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Stay Informed. Stay Connected.

Protect your devices and your data with some digital spring cleaning

We’re all familiar with the concept of spring cleaning. Well, just like your home, your digital life can become cluttered — stuff piles up, gets out of date or needs some care.

A good digital spring cleaning can help keep your data safe and secure year-round while also improving the speed and performance of your devices. The steps listed below will help reduce the risk of a hacker accessing your private or sensitive information — including old information stored on websites or devices you no longer use.

Here are a few tips for refreshing and renewing your cyber life:

  1.  Review your online accounts.
  • Delete any you no longer use.
  • Is there information in any of your remaining accounts that isn’t needed anymore, such as saved credit cards or old documents in cloud storage? If so, delete them.
  1. Update your devices.
  • Update the apps and operating system on all of your internet-connected devices to reduce risks from malware and infections.
  • Delete unused apps and browsers.
  • Take a few minutes to check your browser settings. Clear out old data, such as stored passwords, and set your browser so that it will not automatically store passwords.
  1. Purge those files!
  • Clean out old email, files and downloads on your devices. Always empty the trash when you’re done.
  • Keep UC retention requirements in mind when purging work files!
  • Unsubscribe from newsletters, email alerts and mailing lists you no longer read.
  1. Make sure you’re secure.
  • Make sure all of your devices require a password, passcode or fingerprint for log-in.
  • Get two steps ahead! Turn on two-step authentication ‒ also known as two-step verification or multi-factor authentication ‒ on critical accounts like email, banking and social media (if it’s available). Learn more about how to lock down your log-in.
  • Take an inventory of your passwords. Are they all long and strong? Change any that aren’t. And always use different passwords for work and non-work accounts.
  1. Tune up your online presence.
  • Review and update your online profiles to be sure they are current.
  • Review your privacy and security settings on social media and other sites you use. Make sure they are set at your comfort level for sharing.
  • Delete old photos and other online information that’s embarrassing or no longer represents who you are. Delete your entire account on any sites you no longer use.
  • Review friends on social networks and contacts on your devices and make sure everyone on those lists still belongs.
  1. Back up files.
  • Make sure you have a complete backup of important files.
  • Check to make sure you can restore the files from your backup. A backup that you can’t use isn’t very helpful!
  1. Dispose of electronic devices securely.
  • Just as you should shred sensitive paper information you no longer need, the same should be done with electronic data and the devices it’s stored on. Computers, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, external hard drives, USB drives, tape drives, embedded flash memory, wearables, copiers, printers, fax machines, networking equipment – anything that has the ability to store information can retain that information even after you have deleted it.
  • The best way to ensure data security is to thoroughly wipe the device or have it shredded by a trusted vendor before disposal.
  • Contact your IT department for information about secure data or device disposal.


Adapted from articles by the Better Business Bureau, The National Cyber Security Alliance, Stop.Think.Connect.,, and MS-ISAC Center for Internet Security. Additional content provided by UC San Diego ITS.

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