- When doing your spring cleaning, consider making a digital spring-cleaning checklist. It is more important than ever in today’s digital-first society.
- Digital spring-cleaning tips include backing up your information, deleting unused apps, reviewing all of your passwords (and making changes if needed), and checking your social media privacy settings.
- It is also a good idea to delete or archive old emails, especially with sensitive information.
- If you would like to learn more or believe you are a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center. You can check out our latest resources or speak to an expert advisor toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started. If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, you can also report it and use the resources provided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.IdentityTheft.gov.
Everyone looks forward to the spring! The weather changes, the flowers and landscape start to bloom, and people clean out clutter they don’t need before the summer arrives. Spring cleaning can make you feel good and productive and it is also a great way to minimize the risk of identity theft. With the move to a digital-first society, digital spring cleaning and having a digital spring-cleaning checklist is more important than ever. A few basic digital spring-cleaning steps could help keep one’s identity information out of a criminal’s hands.
Before You Begin
There are digital spring-cleaning steps to take before you have to deal with clutter. One possible vulnerability is your email inbox. Adopt the habit of not just deleting unwanted emails, but actively unsubscribing from them. To do that, open the email, scroll down and click “unsubscribe.” Do not follow these steps for emails that appear to be scam attempts. If you click on a malicious link, it can redirect you to harmful websites or install malicious software on your computer. Instead, you should avoid links or attachments in unsolicited messages and block the sender.
One other thing you can do is update your contact information. Review all of your contact information to ensure it is up-to-date and you are not missing any essential information. Once you take these steps, you can begin on your digital spring-cleaning checklist.
Digital Spring-Cleaning Checklist
Your digital identity becomes more important every day as the world moves to a digital-first model. However, the same principles behind decluttering your physical world can help you in the virtual space. Here are some digital spring-cleaning checklist tips to digitally declutter:
- Back up your information. No matter how safe and secure you are, you might need to recover old data in the future. Creating automatic backups is a good idea. Consider investing in an external hard drive or cloud-based storage subscription to store and protect the things you want to keep.
- Delete unused programs and apps. Take a look at all of the apps on your devices and figure out which ones you are not using. Delete unused apps or programs on the devices. This step is a good idea because some apps require large amounts of storage, can slow the device down, and most importantly, can introduce new vulnerabilities. The fewer apps and programs you have, the more secure your device and personal information will be.
- Review your passwords. Check the passwords for all of your accounts to ensure there are no duplicates (especially between work accounts and personal accounts). Also, make sure you use a strong and unique 12+ character passphrase for each account. They are easier to remember and harder to crack. If you cannot remember all of your passwords, consider investing in a password manager to store all of your passwords. Finally, if possible, enable multifactor authentication (MFA) on all of your accounts. The app version is better than the SMS version because scammers can create fake MFA SMS text messages.
- Update all of your apps and settings. When going through your digital spring-cleaning checklist, it is important to keep apps, programs and devices up-to-date on all software. The device will run faster, and it may lead to increased privacy, which may make it more difficult for someone to hack into them. It is also a good idea to enable automatic updates when possible.
- Look at the permissions you allow. Pay attention to the permissions you allow the mobile apps on your device because third parties could be tracking information about you that you might not realize. If they aren’t actively using the collected data, they may still be storing it, leaving your personal information vulnerable to cyberattacks should the third-party fall victim to a data compromise.
- Review plugins and add-ons in your browser. Review the permission settings of the plugins and add-ons to make sure you are not sharing too much information. If you are not using a particular plugin or add-on anymore, delete it.
- Review your social media privacy settings. Check your privacy settings on all of your social media accounts to ensure you are not oversharing information with people you do not know. If criminals get a hold of enough information about you, your family and your friends, they can connect enough dots to commit scams based around social engineering.
- Clean out your email. Get rid of any unnecessary emails in your inbox, especially emails that contain personal information.
Other Digital Spring-Cleaning Tips
There are a few more spring-cleaning tips for people to follow:
While doing your spring cleaning, if there are important documents you might need later, you can photograph or scan them, and then store the originals in a secure space like a safe or bank safety deposit box.
While you’re cleaning your email inbox, take a moment to destroy any paper documents you no longer need, especially those records with personal information.
It is also a good idea to organize your digital files. While it is time-consuming, it will make more space available for the most important things that need to be stored on your devices.