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Now is the perfect time for a ‘digital Spring Cleaning’
With so many of us now linking our personal communications systems to those within our workplaces, it makes more sense than ever to ensure that our systems are secure.
The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and Better Business Bureau (BBB) suggest that now is the perfect time for a ‘digital Spring Cleaning’ to coincide with the more traditional home and office annual cleaning and decluttering rituals and that we should add a digital element by updating security software, unclogging our inboxes and ridding our smartphones of unused apps.
"Plan to conduct a digital declutter this Spring," says Michael Kaiser, NCSA's executive director. "Take care of that long, overdue digital maintenance and you will be more secure against losing valuable, personal information and being a victim of identity theft while making your online life more manageable. With some smart, simple practices, you will help protect yourself, your family and the extended digital community while enjoying the Internet with greater confidence."
Frances Henderson, national director of privacy initiatives with the Council of Better Business Bureaus, adds: "Personally Identifiable Information can be stolen and used for identity theft if not disposed of properly. BBB recommends you safely store what you must keep and carefully destroy the rest.
"April is known for Spring Cleaning and tax season - both represent powerful triggers to sort out your documentation, whether it's on paper or digital."
The bulk of digital cleaning falls into four buckets: keeping a clean machine, staying secure, cleaning up your online reputation and purging files.
NCSA and BBB offer these tips for your digital spring cleaning:
Keep clean machines… Keeping all web-connected devices - including PCs, mobile phones, smartphones, and tablets - free from malware and infections makes the Internet safer for you and more secure for everyone.
· Keep all critical software current: Having all 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 software you use regularly.
· Clean up your mobile life: Most of us have apps we no longer use as well as ones that need updating. Delete unused apps and keep others current, including the operating system on your mobile device. An added benefit of deleting unused apps is more storage space and longer battery life.
Make sure you're secure… Enhancing the security of your online accounts is a fast and simple way to be safer online.
· Get two steps ahead: Turn on two-step authentication - also known as two-step verification or multi-factor authentication - on accounts where available. 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 turn it on. Visit stopthinkconnect.org/2stepsahead to learn more and view a list of the websites that offer two-factor authentication.
· Make better passwords: If your passwords are too short or easy to guess, it's like leaving your car unlocked in a parking lot. Longer passwords and those that combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols provide better protection.
· Unique account, unique password: Having separate passwords - at least for key accounts like email, banking, and social networking - helps to thwart cybercriminals.
· Write it down and keep it safe: Everyone can forget a password. Keep a list that's stored in a safe, secure place away from your computer.
· Secure your phone: Use a passcode or a finger swipe to unlock your phone.
Clean up your online reputation… Take an active role in shaping your digital footprint.
· Own your online presence: Review the privacy and security settings on websites you use to be sure that they remain set to your comfort level for sharing. It's OK to limit with whom you share information.
· Clean up your social media presence: Delete old photos and comments that are embarrassing or no longer represent who you are.
· Search for yourself online: Update information that is no longer current.
· Update your ‘online self’: Is your LinkedIn profile current? Are other social media sites up-to-date? Review your personal information and update it where needed.
Digital file purge and protection… Tend to your digital records just as you do for paper files.
· Clean up your email: Save only those emails you really need. Your inbox is likely stuffed with offers, logistical arrangements, and other outdated materials. Delete what you don't need and be sure to empty your deleted mail folders. If you must keep old messages, move them to an archive.
· Manage subscriptions: Unsubscribe to newsletters, email alerts, and updates you no longer read.
· Update your online photo album: Delete or back up old or less flattering photos of yourself, your family, and friends. In addition to not showing your best side, they take up space.
· Empty your recycle bin.
· Update your online relationships: Review friends on social networks and contacts on phones and PCs and make sure everyone on those lists still belongs.
· File upkeep: Delete or archive older files such as numerous drafts of the same document.
· Back it up: Copy important data to a secure cloud site or to another drive where it can be safely stored. Password-protect back-up drives and keep them in a different location off the network for maximum security.
· Dispose of electronics securely: Wiping data isn't enough. When you dispose of old electronics, look for facilities that shred hard drives, disks, and memory cards.
* The Department of Homeland Security offers a suite of multi-audience resources and tools at dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect
* ESET offers a comprehensive inventory of consumer-friendly videos with tried and true safety and security tips and information: welivesecurity.com/media/videos/
* Here's a comprehensive listing of how to install two-step authentication on a variety of popular platforms: stopthinkconnect.org/2stepsahead/resources
* Check your privacy settings: staysafeonline.org/data-privacy-day/check-your-privacy-settings/
* Keep a Clean Machine! Use these free security checkups to learn how staysafeonline.org/teach-online-safety/free-security-check-ups/
* Use the Federal Communications Commission's Mobile Security Checker to protect against mobile security threats www.fcc.gov/smartphone-security
* Help others get their houses in order by hanging posters around the office: staysafeonline.org/stop-think-connect/posters/
For those living in the US, BBB is hosting ‘Secure Your ID Day’ paper shredding events, on or about 18th April 2015, in communities nationwide, and many are offering shredding of hard drives, disks and memory cards, as well. Go tobbb.org/secure-your-id-day for a calendar of events, a schedule of what documents should be saved and for how long and more information on data privacy and security. Some municipalities also offer this service.
9th April 2015