Many people don’t necessarily think of household chores as a fun way to spend a weekend, but there’s something refreshing about spring cleaning. There’s a real sense of satisfaction from rolling up your sleeves and dusting off your technology. That’s right, I’m talking about digital spring cleaning.
While cleaning out the gutters or clearing junk out of the attic may be the first thing that comes to mind, don’t forget to clean out your mobile devices and your laptop or desktop computers. Although it can seem like a big job, your digital spring cleaning can be even more important than yard work or home improvements.
Your smartphone or tablet is the best place to start. It contains a wealth of personal information about you, and depending on how you typically use it, the device might actually provide all the pieces of your identity puzzle. In the wrong hands, your email account, social media accounts, even your bank account might be in jeopardy.
The first spring cleaning step is to change or setup a passcode on your phone. If you have one in place, good for you! If you’ve never set one up—or if you disabled it one time and never turned the feature back on—go ahead and do that now. While you’re in the menu to change or setup the passcode, make sure your phone locks quickly and also take the time to check and see if there are any software updates from the manufacturer. Remember, updates are issued to correct problems like security holes. Keeping your system updated can help keep hackers out of it.
After you’ve locked up your device, it’s time to take a look at your apps. Are you running third-party apps with full permissions? You can revoke those permissions at any time in your settings. Blocking any unnecessary access to your photos, your location, and even your contacts list can not only add a layer of security, but also speed up your device and extend the battery life once such services are no longer running in the background.
Tackling your inbox
Next, it’s time to clean out your email inbox. Before you click that first email, though, start with your email password. Many people don’t think about their email as the gateway to all of their accounts, but in theory, that’s how it works. If a hacker gains access to your email account and changes your password, you’re locked out of it…unless you have a second recovery email already installed in your account. Once hackers have control, it’s a simple matter of going to all of the major websites, entering your email address, and clicking “forgot my password.” The password reset link comes to your email inbox, and the bad guys establish new passwords on Amazon, PayPal, Facebook, and more. Your entire internet persona is taken over, all because your email account wasn’t secure.
Not only do you need a strong, unique password for your email address, but it’s a good idea to change it periodically in case your provider has experienced a data breach. And make sure your new password isn’t one you’ve used on any other accounts. Now that your inbox is secure, it’s time to tackle those old emails. If it helps, search your inbox for each specific name (such as Bob’s Fish Barn). The search should pull up only emails that include those terms, and you can further filter it to only include those words as the sender. Then check the box to select all, and hit delete. It will make the work of clearing out some old messages easier.
Finally, still at your computer, check your security settings and updates. Look for software updates that need to be installed, like an update to Flash player, and make sure your notifications are turned on so that any updates to your operating system or security will appear.
Happy Digital Spring Cleaning!
Posted by Eva Velasquez, CEO, Identity Theft Resource Center
LifeLock proudly provides financial support to the Identity Theft Resource Center.