Spring cleaning is almost a right of passage. Traditionally, it means cracking the windows and dusting, mopping and vacuuming, but consider taking a few minutes to spring clean your digital life.
Here are a few tips for home users for refreshing, renewing and reinvigorating your cyber life. By taking a few minutes to include these digital areas of focus in your spring cleaning plans, you can ensure that your data and devices are that much safer.
Just like your home, your online accounts can collect clutter and occasionally need a few minutes of care. Start by considering what accounts – including email, social networks, clubs and organizations, shopping website and cloud storage accounts – you have for both work and home.
- Do you need them all?
- Is there information in those accounts that isn’t needed anymore, such as credit cards saved in your accounts with shops and old documents on cloud storage accounts?
- Are there accounts that you don’t use anymore and can close, like that old email account you never check?
- Are you using the same password across any of these accounts that you could easily make unique and more secure?
Many email providers have limits on mailbox sizes, and for security reasons it’s always smart to limit what is available through your email account.
- How many emails are in your inbox – are there any you can file into folders or delete?
- Is there information in your accounts that you can archive or delete?
- When was the last time you cleared out your deleted items or trash folder?
- Can you set a rule that will automatically empty your deleted items or trash folder on a regular basis?
- Unsubscribe to recurring emails that no longer interest you.
It’s a good idea to spring clean your social media accounts by taking a few minutes to review your security settings, friends and connections as well as posts to make sure you’re still comfortable with them.
- Is the information on your social networking and job websites – including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn – current?
- Do your security settings ensure that only the authorized individuals can view what you post?
- Do you still use or need all of the social media sites registered to you?
Smartphones, tablets, laptops and computers make your life so much easier, and here’s your chance to ensure that doesn’t change.
- Delete unused apps and clear out any downloads you aren’t using any more.
- Make sure your device requires a password, PIN or fingerprint to log in.
- Check for old files that can be archived or deleted. Don’t forget to empty the recycling/trash bin, if necessary.
- Make sure your device’s security and anti-virus software is up to date and working properly.
- Make sure all software is patched and set to auto-update.
Web Browser Settings
Many browsers can store your passwords or autofill settings, but over time, the data stored by the browser can accumulate.
- Take a few minutes to check your browser settings, clear out old data and ensure your browser’s security settings are still keeping you safe.
- Make sure that autofill doesn’t contain sensitive information and that you don’t store your passwords in your browser.
- Do you need all of the browsers on your system?
Take time to look at what is on your home network and how you’re connecting to the internet.
- Make sure your home router is secured with a complex and unique password and that it’s broadcast name doesn’t identify it as belonging to you.
- Set up your wireless router to use a current encryption standard, such as WPA2. It will greatly strengthen your home network security.
- See if there are additional security features you can turn on or install, such as firewalls or antivirus software.
Back Things Up
Whether you save your files to CDs or DVDs, a cloud back-up service or an external hard drive, spring cleaning is a good opportunity to make sure you have a complete backup of important files.
Make sure you’re saving the right files and that you can restore everything from your backup, since a backup that you can’t restore from isn’t useful at all.
Take Out the Trash
Are there old devices in your house or office that should be recycled? If so, many towns and stores support eCycling initiatives and will help you properly dispose of them.
Just make sure to remove and shred or destroy hard drives and other components that might contain sensitive data.
About This Page
Content is provided by the Center for Internet Security and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Stop.Think.Connect. public awareness campaign aimed at increasing the understanding of cyberthreats and empowering the American public to be safer and more secure online.
The campaign’s main objective is to help you become more aware of growing cyber threats and arm you with the tools to protect yourself, your family and your community. For more information, visit www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.