Washington, D.C. ‒ The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and Better Business Bureau (BBB) are encouraging consumers to put cybersecurity top of mind by urging them to make digital devices an additional target of their spring cleaning activities. NCSA and BBB encourage everyone to make a thorough “digital spring cleaning” an annual ritual. Internet users can get a fresh start with their online life by keeping all machines clean, purging their online files, enhancing security features and ensuring that their online reputation shines.
“Seasonal changes always have an impact on our lives ‒ whether it’s the biannual changing of our clocks or swapping our skis for a baseball glove. It has also become the time to declutter and start anew,” said Michael Kaiser, NCSA’s executive director. “Our lives have become increasingly connected and, with multiple devices, we accumulate digital clutter that needs attention. That’s why we’re adding a new spin on spring cleaning that can help you be more secure online, protect valuable, personal information and avoid identity theft. By following our handy checklist, investing a little time each week and performing a series of simple chores, you can dramatically strengthen your security posture. In addition, your digital life will be more manageable and you will have peace of mind that you are helping protect your family and the extended online community while enjoying the Internet with greater confidence.”
“For many years, BBB has hosted Secure Your ID Day shredding events to help consumers safely dispose of paper files they no longer need,” noted Mary E. Power, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “In recent years, many events have added electronic shredding to the mix to help consumers deal with old hard drives and other electronic data storage. We are urging more businesses, employers and institutions to join with us in hosting shred events for employees and customers to safely scrap documents and files that could be used for identity theft. This year’s Secure Your ID Day is April 16, but any day is a good day for digital spring cleaning.”
One of the hardest parts of any decluttering process is determining what to undertake first ‒ not to mention deciding who will do what. So why not approach your digital spring cleaning like a pro? Create an action plan that assigns maintenance tasks to appropriate family members. NCSA’s downloadable Digital Spring Cleaning Checklist is user-friendly and will help keep everyone organized. The checklist includes a four-week list of tasks grouped together by category. Parents are urged to get the whole family involved as some duties may be better for adults to handle and others are perfectly suited for kids.
Follow this four-week outline and clean up your family’s online life with an easy-to-follow timeline and plan:
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 and view a list of the websites that offer two-factor authentication.
- 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 cybercriminals.
- 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. BBB is hosting Secure Your ID Day shredding events in communities nationwide, and many of these will include electronic shredding. Some municipalities also offer this service.
- Update your online photo album: Back up photos you want to keep, and delete old or less flattering pictures of yourself and your family and friends. In addition to not showing your best side, they take up space.
- Update your online relationships: Review friends on social networks and contacts on phones and PCs and make sure everyone on those lists still belongs. .
- 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.
- Update your “online self”: Are your social media sites up to date? Review your personal information and update it where needed.
Twitter Chat Details and Resources
- Join @STOPTHNKCONNECT for our next #ChatSTC Twitter Chat, Digital Spring Cleaning – Clean Up Your Cyber Clutter, on Thursday, April 7, at 3 p.m. EDT/noon PDT. This chat will discuss ways you can get a fresh start with your online life this spring. Use #ChatSTC to join!
- Here’s a comprehensive listing of how to install two-step authentication on a variety of popular platforms: stopthinkconnect.org/2stepsahead/resources
- Help others get their houses in order by hanging posters around the office: staysafeonline.org/stop-think-connect/posters/
- Check your privacy settings: staysafeonline.org/data-privacy-day/check-your-privacy-settings/
- Keep a Clean Machine! Use these free security checkups to learn how staysafeonline.org/teach-online-safety/free-security-check-ups/
- The Department of Homeland Security’s Stop.Think.Connect.™ Campaign Toolkithas a variety of resources including:
- Cybersecurity experts at ESET have a host of resources to get you in digital spring-cleaning mode. From a Digital Chores Checklist to their 10 two-minute tips to boost your cybersecurity, our friends at ESET are making digital life a lot safer! Visit ESET.com/ESETsOnIT for more information.
About The National Cyber Security Alliance
The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) is the nation’s leading nonprofit, public-private partnership promoting cybersecurity and privacy education and awareness. NCSA works with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and NCSA’s Board of Directors, which include representatives from ADP; AT&T Services, Inc.; Bank of America; BlackBerry Corporation; Cisco; Comcast Corporation; ESET North America; Facebook; Google; Intel Corporation; Logical Operations; Microsoft Corp.; PayPal; PKWARE; RSA, the Security Division of EMC; Raytheon; SANS Institute; Symantec and Visa Inc. NCSA’s core efforts include National Cyber Security Awareness Month (October), Data Privacy Day (January 28) and STOP. THINK. CONNECT., the global online safety awareness and education campaign led by NCSA and the Anti Phishing Working Group, with federal government leadership from DHS. For more information on NCSA, please visit staysafeonline.org/about-us/overview/.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2015, people turned to BBB more than 172 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 5.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for the local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as home to its national and international programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation.