Spring Cleaning with Cybersecurity in Mind

businessman sweeping the outside of his house

The concept of spring cleaning typically applies to crowded closets, dusty cabinets, and cluttered shelves. After a long year spent leading much of our lives online, our digital identities deserve a little cleanup, too.

Just like the forgotten corners of your house, it’s easy to neglect certain parts of your digital existence. Old accounts may expire, forgotten files may pile up, and logins may lapse. Devoting a little attention to your smartphones, computers, and online identities now can keep you safe throughout the year. It can also improve the performance of your devices and enhance the cybersecurity protections that defend your data from hackers.

This sounds intimidating, especially given the number of applications most of us use. But it’s a critical part of any cybersecurity plan, as bad actors will often target neglected accounts to try and pilfer information or execute phishing campaigns. Make a quick list of all of your accounts, then delete or deactivate any that you don’t use anymore.

If Any Accounts Include Saved Credit Card Information or Stored Files, Make Sure You Remove That Information to Prevent It from Falling into the Wrong Hands

Another piece of old information that can be leveraged by hackers is an old password. If it was set up more than 3-5 years ago, chances are it’s not nearly as secure as today’s passwords are required to be. Many of us were once accustomed to reusing the same password for multiple accounts, too—now, that’s the number one no-no when it comes to digital security. No matter how secure you think your passwords are, cybercriminals can find a way in by testing up to 10 billion password combinations in seconds. That’s why long, memorable phrases, special characters, and unique credentials are so important.

Consider Working with a Trusted IT Provider to Implement a Secure Password Manager, Which Randomly Generates Complicated Passwords for Each Account but Requires You to Remember just One Strong Master Password 

This requires something you know (your password) with something you have (a unique code sent via text message, email, or phone call)—and is another layer of security that’s become more common in recent years. Think of it like the DMV or another government office, where you have to present two forms of identification to prove who you are. Multi-factor authentication can prevent serious problems due to compromised passwords by throwing up another obstacle in the way of cybercriminals.

If You Receive Several MFA or Verification Code Alerts That You Didn’t Request, You Might Need to Change Your Password or Enhance the Security of Your Account with the Help of a Trusted IT Provider

In this dangerous online day and age, any request for private information—Social Security numbers, credit card details, or birthdates—should be met with immediate suspicion. Legitimate websites and apps never request such data via email or phone. But timely topics like COVID-19 vaccines, stimulus payments, and tax return filing deadlines give hackers a chance to try and trick you into divulging such important information.

When You Share a Post, Photo, or Video on Social Media, You Might Also Reveal Information About Others. Think Ahead Before You Hit Send and Use the Golden Rule: Post Only About Others as You’d Have Them Post About You

For some people, this step will come first. For others, it’s a dreaded task. But it’s important to prevent common social engineering scams and phishing attempts. Update your profiles on social media sites, review privacy and security settings on commonly used applications, and delete old photos or posts that may not align with who you are now.

Look For Strange Messages from Otherwise Trusted Contacts in Facebook Messenger and LINKEDIN, as These Networking Apps Are Often the First That Hackers Will Attempt to Compromise

Whether you’re affected by an accidental data leak, a purposeful data hack, or even a virus infection, one layer of defense can usually save the day: regular, redundant, encrypted, and automatic data backups that provide a reliable point of recovery. At CMIT Solutions, we securely store our clients’ data backups in a variety of physical and cloud-based locations to mitigate the risk of total data loss. We also integrate robust data recovery procedures with all data backup plans, helping companies retrieve their impacted information as efficiently as possible to support the return to day-to-day business operations.

Don’t Rely Solely on Data Backups Located On-Site, as These Can Be Affected by Natural Disasters and Ransomware Attempts

Many performance and security issues come from apps and operating systems that are too far behind current versions and lack up-to-date software patches. This goes for any device connected to the Internet: PCs, smartphones, tablets, Wi-Fi routers, and even smart TVs. It also applies to cloud-based applications (think Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Cloud) and web browsers, most of which will work best when updates are completed.

When You Update Your Web Browser, Clear Out Old Information Like Autofill Passwords and Cookies—Bad Actors Often View Unsupported or Neglected Programs as a Prime Target

You can’t just throw old computers or phones in the trash—for environmental and security reasons. Treat the disposal of electronic information as you would the shredding of sensitive paper documents. Anything that once retained protected details needs to be handled by a trusted IT provider or vendor so that logins, files, and other identifiable info is wiped and properly disposed of.

This Goes for New and Old Technology Like Wearable Devices, Network Drives, Copiers, Printers, Telephones, and Fax Machines Alike

Comprehensive cybersecurity doesn’t come easy, but in this digitally driven day and age, it’s more important than ever. Whether you’re looking to secure desktop and laptop computers, mobile devices and backup drives, or online accounts and digital identities, CMIT Solutions can help. Contact us today so we can assist with your spring cleaning safely and securely.

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