23 Tips for Digital Spring Cleaning

Estimated read time 9 min read

We would like to remind you that we need to do digital spring cleaning by taking as an example the spring cleaning we do in our homes with the arrival of spring. The suggestions we have expressed in this article are prepared to increase the level of your security. It may seem quite difficult to review all the topics in one day. You can make a work plan and divide the topics into weeks. A systematic approach will simplify and make your job easier.

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Week 1 –  Software Topics:

1. Update all software on your internet connected devices

It is very important to update software, including those installed on computers, smart phones and modems and routers if they are published. New vulnerabilities are discovered every day.  Software companies also release updates according to these vulnerabilities. The operating system “Automatic update” option on your computer only updates your operating system. Remember that you need to check and update the installed programs yourself.

2. Update the software on your mobile devices, remove unnecessary ones

Mobile devices use their own software centers. They usually automatically update new versions of programs. However, some programs update their user agreements with the updates they release and ask for your approval. For this reason, the update should be done manually, not automatically. Check these programs from the software centers.

3. Clear cookies in your web browser

Nowadays, many websites claim to use cookies to provide you with better service. Cookies saved on your computer and phone for a personalized experience can be used by malicious people for other purposes. There is no harm in clearing cookies. After clearing cookies, the sites you visit regularly will first accept you as a “new visitor” but will recognize you when you log in.

4. Block 3rd party cookies in your web browser

Some sites receive their services from third-party companies and deliver them to you through their own pages. These sites also have cookies that they save on your computer. You can opt out of 3rd party cookies using customized settings in the cookies tab of your web browser.

5. Check your computer’s Firewall rules and exceptions

You may have downloaded and installed many programs over the course of a year. These programs register themselves on the firewall during installation and receive permission to connect outside. You can check the programs and security settings that you have installed, that you do not like, or that you want to remove later, in the “firewall rules” section. A good approach is to set unnecessary permissions to “ASK ME”.

6. Check your Downloads Folder

All users download some files and programs from the internet in order to try and examine them. These files start taking up a really large amount of space after a while. Unnecessary ones that are no longer needed should be deleted or backed up to external disks. Review your Downloads folders.

Week 2 – Online Security:

7. If your e-mail and banking system allow it, enable 2-step verification.

Security measures in modern internet systems now accept two-step verification as standard. Two-step verification, which is carried out using SMS to your mobile phone or message to your e-mail address, in addition to the password you enter on the website, is very important for security. However, websites leave 2-step verification to user preference and allow it to be used if desired. If your service provider has a 2-step verification system, be sure to start using it.

8. Change the broadcast name of the Modem or Router device

Wireless Wi-Fi devices have become a part of our lives. Your wireless device in your home broadcasts a name to be found. Everyone has learned the name of your devices over the course of a year and it is probably known that it belongs to you. Change this broadcast name so that it does not reveal your identity.

9. Change the password policy you use

If passwords are not complicated and consist of words found in dictionaries, they are quite easy to crack and hack. Even if it seems difficult at first, you should set a policy for yourself. For example; “From now on, I will always use a number, a sign and a capital letter when creating a password.” If you make this policy a principle and start implementing it, you will really increase your security.

10. Make sure all passwords on your critical accounts are different from each other

Within the framework of the policy described above, start changing your existing passwords and especially set the passwords of your critical accounts to be different from each other. It may be difficult to remember to do something completely different. Even changing at least a few characters or numbers is very effective.

11. Check that your devices, including smartphones, are password protected

You should activate the screen saver on your computer and protect it with a password. You should also protect the screen protection of your smartphones with a password or a drawing code. When you give your computer to another person, your saved passwords can be clearly seen from the browser settings. For this reason, you should log out or activate the screen saver during short absences.

12. Close any site accounts that you are a member of and no longer use.

You may have been a member of many sites for a year due to necessity. If you no longer use these sites, we recommend that you close your accounts. When you want to close your account, you may not find such an option on the site. This situation also reveals the approach of the security and service policies of the system you are a member of. Be sure to submit your request using the site’s contact form and ensure that it is recorded. This method will be more legally sound.

13. Renew your online certificates and Public Keys

This article concerns those who use public keys and digital signatures. Renewing your published public keys will be very effective in terms of security and will increase the security of communication.

Week 3 – Online Documents:

14. Delete your old read mails in your mailbox.

Old mail in your mailboxes is marked as “read” and stays there. It is a useful method to clear your mails that do not contain important information for you. We also recommend clearing the trash and spam.

15. Clean out old e-invoices and similar documents from your mailbox.

During the e-mail cleaning mentioned in the previous article, you may not want to delete correspondence containing e-invoices, etc. We recommend that you download a copy of these to your computer and clean them. Remember that documents recorded online are not only under your control. Such mails also contain private information such as addresses.

16. Unsubscribe from email lists that you have subscribed to and that no longer interest you.

While researching a topic, you may have subscribed to email lists or weekly automatic newsletters to receive information. Re-evaluate whether this subscription is still really beneficial to you. You can unsubscribe depending on what you lose by canceling.

17. Review your Social Media friends list and shared documents

Over time, you may have shared some social media posts on trending topics. Users usually realize that many posts no longer have any meaning during a retrospective review. You should review your social media posts retrospectively. Another mistake that occurs in social media sharing is sharing without permission. You may have sent a photo to your friend via private messaging. That friend can also share this photo openly with everyone. However, another relative in the photo may not have permission to do so. In order to prevent such situations, make a request when sharing a photo, stating that you are sending it on the condition that it is not shared with anyone else. You will see that it is very effective.

18. Dropbox, Google Drive etc. Upload your documents to systems by encrypting them

Cloud storage services are widely used in digital communications. The documents and files you back up through these services may fall into the hands of malicious people. In this case, sensitive information in your files is at risk. It is considered a more effective method to compress your files on your computer, password-protect them, and then upload them to backup systems.

19. Permanently delete old files in online backup systems

In addition to the item mentioned above, you can also reconsider the necessity of having the files available in online backup systems. You can include cleaning outdated and unnecessary files in your plans.

Week 4 – Social Accounts and Online Visibility:

20. Review posts on social accounts

In addition to the item we explained above regarding social media, it is necessary to express an issue here. Re-evaluate your posts from the perspective of malicious people. Posts that make it clear where you go every week or where you are at certain times of the year are quite dangerous.

21. Review your posts on forum sites

Internet users can write many messages under the influence of their current mood. You may have wanted to contribute to a discussion that started on forum sites. A well-intentioned statement you wrote in a message – for example, think of a brand or person’s name – can be misunderstood after a certain amount of time has passed. For this reason, it doesn’t hurt to take some time to reread your old messages. You can reorganize your messages that you think “I shouldn’t have said it” according to your current thoughts.

22. Search for yourself on search engines

Do you wonder how the world sees you? You can search for yourself in search engines. Even you will be surprised at what you have shared since ancient times and how you have been indexed on the internet. Companies generally state in their membership agreements that they will share some information with third parties. As a result, let us inform you in advance that you will see your name mentioned even in places you have never visited.

23. Check your profile pictures

Those who know you in real life already know you. Those who want to take a cautious approach on this issue should check their profile pictures. We create profile pictures for so many chat programs or online services that after a while this issue can get out of control. We wanted to add changing and updating your profile pictures in the social media you have used in the past to the list.

These substances, which we call digital spring cleaning, can be increased. We hope that this article, which we have prepared to create a general approach and awareness, will be useful to you.

İbrahim Korucuoğlu

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