The new year represents a fresh start, with people gearing up for self-improvement. While most New Year’s resolutions involve fitness and wellness, finances, and even career goals, one thing many people don’t always consider is their digital life.
Let’s face it – most of our lives have “gone digital.” In fact, a quarter of American adults now report that they are online “almost constantly.” Apple’s Screen Time feature and Google’s Digital Wellbeing app are evidence that today’s consumers need ways to monitor their digital activity and even disconnect from it. But beyond how much time you spend on social media, or which hours you access work email each day, people need to consider the endless digital trail they have online, the risks it can present, and why they should take the time to get it in order, today.
In the spirit of setting new goals and making positive changes as we start the new year, here are a few easy tips for decluttering (and securing) your digital life in 2019.
Close unused accounts
It’s amazing how many new online accounts you can accrue over a year – online shopping sites, social media apps, food delivery services, newsletter subscriptions, logins for work and more. These accounts probably don’t ‘bring you joy’ like Netflix’s Marie Kondo would say, they do the exact opposite. Unused accounts leave a trail of your personal and/or work information online – from emails and phone numbers to date of birth, consumer preferences and more – and can be valuable assets for hackers looking for a quick win.
We often think by deleting the app or unsubscribing to the emails, the account is no longer in existence, but these dormant or “zombie” accounts still harbor data and can present major risks for you down the line. If that app or site is the victim of a data breach, your password and account information could be vulnerable. And if you’ve reused that password, it could put your other accounts at risk, too.
To minimize the risk of your identifiable information falling into the wrong hands, you have to go one step further to delete your account, not just app, in order to remove these digital skeletons from your closet.
Perform a password purge
Are you still relying on old or reused passwords? Are you storing that password on a sticky-note attached to your screen? If so, you might be surprised to learn that 81 percent of hacking-related breaches leverage either stolen and/or weak passwords. As more and more password breaches are reported, make 2019 the year you begin with a clean slate by creating new, more secure passwords that are longer, stronger and different from any password you use elsewhere.
While this might sound like a daunting task, the good news is there’s an easy fix. Your password manager will create and save complex and unique passwords for each of your accounts, and recall them automatically the next time you log in to those accounts. This makes life easier for you, and much more difficult for hackers.
Back it up
We’ve all had that moment when our phone gets lost or damaged, or our hard drive crashes, and important information on that device is lost – from pictures, to contacts, music and more. When disaster strikes, you’ll be thankful you backed up all of your important files. Get an external hard drive or third–party cloud backup service where you can store one or more copies of everything. This should be done daily if possible, but the new year is the perfect opportunity to make sure all of your existing files are in order.
However, it’s not just about your mobile devices. Think about your home laptop and work computer, too. Do you save all your important documents on your desktop? If something happens to your computer, those documents are gone. Take time to ensure your files are organized and secure no matter what happens to your device.
From closing unused accounts, locating and consolidating digital files, or identifying lost passwords – the new year is the perfect time to reevaluate your digital life. Hackers and cybercriminals are relentless all year round, so why not take the steps to get your digital life in order today?