6 steps to spring-cleaning your digital life

Now that the seasons are changing, you might be taking some time to clear out clutter and freshen up your space. While you’re at it, do the same for your devices and do a little digital spring cleaning. It won’t just leave you with a satisfyingly clean home screen on your phone and computer, but it will reduce your risk of falling victim to a hacker down the line.

To create our digital declutter checklist, we turned to the experts at ESET. Here, they break down how to clean up your digital footprint and secure your data.

#1 Make sure your devices are up to date

All internet-connected devices have built-in operating systems (OS) that help them to run efficiently. Whenever a software update pops up on your screen, that means the OS is due for a refresh.

To kick off your spring cleaning, accept any software updates on your smartphone, desktop computer and laptop. This will not only reduce the risk of viruses, malware and ransomware infecting your devices, but it will also fix bugs and ensure they’re functioning properly.

Once you’ve done that, turn on auto-updates so you never miss one again!

Bonus tip: If your device has been slow lately, defragmenting your hard disk can help to troubleshoot that glitch and declutter your computer. It’s also worth deleting old files from your downloads folder and desktop, especially if you use cloud storage. Don’t forget to empty the trash afterwards!

#2 Tighten up your logins

Next on your digital cleaning checklist: do an audit of your passwords. For each account you have, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the password strong, complex and hard to guess? Ideally, your password should be made up of a mix of letters, numbers and special characters, and shouldn’t reveal any personally identifiable information.
  • Have I used this password for any other account? If so, change it. Recycling passwords makes you more vulnerable to hackers because if they crack one they can easily access multiple accounts.
  • Have I activated multi-factor authentication on the most important accounts? When it comes to critical accounts like your bank or primary email, two-factor authentication is good, but multi-factor authentication (MFA) is better. This means you’ll need to type in your username and password and provide one more piece of information — such as a code sent to your phone or email — to log in.

By now, you probably have dozens of passwords to remember, so consider installing a password manager. These software programs store and encrypt your usernames and passwords so you don’t need to commit them to memory. Some programs also create passwords for you and notify you if one of your accounts has been compromised.

#3 Deactivate or delete unused accounts

From online shopping to social media and old email addresses, you likely have a bunch of old accounts, apps and programs you don’t use anymore. And they might contain financial, sensitive or personal information, such as your address or credit card number.

In the cybersecurity world, holding on to accounts you no longer need can clog up your hard drive and lead to “system bloat.” It can also open you up to malware and other vulnerabilities, especially if you haven’t been updating the software of those accounts. To protect your data and declutter your digital life, close those accounts — or if you’re not sure whether you will need them in the future, remove any saved details.

Bonus tip: Sort through your apps and say goodbye to any you haven’t used in a year or more. Then, head to your email and unsubscribe from newsletters, mailing lists and alerts you’re not interested in.

#4 Refresh your online presence

If you think about it, we all have an online “persona,” and some of us have several. For example, the image we present on LinkedIn is different from the one we might show the world on Instagram or Facebook.

To make sure your digital footprint reflects who you are, scroll through your social media sites and delete any old photos, videos or posts that don’t represent you properly. Then, comb through your friends, followers and contacts and delete any who don’t need to know what you’re up to. Finally, review your privacy and security settings so you’re comfortable with the people who are seeing your content.

#5 Back up all your files

You’re almost done with your digital clean up day! To keep your data safe, back up important files regularly. If you can, maintain two backups: one on an external hard or flash drive, and the other on an encrypted cloud storage platform like Google Drive.

That way, if your server crashes or you fall victim to a scam, you’ll be able to recover your data and mitigate the effect of any losses.

#6 Install a good security software

Last but not least, do a software sweep. If you already have reliable software installed, make sure it’s up to date. And if you don’t, it’s worth investing in software such as ESET Cybersecurity Pro to give you peace of mind and protection online. This sophisticated software offers a multilayered defence against a range of cyber threats, including ransomware, malware, identity theft and phishing emails, and you can instal it on multiple devices under one shared license.

For Android users, ESET Mobile Security provides the same level of security, and it’s compatible with smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Organising your digital life with ESET

If you’re ready to learn more about cybersecurity best practices, the team at ESET is here to help. Reach out to their team anytime, and we’ll dive into cleaning up your digital footprint.