The birds are chirping, the flowers are in bloom, and the weather is getting warmer. Spring is here once again, which means it’s time for some Cyber Spring Cleaning!
When we say "Cyber Spring Cleaning”, we don’t mean grabbing a digital feather duster and giving your files a good wipe-off. We mean going through a checklist of some essential procedures that should be performed on a regular basis to keep yourself and your data secure and protected.
1- Update your apps and software
Stop ignoring those notifications to install updates. Using old or outdated versions of apps, software, and operating systems can put you at risk, as updates often contain patches to security vulnerabilities and other optimizations that improve the quality of the software you're using. So make it a habit to install updates as soon as they are released.
2- Back up your files and data
No matter how careful you think you are, it’s always a good idea to prepare for the worst. You may be the victim of a malicious cyber attack. Or you may just accidentally drop your phone off a rooftop. In any case, losing all your data is never fun.
To save yourself some major frustration and heartache, make sure to back up all your most essential files by copying them onto a trusted cloud storage service, or even an external hard drive. This way, you'll always have a backup handy, just in case you need it.
3- Get rid of old devices, the right way
Have you recently upgraded to a new phone or laptop? Do you still have your old device lying around? You may want to take one last precaution before you sell it, or throw it in the trash if it's that old. Phones, laptops, tablets, hard drives, and any other devices that can hold data should be thoroughly wiped and formatted before being disposed of, to ensure that none of your private information falls into the wrong hands.
4- Delete any online accounts you no longer use
We all have a ton of online accounts, but some are used less often than others, and in some cases completely abandoned. A hacker could wreak all kinds of havoc by gaining access to one of these long forgotten accounts: they may impersonate you and post inappropriate content in your name, if it's a social media account, or even obtain your credit card details, if it’s an account you’ve used to make online purchases. The possibilities for damage are endless. The best way to prevent any of these scenarios from playing out is to keep track of all your accounts and delete any that you no longer use.
5- Manage your passwords
Passwords are like underwear, they need to be changed regularly. On top of that, it’s important to make sure that all your passwords are strong and unique, because weak and reused passwords can easily be cracked and lead to several of your accounts getting compromised.
The best way to do all of this is to start using a password manager. And if that’s not a good enough reason fo you, a password manager can also make logging into your accounts a much smoother process and ensure you never forget another password again.
6- Enable two-factor authentication
In case you don't already use this feature, now would be a great time to enable it. Two-factor authentication is essentially an extra layer of protection that can be added to an online account. Instead of just providing your username and password to log in, you'd also be prompted to enter a 6-digit code, which you can either receive via SMS, or better yet, a dedicated authenticator app. This will make it a lot harder for anyone to gain full access to any accounts you have 2FA enabled on.
And now you're all set until next spring! Just remember: the only thing better than performing these checkups once a year is making cybersecurity a daily habit.