Digital Diligence

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    Spring is a time for de-cluttering and organizing, but with Canadians losing $11 million to identity theft scams in 2016*, cleaning your electronics and their information securely is crucial. But, where do you start? BBB has tips to help businesses and consumers safeguard their sensitive information and protect their identity while cleaning up their digital data.

    “Managing and disposing of data securely and responsibly is key in building marketplace trust and minimizing identity theft,” says Mary O’Sullivan-Andersen, president and CEO of BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay. “One of BBB’s eight Standards for Trust is safeguard privacy, so we regularly educate businesses and consumers about the importance of protecting the sensitive information they are giving and collecting.”

    BBB recommends spreading things out over a four-week digital data clean-up by using these secure data-management and disposal tips:

    Week 1: Keep Clean Machines

    As a very basic first step, make sure that all web-connected devices, including PCs, mobile phones, smartphones and tablets, are free from malware and infections. Use this as a launch pad for your month of digital maintenance.

    • Keep all critical software current: Having all software current is one of the best security measures you can take. This includes security software, web browsers, document readers, operating systems and any other software you use regularly.

    • Clean up your mobile life: Most of us have apps we no longer use as well as ones that need updating. Delete unused apps and keep others current, including the operating system on your mobile device. An added benefit of deleting unused apps is more storage space and longer battery life.

    Week 2: Make Sure You’re Secure

    Building on Week One, users can enhance the security of their online accounts, a fast and simple way to be safer online. There are quick and easy things you can do that have long-term safety and security benefits.

    • Get two steps ahead: Turn on two-step authentication, also known as two-step verification or multi-factor authentication, on accounts where available. Many of the Internet’s most popular email services, social networks and financial institutions offer this key security step free of charge, but you must opt in to turn it on.

    • Make better passwords: If your passwords are too short or easy to guess, it’s like leaving the front door to your home unlocked. Longer passwords that contain both numbers and letters are strong, but also consider using a popular phrase or song lyric that is easy for you to remember but not obvious for others to guess.

    • Unique account, unique password: Having separate passwords, at least for key accounts like email, banking and social networking, helps to thwart cyber criminals.

    • Write it down and keep it safe: Everyone can forget a password. Keep a list that’s stored in a safe, secure place in your home.

    • Secure your phone: Use a pass code or a finger swipe to unlock your phone.

    Week 3: Digital File Purge and Protection

    Tend to your digital records, PCs, phones and any device with storage just as you do for paper files.

    • Clean up your email: Save only those emails you really need. Your inbox is likely stuffed with lots of outdated materials. Delete or archive what you don’t need and be sure to empty your deleted mail folders.

    • Manage subscriptions: Unsubscribe to newsletters, email alerts and updates you no longer read.

    • Dispose of electronics securely: Wiping data isn’t enough. When you dispose of old electronics, look for facilities that shred hard drives, disks and memory cards.

    • Update your online photo album: Back up photos you want to keep, and delete old ones you no longer want or need to free up some space.

    • Back it up: Copy important data to a secure cloud site or to another drive where it can be safely stored. Password protect backup drives and keep them in a different location off the network for maximum security. Commit to doing backups on a regular basis.

    • Empty your trash or recycle bin on all devices: Make sure to permanently delete old files.

    Week 4: Clean Up Your Online Reputation

    Parents and older kids with social media accounts can take an active role in making sure their online reputation is squeaky clean.

    • Own your online presence: Review the privacy and security settings on websites you use to be sure that they remain set to your comfort level for sharing.

    • Update your “online self”: Are your social media sites up to date? Review your personal and professional information and update it where needed.

    For more information:

    For consumers: For more consumer tips on digital safety, check out the National Cyber Security Alliance at staysafeonline.org.

    For businesses: Businesses can do a cyber safety check-up with BBB’s “5 Steps to Better Business Cybersecurity” at  bbb.org/cybersecurity.

    *BBB releases Top 10 Scams of 2016

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