Since April is Digital Spring Cleaning Month, the Better Business Bureau has joined with the National Cyber Security Alliance to offer tips to safeguard your personal data. Below are some tips that you can take each week to ensure the safety of your sensitive data.
Week 1: Keep clean machines
As a very basic first step, make sure that all web-connected devices ‒ including PCs, mobile phones, smartphones and tablets ‒ are free from malware and infections. Use this as a launch pad for your month of digital maintenance.
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. Actively manage your location services, Bluetooth, microphone and camera – making sure apps use them appropriately.
Week 2: Make sure you’re secure
Building on week 1, users can enhance the security of their online accounts – a fast and simple way to be safer online. There are quick and easy things you can do that have long-term safety and security benefits.
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.
Secure your router: Make sure your router has a strong password and does not broadcast who you are through its name, such as “the Jones Family” or “123 Elm Street.” Update your router software as well.
Make better passwords: If your passwords are too short or easy to guess, it’s like leaving the front door to your home unlocked. 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 cyber-criminals.
Write it down and keep it safe: Everyone can forget a password. Keep a list that’s stored in a safe, secure place in your home.
Secure your phone: Use a passcode or a finger swipe to unlock your phone.
Week 3: Digital file purge and protection
Tend to your digital records, PCs, phones and any device with storage just as you do for paper files.
Clean up your email: Save only those emails you really need. Your inbox is likely stuffed with lots of outdated materials. Delete or archive what you don’t need and be sure to empty your deleted mail folders.
File upkeep: Delete or archive older files such as numerous drafts of the same document and outdated financial statements.
Manage subscriptions: Unsubscribe to newsletters, email alerts and updates you no longer read.
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.
Update your online relationships: Review friends on social networks and contacts on phones and PCs and make sure everyone on those lists still belong.
Back it up: Copy important data to a secure cloud site or to another drive where it can be safely stored. Password protect backup drives and keep them in a different location off the network for maximum security. Commit to doing backups on a regular basis.
Empty your trash or recycle bin on all devices: Make sure to permanently delete old files.
Week 4: Clean up your online reputation
Parents and older kids with social media accounts can take an active role in making sure their online reputation is squeaky clean.
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. Review your personal information and update it where needed.
For more consumer tips on digital safety, check out the National Cyber Security Alliance at staysafeonline.org. Businesses can do a cyber safety check-up with BBB’s “5 Steps to Better Business Cybersecurity” at bbb.org/cybersecurity.
Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving the Fall Line Corridor including 83 counties in portions of Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. The column is provided by the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The BBB sets standards for ethical business behavior, monitors compliance and helps consumers identify trustworthy businesses. Questions or complaints about a company or charity should be referred to the BBB at 1-800-763-4222, www.bbb.org or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.