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Time to spring clean your digital devices, BBB advises

A 2020 report released by Statistics Canada found that more than 40 per cent of Canadians experienced a cyber-security incident at the start of the pandemic, BBB states.
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The warmer weather that comes with spring time often inspires people to lighten things up, clear the clutter and refresh their homes.

However, one area that many people tend to overlook are the very same devices they use everyday, perhaps even right now.

After a year of increased online activity, along with the prevalence of more sophisticated cyberattacks, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is reminding the public to declutter their digital devices. 

Over the last few years, the focus on cybersecurity and protecting sensitive information has become increasingly critical.

2020 report released by Statistics Canada found that more than 40 per cent of Canadians experienced a cyber-security incident at the start of the pandemic.

An Insurance Bureau of Canada report also noted that nearly half of Canadian small businesses suffered a cyberattack, costing upwards of $100,000 in 2021. 

BBB recommends doing a digital makeover to safeguard you against potential threats that could compromise your personal data.

Here are seven BBB tips to help you with your digital spring cleaning:

1. Declutter digital devices. Delete unused apps and keep others current by updating them as needed. Apps collect data about you and your behaviour, so get rid of those that you are not using as they could be sharing your information. Also be sure to actively manage location services, microphone usage, as well as access to your camera and photos on all apps.

2. Do a file purge. Take a look at your records and delete those you don’t need. This can also include cleaning up your email inboxes and backing up your most important documents on a secure cloud site or external hard drive. Try the 3-2-1 rule: 3 backup copies, 2 different media types and 1 offline in a separate location.

3. Lock down your login. Your security is at risk when you neglect the importance of restricting unauthorized access to your online accounts. Use passwords and passphrases that are lengthy, unique and safely stored away. Instead of using a single word password, we encourage using a passphrase. These are relatively longer, including random words, numbers and symbols. Always use two-factor authentication whenever it is offered.

4. Stop delaying your updates. Ensure you have the latest security software and upgrades available by completing updates as soon as you get those notifications. Having the most current software, web browsers and operating systems is one of the easiest and fastest ways to protect your most sensitive assets.  

5. Empty trash bins. Simply deleting and emptying the trash or recycle bin on your computer is not enough to get rid of a file. To permanently delete them, consider getting a program that “wipes” those files from your devices and then overwrites them by putting random data in place of your information for an added layer of security.

6. Inspect the privacy settings on all your social media accounts. Ensure you are not revealing personal information to strangers. While you’re at it, look again to see who has administrative access to those accounts.

7. Safely dispose of old technology. This goes beyond cell phones and computers to include USBs, external hard drives, wearables and printers - all of which contain your personal information. Once you are completely finished with a device and have backed up the information you need, “shred” the device with a trusted electronic shredding company.

—source: BBB