Awareness DaysDo a digital declutter this spring

When people think of spring cleaning, they think about cleaning out drawers, wiping down furniture, and vacuuming floors. However, you should not forget about cleaning out the clutter in your devices. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) and The National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCA) recommend getting rid of unneeded digital files to prevent identity theft.

Your devices contain volumes of confidential details about your business and clients. This includes a social security number and/or date of birth. If cyber thieves get access to these details, they can damage your company’s finances, reputation, and livelihood.

Bill Fanelli, Chief Security Officer with the Council of Better Business Bureaus states, “Last year, consumers filed more than 47,000 reports to BBB Scam Tracker about a wide variety of scams, and we found the riskiest are online scams. It is vitally important that consumers and businesses alike develop and stick to good habits on how data is collected, stored, and shared, and how it is disposed of when it is no longer relevant.”

Digital spring-cleaning tips

NCA and BBB provided these top trouble-free tips everyone should follow this spring and all year round:

  • Keep a clean machine: Ensure all software on internet-connected devices – including PCs, smartphones, and tablets – is up to date to reduce the risk of infection from malware.
  • Lockdown your login: Your usernames and passphrase are not enough to protect key accounts like email, banking, and social media. Begin your spring cleaning by fortifying your online accounts and enabling the strongest authentication tools available. This includes biometrics, security keys, or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device.
  • Declutter your mobile life: Most of us have apps we no longer use and some that need updating. Delete unused apps and keep others current, including the operating system on your mobile devices.
  • Do a digital file purge: Perform a good, thorough review of your online files. Tend to digital records, PCs, phones, and any device with storage just as you do for paper files. Start by doing the following:
    • Clean up your email: Save only those emails you need and unsubscribe to emails you no longer need/want to receive.
    • Back it up: Copy important data to a secure cloud site or another computer/drive to ensure safe storage. Passphrase-protect backup drives. Always back up your files before getting rid of a device, too.
  • Own your online presence: Review the privacy and security settings on websites you use to ensure they are at your comfort level for sharing. It is OK to limit how and with whom you share information.

Tips for disposing of devices securely

Also, the BBB provided these user-friendly, actionable guidelines to assist with the safe disposal of electronically stored data:

  • Know what devices to digitally “shred”: Computers and cell phones are not the only devices that capture and store sensitive personal data. External hard drives and USBs, tape drives, embedded flash memory, wearables, networking equipment, and office tools like copiers, printers, and fax machines all contain valuable personal information.
  • Clear out stockpiles: If you have a stash of old hard drives or other devices – even if they are in a locked storage area – information still exists and is at risk of theft. Do not wait; wipe and/or destroy unneeded hard drives as soon as possible.
  • Empty your trash or recycle bin on all devices and be certain to wipe and overwrite: Simply deleting and emptying the trash is not enough to completely get rid of a file. You must permanently delete old files. Use a program that deletes the data, “wipes” it from your device, and then overwrites it by putting random data in place of your information ‒ that no one can retrieve.
    • Various overwriting and wiping tools are available for electronic devices. For devices like tape drives, remove any identifying information written on labels before disposal. Also, use embedded flash memory, networking, or office equipment to perform a full factory reset. Further, verify that no potentially sensitive information still exists on the device.
  • Decide what to do with the device: Once the device is clean, you can sell it, trade it in, give it away, recycle it, or have it destroyed. Note the following:
    • Failed drives still contain data: On failed drives, wiping often fails, too; shredding/destruction is the practical disposal approach for failed drives. Avoid returning a failed drive to the manufacturer; you can purchase a support plan that allows you to keep it and then destroy it.
    • To be “shredded,” you must chop the hard drive into small pieces: Using a hammer to hit a drive only slows down a determined cybercriminal; instead, use a trusted shredding company to dispose of your old hard drives. Device shredding can often be the most time- and cost-effective option for disposing of many drives.

If you need help with your digital spring cleaning tasks, you can contact us at 877-794-3811 or Also, if you are unsure if your data is safe on your devices and in the cloud, you can ask us about our security packages.

Note: This blog was originally published in April 2018.