Cyber security tips

Spring Cleaning Your Digital Life in 5 Steps

It’s that time of the year in Australia—Spring has returned—the sun is shining, the magpies are swooping, and many of us are looking around our homes and offices, preparing to clean our lives from top to bottom in anticipation of Summer.

But how often do we give our digital lives a cleanse? Spring is also the perfect time to clean up your online environment. By following the below checklist once a year, you can make the most of your digital technology and remain safe and secure online.

1. Accounts and Finances

Take stock of your accounts on all services and review your passwords. Where possible, use a unique, long password for each, so that if one account is compromised, the others won’t be affected. It can be pretty tough to remember so many passwords, so we recommend using a password manager. If multi-factor authentication is available, it should be enabled; particularly for your personal email and financial accounts.

For financials accounts (bank accounts, credit card accounts, superannuation and investment accounts), ensure you have turned on all options for alerts relating to transactions. By doing this, you will always be notified when a transaction occurs, allowing you to spot unauthorised activity as soon as possible. The faster you identify fraud, the faster you can lock down your accounts or cards, and the likelihood of recovering loss increases.

Any accounts you know you no longer need should be shut down or deleted. This should also be considered for accounts you haven’t accessed in the past 12 months.

2. Programs

Keeping on top of your software updates ensures you have the most up-to-date security features and fixes to known vulnerabilities. It’s best to have automatic updates enabled on all your devices, including mobile devices, computers and laptops, as well as smart home devices. If your programs or apps are no longer needed, they should be removed. Generally speaking, the fewer the apps you have, the more secure your information and devices will be. Most systems will be able to show you how long it has been since an app or program was last used. Chances are you don’t need anything you haven’t accessed in 12 months or more.

3. Backups

Regularly backing up your information is an important step to take for recovery measures. Even if your data is never compromised and you never need it for this reason, a recent backup can make migrating your information to a new device much easier, such as in the event of a device failure or a general device upgrade. Automatic backups to the cloud can be enabled on your devices, which will allow you to recover your important information when you need it.

4. Social Media

Social media is a goldmine of personal information that can be used for identity theft and account access. Review your privacy settings on all your social media platforms. Lock down as much information as possible from public access and avoid sharing any sensitive information such as your birthdate, address/geo-location or phone number. Sweep your posted photos for any of this information that may be incidentally included or visible in the background.

5. Device Disposal

Many of us are guilty of unintentionally hoarding old devices that we no longer use, such as old phones and tablets. For old devices that are still functional, wipe any personal information with a hard reset before recycling. Many local councils offer device recycling, or you can find a local electronic item recycling point here.

Bonus Step for Parents and Guardians

If a child is in your care, this is a great time to review the parental controls on your devices—including mobile devices such as phones and tablets, as well smart home devices like TVs. The parental control settings will likely need to be tweaked and updated as children get older.

Only a couple of hours a year spent on these activities to clean up your digital life will make a big difference in safeguarding you, your information and devices online.