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"Tidying Up": Cybersecurity edition


Marie Kondo's "Tidying Up" series on Netflix has taken off. Donation centers around the country have reported a huge increase in donations as people sort through their belongings and search for joy. If you are not familiar with Kondo's "Tidying Up" process, she recommends combing through your items, methodically holding each one and asking yourself if it sparks joy. If the item sparks joy—you keep it. If not, you thank it for its time and donate it or throw it out. 

Kondo recommends using this process to organize your clothes, books, paperwork, and other miscellaneous items such as kitchenware. But the same idea can be applied to our digital lives. During this spring cleaning season, tidy up different aspects of your digital world to stay organized and fend off cyber threats. 

Start with your computer

Our computers—personal and business—hold a trove of files and programs that are often forgotten. In many cases, these software programs may be out of date or unnecessary—creating a cybersecurity concern. To start the tidying process, go through the programs that are installed on your computer. Ask yourself if the program sparks joy and if it is something you use on a regular basis. If not, delete it. Programs sitting idle on your machine can easily miss updates, leaving you vulnerable to hacks. 

If you have any of the following programs on your computer, you certainly want to delete them unless they are integral to what you do. These programs are constant cybersecurity threats and many are no longer serviced by its provider:

  • Adobe Flash Player
  • Adobe Shockwave
  • Apple Quicktime 

As you go through the different programs on your computer, take a minute to check the update settings. If you can set the software to auto-update, you may want to consider choosing that setting. This ensures that your programs are receiving security patches as soon as they are released.  

Take a closer look at your phone and tablet

Smartphones and tablets have radically changed how we interact with the world. New apps are released daily that can make life easier. Unfortunately, not all apps are created equal and many may be collecting and selling your data unbeknownst to you. 

First, go through your handheld devices and delete the apps that you no longer use (and no longer spark joy). For the apps that remain, review the privacy settings and the data you share with the app. You can do that through the settings of the device. In some cases, you can limit the data that is shared with the app. Also, be sure that the app is updated and running the most recent version. 

Review your social media accounts 

Social media allows us to stay connected with family and friends but can also cause us to share too much information with the wrong people and apps. To start, go through the friends and followers on your social media profiles and ask yourself if you still want this person to see details on your life. Remove those who are no longer a part of your life. 

Then, visit the security settings for all of your social media accounts. Be sure they are set to private so you are not sharing personal data with the outside world. New security settings are added periodically, so even if you think these are set the way you want them, it's good to review them periodically.

Lastly, review the third-party apps that are linked to your Facebook account. Facebook has been in the news lately (!) due to data leaks stemming from these third-party apps. To review the apps that have access to your Facebook account, go to Settings, then Apps, then Websites. There you can see which have access to your data. Remove those that no longer spark joy.

Stay tidy 

Maintaining good cybersecurity is an ongoing process. "Tidying up" your devices and digital life is a sensible step to take every year. It forces you to review the programs that you are sharing data with and decide if you still need or want to do so. 

Photo by Crew on Unsplash