cybersecurity tune-upSpring is officially here, which means it’s a good time to start decluttering. Whether it’s our homes, our finances or some other aspect of our lives, in most cases, we can benefit from the changes that come from our spring cleaning efforts. One area where many of us need to declutter that tends to be overlooked is cybersecurity. That’s why we’re going over the many ways you can give your life a cybersecurity tune-up. Keep reading to learn why a cybersecurity tune-up is essential and find out how you can conduct one.

Why is a cybersecurity tune-up important?

Although spring is a great motivator for getting things in order, a cybersecurity tune-up is something that you should consider doing often. Even if you’re on your A game, given the average number of accounts and passwords most of us have, as well as the new threats emerging daily, cybersecurity is something that requires consistent upkeep. Taking the time to conduct a cybersecurity tune-up could help prevent future heartache while improving the performance of your devices and making everything easier to manage.

How do you conduct a cybersecurity tune-up?

There’s no one way to make sure your devices and data are secure, but you should at least consider doing the following:

When cleaning up your online accounts …

You should start by making sure your online accounts are secure and that their privacy settings are up to your liking. You can do this by going into your account settings and viewing your privacy and security options. While what you see will depend on the service your using, security features like two-factor authentication should be present and enabled.

In addition to that, you should also consider the following:

  • Update passwords. If you haven’t updated your passwords in over a year, it’s time to change them. If changing a multitude of passwords at once is overwhelming since it’s hard to come up with and remember all of those passwords, a password manager is a perfect alternative, as it makes the task of having unique and complex passwords much more doable. Plus, a password manager can store all of your passwords for you, making your life a bit easier.
  • Cancel old/unused accounts. A lot of us have open accounts with services that are now defunct or with services that we have no use for. Although you may have forgotten about these accounts, that doesn’t mean that they’re off hackers’ radars as previous Yahoo and Myspace breaches illustrate. Make sure you take the time to review all the accounts your email is associated with (search your inbox for words like “registration” or “account”) and determine which accounts aren’t in use. Once you have a complete list, visit each service’s site and delete your account.

When cleaning up your devices …

In addition to securing your online accounts, there are things you can do to clean and secure the devices you use.

  • Remove unwanted programs, files and apps. Just like you should delete unused accounts, and do the same with unused programs and apps. Not only do they needlessly take up space on your devices, but they might have permissions that you no longer wish to share with developers. You’re also less likely to keep up with the updates for these older programs, making them a bit of a security liability. Make sure you do this for your Windows, iOS, Mac and Android devices, along with any other devices you may have. Additionally, look at what third-party services your social media accounts (mainly Facebook, Google, and Twitter) are connected to.
  • Backup important files/folders. For your own peace of mind, back up sensitive files and folders. That way, if your device is exposed to malware or it crashes, you’re covered. You could do so using a cloud service or with an external drive — pick whatever platform makes you feel the most comfortable.
  • Install security software to scan your system. This is something else to consider for peace of mind. Using security software to scan your system periodically can protect you from malware, even ones you may have unknowingly been exposed to.
  • Keep system/firmware up-to-date. You should make sure your operating system is up-to-date by checking if your device has updates available. If you don’t already know, software updates can not only help you device run smoother, but they can also include patches for known security issues.
  • Check app permissions. It’s likely that your apps may be revealing more about you than you expected. As such, you’ll want to go into your device settings and verify what permissions the applications on your system have access to, which is something you’ll want to do after the Facebook scandal.
  • Encrypt disk or files and folders. We’ve talked about the importance of encryption before, but it’s important to note again. Modern consumers are fortunate because it’s very easy to deploy encryption on their devices. You can choose to encrypt files or if you want your entire drive or device. Doing so will make it much harder for anyone, including thieves, to access your most sensitive data.
  • Install remote tracking/wiping software. Most smartphone owners know this, but you can install apps, like find my iPhone, that allow you to track, and if need be, remotely wipe your device when it’s stolen or misplaced. With a Google account or a Microsoft account, you can also do this for your Android phone or PC, respectively.

When cleaning up offline …

Not only do your online accounts and devices need to be kept tidy, but any unused digital storage or devices do, too. Once a device is no longer receiving updates, make sure you stop using it and dispose of it. Just like you should invest in a cross-shredder to get rid of old documents, you should learn how to properly dispose of storage media like old CDs and hard drives. Old devices should also be responsibly disposed of or recycled. Not only is failing to do so environmentally irresponsible, but it could also make your data accessible to hackers and social engineers.

What else should you consider?

It isn’t enough to do a cybersecurity tune-up; you’ll also have to familiarize yourself with the best cybersecurity habits in order to continue to stay safe while using technology. Make sure to re-read the terms of service agreements for the services you use, as a lot of them have been updated in the wake of the Facebook hearings. Additionally, you should learn how most scams work, as well as what phishing is and how phishers disguise their attempts to take your information. Finally, learn the importance of not oversharing on social media as the information you share could be used against you or your family in phishing campaigns.

For more information on developing the cybersecurity habits that will keep you safe in today’s world, continue reading our technology blog.