Digital Spring Cleaning: Experts Urge Desktop Cleanups

Checking your location settings on laptop, browser and smart phone can help protect your personal information from scammers. (Twenty20)

This weekend, you may want to set aside your broom and dustpan and use your mouse instead to do some cleaning. With spring cleaning on the minds of many, tech experts say home computers also need cleaning – that is, the email inbox and hard drive.
Taking care of this digital housekeeping will help protect you from scammers and hackers in addition to making your daily life easier, says Russell Schrader, the executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance.
“We’re saying go through and get rid of apps that you haven’t used,” Schrader says. “Clean out your inbox. Look at who is using what part of your information. Open up some space on your hard drive. Just get rid of all those things that might cause problems later on.”
According to Schrader, it’s also a good time to review your privacy and security settings on websites and make sure you’re comfortable with the information you’re sharing. Don’t forget to include your location services and Bluetooth settings on mobile phones, since many apps are able to track your location and activity.
The Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker received more than 47,000 reports of scams in 2017, and the riskiest included online scams.
Nancy Crawford, director of marketing and communications with the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South, says with so many people participating in the virtual world, it’s important to be vigilant.
“We do our socializing online, we do our banking online,” she says. “We buy things online and we do our work online, and that information needs to be protected.”
The National Institute of Standards and Technology recently released new password recommendations. After years of experts suggesting obscure passwords filled with upper- and lower-case letters mixed with punctuation marks, Schrader says it’s now considered better to use long phrases you can remember, even if they’re lines from nursery rhymes or songs.
“What people do now is use passphrases,” Schrader explains. “Things that are long. The longer the better, in terms of hacking; and they don’t have to be as tricky, they just need to be long and memorable.”
He adds it’s also a good time to back up important data on a cloud or external hard drive.