Tips for Cleaning Up Your Digital Life

With so much of our time spent online nowadays, protecting our digital lives should be a top priority—but it’s hard to stay ahead of the hackers.

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“Security has become a really hot topic, as it should be,” says Hugh Thompson, chief security strategist and vice president of Blue Coat Systems. “People don’t think about spring cleaning digitally, but it’s pretty critical and important nowadays.”

To help protect your identity, experts suggest giving your online activities a thorough cleaning, and they recommend starting with your social media actions.

Any accounts that you no longer use should be shutdown. “One of the biggest reasons to get rid of those things is you just don’t know what’s happening on them,” says Thompson. “For example, there could be a privacy setting change or the social media provider may now be different.”

For social media sites that you use often, be sure to review their privacy settings at least once a year (experts prefer more often) to make sure you understand any changes and know the best way of safe guarding your information.  You should also check out what your profiles look like to other viewers.

“Unless you periodically take a look at the public view on Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), you don’t have a good idea what you look like to rest of the world,” says Renee Schmidt, founder and chief executive of consulting company SheSquad.

She adds taking the time to review who or what you follow online to make sure it all aligns with what you want to show the world. “We don’t often realize how all the stuff coming at us is shaping our world view,” she says.

Facebook has a feature that lets you turn off notifications without unfriending the person, and Twitter recently introduced a mute button.

Online passwords should be changed frequently. Many consumers were forced to change their passwords because of Heartbleed security flaw, but it shouldn’t take a big exposure to remind you to have difficult passwords and to change them often.

“How many times have you typed a password into the user name field by accident and hit submit?” says Thompson. “[That password] is sitting in a log somewhere.”

Along with changing passwords, take the time to update your security questions as well. Many of those security questions and answers were created years ago, and now much of that information can easily be found online.

Now is also a good time to back up your digital data. Schmidt suggests people backup their data on a quarterly basis whether it’s on a removable hard drive or in the cloud.

If you choose a physical back up, experts recommend storing it outside your home or in a fire-proof safe.

“People often perform a backup and put the hard drive in their drawer,” says Schmidt.  “There’s a flood or a fire and the laptop goes and guess what the drive goes as well.”

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