"Digital Spring Cleaning" encouraged by the BBB

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TOPEKA (WIBW) -- The Better Business Bureau and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) are encouraging consumers to make digital devices an additional target of their spring cleaning activities. All digital device users can get a fresh start with their online life by keeping their machines clean, purging their online files, enhancing security features and ensuring that their online reputations shine.

“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 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.”

This handy four-week checklist from NCSA can be used to help determine what to undertake first. Parents are urged to get the entire family involved as some duties may be better for adults to handle and others are perfectly suited for children.

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 -- 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.

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.