ANDY'S CONSUMER TIP OF THE DAY: digital 'spring-cleaning'

ANDY'S CONSUMER TIP OF THE DAY: digital 'spring-cleaning'

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Time to spring-clean your computer and electronic devices!

The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the Better Business Bureau gave me a checklist to help you protect your personal data. "Chances are that over the years, you've accumulated lots of digital clutter that can impact your cybersecurity posture," said Michael Kaiser, NCSA executive director. "It's critical to remember that just as you shred sensitive paper documents before discarding, you should properly destroy important electronic data."

DIGITAL SPRING-CLEANING CHECKLIST:

* KEEP A CLEAN MACHINE. Ensure all software on Internet-connected devices is up to date to reduce the risk of malware infection.

* LOCK DOWN YOUR LOG-IN. Your user names and passwords are not enough to protect key accounts like email, banking and social media. Begin your spring cleaning by fortifying your online accounts and enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device.

* DE-CLUTTER YOUR MOBILE LIFE. 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.

* DO A DIGITAL FILE PURGE. Save only those emails you really need and unsubscribe to email you no longer want to receive. Back up important data to a secure cloud site or another computer or drive. Password-protect your back-up drives. Make sure to back up data before you sell, trade or dispose of a device, too.

SAFELY DISPOSING OF DIGITAL DATA:

* KNOW WHAT DEVICES TO "DIGITALLY SHRED." Computers and mobile phones aren't the only devices that capture and store sensitive data. External hard drives and USBs, tape drives, embedded flash memory, wearables, networking equipment and office tools like copiers, printers and fax machines all contain valuable, personal information.

* CLEAR OUT STOCKPILES. If you have a stash of old hard drives or other devices, even if they're in a locked storage area, information still exists and could be stolen. Wipe and/or destroy unneeded hard drives.

* EMPTY YOUR TRASH OR RECYCLE BIN ON ALL DEVICES; WIPE AND OVERWRITE. Simply emptying the trash isn't enough to completely get rid of a file. Use a program that permanently deletes the data, then overwrites it by putting random data in place of your information so that it can't be retrieved. Ask a reputable computer repair or software service company for suggestions.

* DECIDE WHAT TO DO WITH THE DEVICE. Once the device is clean, you can sell it, trade it in, give it away, recycle it or destroy it. On failed drives, wiping often fails. Shredding is the practical disposal approach for failed drives. Avoid returning these drives to the manufacturer. Instead, purchase support that allows you to keep it and then destroy it. If you must destroy it, use a reputable shredding company. Physically trying to destroy the hard drive will just leave larger pieces that a determined cyber-thief can reassemble.

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