April 19, 2014

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Spring Cleaning For Your Digital Devices

Now that you’ve tackled your spring home improvement projects and followed our tips from yesterday on how to clean up your financial clutter, why not focus on cleaning up your home computers, tablets, and smartphones? You’ll be more organized and better protect yourself from the everyday threat of identity theft.

Software updates. It can be hard to keep up with software updates across all your various devices, but this is a critical safety measure that everyone needs to take. An up-to-date device is encrypted, which means it’s a safer device. As we spend more and more time using our mobile devices to visit social sites and shop online this becomes even more critical.

Back it up. Get in the habit of regularly backing up your devices. You can purchase an external hard drive for your personal computer or back up your data into a “cloud” storage service for an extra layer of protection. Data recovery can cost you thousands of dollars so make sure you back up your data whenever possible. Most computers can run programs automatically each week; it’s up to you to set it up.

Password protect. It’s also a good idea to password protect all of your devices. Interestingly, over 60% of smartphone owners don’t bother to “lock” their devices. With your busy lifestyle you are probably on the go and using your devices in lots of locations. This increases the odds that it might be stolen or lost, so lock it up with a password that you can remember, but others cannot guess.

If you really want to be as safe as possible, start rotating new passwords. Symantec, the well-known antivirus company, recommends changing them every three months. Avoid using your child’s name, your pet’s name or your street address or birthdate as a password. Choose at least six characters and combine upper and lower case letters and numbers in hard to remember combinations. You can also use symbols where allowed. Make sure you write your passwords down and save them in a safe location. Do not keep them with your devices.

Speaking of passwords, we wrote about the Heartbleed Bug last week as it was making headlines, and making a lot of consumers nervous. Cyber security experts agree that one way to combat Heartbleed is to change your passwords across all your online accounts. This applies to social media accounts like Facebook, YouTube, and Google+, and your online banking, investment, and credit card accounts. Don’t forget things like your digital NY Times account or utility bills that you manage online via any of your devices. Mashable.com compiled a list of popular sites affected by Heartbleed. You can check the list here. Don’t forget, using IdentityForce’s UltraSecure or UltraSecure+Credit identity theft protection plans are a great way to add another layer of safety to everything you do online.

Log in, log out. Starting today you may want to get in the habit of logging out of sites that you frequent. Yes, it’s more convenient to stay logged into Google and Facebook, but there is a reason that financial giants Citi, Chase, and Fidelity prompt you to log out after doing any online transactions. Logging out decreases the chance that someone can steal your personal information. You can close your browser window for even greater security.

Room to breathe. Your devices have limited storage space so stop wasting it with inboxes stuffed with old email, bad pictures, and apps that you no longer use. I follow the same rule of thumb I use for decluttering my closet. If I haven’t worn it in six months to a year I get rid of it.

Your digital device spring cleaning will make you more organized and safer.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Rafe Blandford.

Heidi Daitch

Chief Strategy Officer at IdentityForce
Heidi is a busy working mom who juggles many of the same responsibilities and challenges at home and at work - a long list of things to do and not enough time to do everything. With so little time, Heidi tries hard to find simple, but effective strategies to save time for what’s really important – spending time with her family.

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