The warmer weather that comes with Spring tends to inspire people to lighten things up, clear the clutter and clean their homes. However, the one area that many people tend to overlook is the very same device they will likely use to read this article. After a year of increased online activity, and another one likely underway, plus with the prevalence of more sophisticated cyberattacks, Better Business Bureau (BBB) is reminding the public to declutter their digital devices.
In the last year, the focus on cybersecurity and protecting sensitive information became critical. In 2020, online scams were number two on BBB’s list of top 10 riskiest scams. The 2020 Risk Report for Canada showed that online scams had the highest exposure and susceptibility rate of all the scams and accounted for over one-third of all reports submitted to BBB Scam Tracker. Canadian businesses also saw a 4.3% increase in cyber security incidents in May 2020 when compared to February 2020, with the BC business community reporting 4.9%. Government agencies across Canada were among the top targets for cyber thieves, reporting over 20% increase in cyberattacks for the same time period.
“Ensuring you don’t fall prey to various online scams has as much to do with awareness as it does with how well-guarded your devices are,” explained Karla Laird, Senior Manager for Media & Communications at BBB Serving Mainland BC. “With this in mind, try to schedule some time to give yourself a digital makeover. Taking proactive steps will go a long way in safeguarding against potential threats that could compromise your personal data.”
Here are seven tips to help you with your digital spring cleaning:
1. Declutter mobile phones. Delete unused apps and keep others current by updating them as needed. Apps collect data about you and your behaviour, so get rid of those that you are not using as they could be sharing your information. Also be sure to actively manage location services, microphone usage as well as access to your camera and photos on all apps.
2. Do a file purge. Take a look at your records and delete those you don’t need. This can also include cleaning up your email inboxes and backing up your most important documents on a secure cloud site or external hard drive. Try the 3-2-1 rule: 3 backup copies, 2 different media types and 1 offline in a separate location.
3. Polish up your login. Your security is at risk when you neglect the importance of restricting unauthorized access to your online accounts. Use passwords and passphrases that are lengthy, unique and safely stored away. Always use two-factor authentication whenever it is offered.
4. Stop delaying your updates. Ensure you have the latest security software and upgrades available by completing updates as soon as you get those notifications. Having the most current software, web browsers and operating systems are some of the easiest and fastest ways to protect your most sensitive assets.
5. Empty trash bins. Simply deleting and emptying the trash or recycle bin on your computer is not enough to get rid of a file. To permanently delete them, consider getting a program that “wipes” those files from your devices and then overwrites it by putting random data in place of your information for an added layer of security.
6. Inspect the privacy settings on all your social media accounts. Ensure you are not revealing personal information to strangers. While you’re at it, look again to see who has administrative access to those accounts.
7. Safely dispose of old technology. This goes beyond cells phones and computers to include USBs, external hard drives, wearables and printers – all of which contain your personal information. Once you are completely finished with a device and have backed up the information you need, “shred” the device with a trusted electronic shredding company.
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