Deleting Data

If you're selling your old computer, smartphone, back-up drive or anything that contains data, be sure you've done everything you can to properly delete remnants of your info on it.

Think hitting delete or clearing your recycle bin deletes your files? Think again. This video gives you a quick overview of why hitting delete doesn't actually get rid of the files. Deleting something from your computer can make it hard to find and/or retrieve, but it doesn't make it impossible. Software exists to retrieve deleted data so if you really want to ensure your information is gone, never to be found again, then you need to either randomly rewrite over the disc again and again or physically destroy the disc. Software doesn't exist to restore missing hardware components (at least not yet!).

Password Security

'Password' is not a password. A strong password involves uppercase, lowercase, numbers and a minimum of 8 characters and isn't a dictionary word. Improving your password security means there's less chance of your accounts getting hacked, so here's 3 quick tips:

  • Change your passwords periodically
  • Don't use the same password for multiple sites
    Ensure your password for something quite important, like online banking, is different than something less important, like your password to Pinterest
  • Use a combination of uppercase, lowercase and numbers
    Try incorporating a memorable date to add numbers and characters to your password

If you have trouble remembering all your online account passwords, consider using a password management tool. A word of caution though, keeping all your passwords in one place is a risk so at the very least ensure you have a really strong password for the tool and you change your password regularly. And if you must keep passwords on your computer, don't do what Sony did and call the file Passwords. The more important to you the information within the account is, the stronger your password needs to be.

Password security isn't just for online accounts though. You can set your phone so it requires a PIN to unlock the SIM card as well as the screen. Yes, it's less convenient, but if your phone gets nicked think of all the info and profiles that you've got automatically linked that the thief now has access to. Feeling a rising sense of panic? Abate that by adding something, whether it's a PIN or swipe pattern, to unlock your phone.

Keep your system to up-to-date

Make sure you run updates to your operating system, antivirus and programmes. Often these updates include security fixes so if you're not running them, you're leaving yourself open to hackers. Things like Windows updates will typically run when you shut down on a Wednesday night. And you should shut down your devices when not in use. A device left on 24/7 while connected to the internet is at risk of being hacked/accessed. Shutting down also saves electricity which eases the environmental impact of generating power -- triple win!

Keep an up-to-date back-up

Routinely take back-ups of your files. Just in case something goes wrong (and these things do happen), having a recent back-up reduces the panic. And keep your back-up somewhere seperate from your device.

Beware of unsolicited emails and calls

There are too many scams these days that involve calling you from 'Microsoft' (or another big company) to do an essential patch to your computer, they just need remote access. The likelihood of a big company proactively calling you about a bug is probably less than you winning the lottery - so hang up. Once you give someone remote access to your computer, they have access to your computer and everything on it.

Likewise with emails. Remember Cryptolocker? That spread via email. If you're receiving unsolicited emails regarding a delivery or fax when you haven't ordered anything and don't have your email set up to receive fax messages DON'T OPEN THE EMAIL. Opening the email, and any attachments, opens your computer to a multitude of threats, so just hit delete.

Social Media Security

Don't disclose personal details on social media. Double check your privacy settings. On Facebook, restrict your posts so only friends can see them and don't allow anyone to tag you in a photo without your approval. Not mentioning things like where you live reduces the chances of your empty home being a target if you're off on holiday (and posting pics so everyone knows you are) or even if you're out for the night (having checked in somewhere so everyone knows where you are).

There is arguably a lot more that you can do to be secure online and to secure your devices. If you have any security tips please do share them and drop a comment below!

Some things are better shared

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