Spring cleaning your tech

It’s that time of year where we shake the cobwebs, open those windows that have been frozen shut all winter, tackle the dust bunnies that have congregated under the couch and put away the winter gear — not too far, who are we kidding we live in Canada and the weather is sometimes more unpredictable than a goose.

Just like in our homes, we also need to do regular cleanups in our digital worlds, like cleaning out the junk box in your email or deleting that old email address that you made when you were a kid (ahem SurferChik16@MSN.com ….I have literally never stepped foot on a surf board).

As we spend more time online, shopping, learning, communicating, and working it’s best that our digital spaces are also deep cleaned from time to time, because it too can have digital dust bunnies lingering around.

Here are some tips on how to do a digital spring cleaning:

Start with your phone and tablets

If you’re like most of us, your phones, tablets, and laptops are probably full of unnecessary software. Free up space by removing anything you don’t use or need. Otherwise, these files or programs may run in the background, use processing power and drain your battery. We’ve all been asked by less a tech savvy parent about why their phone is so slow and come to realise that they have every app open and running in the background, too many photos of the cat and more.

Ditch apps you’re not using (ahem Farmville or Words with Friends) or you haven’t used in the past 8 months.Upload those photos to the cloud and free up space on your phone to take more pictures of your cute pets (we all do it). Delete old texts, call history and voicemail.

If you’re looking to upgrade your tech, considering recycling what you’re no longers using at an organization like Computers 4 Schools.

Delete some of your internet footprint

With so much of ourselves now out there on the web for anyone to see (on any of the top social media platforms and beyond), it’s really hard to keep track of exactly what type of information is being kept where. And if your personal or financial information is floating around online, it’s the perfect target for hackers to steal. Check out this thread by @somenerdliam on “How to delete 99.9% of your digital footprint from the internet”.

Some of the steps they recommend are:

  • Step one: Go through each email you can think of in the last 10 years and recover them if you’ve lost access, so that you can access other websites you may have signed up using them.
  • Step two: Delete old account from forgotten devices
  • Step three: Check if your information has been compromised already. By using a website like haveibeenpwned.com

I checked to see if my personal email was compromised and found it was compromised when two websites I had provided it to suffered data breaches in 2012 and 2019, which exposed my information that was stored in their servers. Now, I’ve used this email for absolutely everything. Seeing these breaches made me realise it’s time to do a deep clean for that account and others.

Check out OSINT framework that helps you go through public records and archives to find out where your information is posted and delete it.

Reset your passwords

According to this post, 80% of all cyber security attacks involve a weak or stolen password. Don’t use the same password across multiple platforms or choose passwords that are too similar to one another, you should change your passwords REGULARLY every 6 months. And, if you like me have to remember a lot of passwords for a lot of different accounts you might consider using a password manager like Dashlane.

Disinfect your tech

We’ve all been told that our cellphones harbor 10x more bacteria than the average toilet (eww!) and we put that phone on our face. Cleaning it with your shirt doesn’t get those germs off. Actually clean the surfaces of your tech (i.e. Your earbuds/headphones, tablets, phones and computer accessories.) Make sure to read your tech’s user guide to find the safest solutions.

I find that using isopropyl alcohol solution with a soft microfiber cloth which is a lot safer than using bleach-based cleaning wipes. Never spray your tech directly or immerse in water. Spray a microfiber cloth with a safe cleaning solution and wipe down the tech surfaces.

Go through your social media accounts

The more we learn about how these social media giants use our data the wearier we should be of what we allow them to see. When going through your social media accounts, determine what the app has access to (photos, contacts, microphone etc.) and customise your privacy settings based on your comfort level. While there unfollow bots, delete old posts and photos.

Also, it’s VERY important to talk to your children about safety online on a regular basis. I’m not a parent but I asked some of my colleagues who are parents about some things they do to keep their children safe online and what their best practices are, here’s what they said:

C: “Customise the privacy settings on social media. Turn locations services off, don’t tag locations in photos. Make sure that software updates are done regularly to keep up with security. Don’t blindly accept cookies and always read privacy policies and terms & conditions — every time.”

J: “Always operate as if there are NO technical safeties or guards in place. Your expectation of privacy should be as if you were speaking or acting in a public place with people watching. That said, it shouldn’t be scary to live online, just don’t get lulled into a false sense of security or privacy. You may be physically in your home, office, or classroom, but your data is out there in other people’s servers and travelling through other people’s routers and lines. For kids, maybe think about it like a public park. If you wouldn’t do it or say it there, don’t say it or do it online.

Even if you do not create a digital footprint, one is being developed for you by other actions and curated by algorithms. That said, not contributing to the pile of data is a fine choice, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve a zero-sum digital existence.”

Our digital worlds are so intertwined with our actual lives that we need to be more cognizant of what information we put out there and how best to manage it. Doing regular digital cleaning and maintenance means that you and your information are safe from hackers. Tech Manitoba will cover this and so much more at part two of the Disrupted conference, which is fully focused on cybersecurity.

While it’s almost impossible to be online without leaving a footprint, it is possible to restrict what we put out because in the grand scheme of things our digital footprints will last forever just like the footprints left on the moon by the Apollo 11 astronauts.

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Insights from Manitoba’s tech community.

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