounts that you don’t use on a regular basis, including credit or debit card details and addresses.
Use Unique Passwords
While remembering different passwords for a seemingly endless variety of personal or business accounts may feel tedious, it could be what saves you from identity theft. Using the same password for all your accounts makes it easier for hackers to access your personal information and your accounts. Consider using a password manager to store and protect all your unique passwords, and in an effort to keep your accounts even more secure, look into using multifactor authentication (also known as two-step verification) on critical accounts such as your email and banking accounts.
Dispose Of Old Electronics
When you finally get the newest device on the market that you’ve been eyeballing, don’t forget to properly clear out and dispose of your old one. Any device with the ability to store information can retain your data long after you deleted it. This includes mobile phones, copiers, printers, scanners and networking equipment such as Wi-Fi routers. It’s important to thoroughly wipe all electronics by clearing the data or consult with a trusted professional to help you properly and securely dispose of the device.
Tune Up Your Browser
It’s easy to forget about the cookies that store bits of your information within your browser as you surf the web. Moving forward, make a conscious effort to check your browser settings on a regular basis to ensure they’re configured to perform automatic updates. Also, consistently clear out your browsing history, and avoid using autofill to store passwords when possible.
Staying healthy during this time means washing your hands and taking precautions. But staying safe online can be simple when you remember to clean your data as often as you clear out your closet to stay as protected as possible in this digital age!