Spring clean your digital space

by Gosafeonline | 31 January 2018


As we enter a new year, many of us may have set some time aside to give our homes a thorough spring cleaning. Yet, your home isn’t the only thing that needs decluttering - your digital devices too.

Aside from affecting your device performance, retaining obsolete digital files, online accounts, programs and applications, could put your devices and information at risk. Your devices could be lost, stolen or hacked. Companies could suffer data breaches that compromise your important information.

To secure your devices and protect your personal information from falling into the wrong hands, consider putting in some time to spring clean your digital space.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

1) Delete your unwanted digital files
To avoid exposing your sensitive information to hackers unnecessarily, review your digital files and delete those that you no longer need. This should apply to files stored on your devices, online and portable storage, and even your email accounts. Your email accounts can contain sensitive information such as reset passwords, private documents or messages, which you would not want hackers to have access to. Deleting emails that you no longer require would reduce the amount of information that would be compromised even if your email accounts were hacked.

2) Close unnecessary online accounts
Take stock of your online accounts and delete anything that you no longer access. Before deleting the accounts, be sure to eliminate the data stored in the account as much as possible, and revoke any prior permissions you may have granted to the company that provided the service. This reduces the risk of exposing your information in the event the company suffers a data breach.

For all remaining accounts, review your privacy settings and permissions. Adjust your default privacy settings to something you are comfortable with. If the service is accessing information that it does not or should not require, take this opportunity to revoke the permissions.

3) Review your passwords
Change your passwords regularly. Aside from creating strong and memorable passwords, ensure that you do not use the same password across multiple accounts. Don't let the leak of one password put your other online accounts at risk.

For an additional layer of security for your accounts, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) when available.

4) Clear your browser cache and cookies
Your web browser is a goldmine for hackers. Every time you browse the web, your computer stores information and files in its cache. This stored information could include anything from your login credentials to your bank account details. Minimise the risks of information theft or leakage by regularly clearing your browser cache and cookies. It is also a good practice not to store your login credentials on your web browser.

5) Uninstall outdated programs and apps that you no longer use
Apart from freeing up space, this also protects your devices from being exposed to vulnerabilities, as some unused apps continue to collect data in the background. These data collected can include your location, call logs, and calendar entries, exposing you to unnecessary risks. Be sure to purge the accounts of stored data and information before deleting these apps.

6) Keep your operating system and software up-to-date
Updates keep you safe from known vulnerabilities. If your software is not kept up-to-date, you risk allowing attackers to exploit known vulnerabilities for malicious intents. To avoid such a risk, always keep your software and applications up-to-date. Where possible, adjust your settings so that software updates are downloaded and installed automatically. Don’t forget to update your device’s security software to ensure that your devices are protected against the latest threats.

7) Back up and archive your files
Back up important data to external storage devices (such as flash drives or external hard disks) regularly to ensure that your data will always be available in the event of a hard disk failure or if your computer becomes compromised. Safeguard your sensitive information by storing it in an encrypted folder or external storage device.

8) Check before you dispose
Data still resides on your devices and portable storage media, such as thumb drives and memory cards, even after you delete the documents. Ensure that the data in unwanted devices, including computer and portable storage media and mobile devices are made completely unreadable before disposal by using one of these three methods: encryption, secure data erasure or physical destruction.

By taking these steps, you can look forward to a more secure and clutter-free digital space!