October 7, 2016

4 Tech Cleanups For National Cyber Security Awareness

By Kayla Matthews

National Cyber Security Awareness

October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, and President Obama recently called upon the American people to recognize how important it is to have tight cyber security — not just for keeping personal details secure, but to support the nation’s security. Now is the perfect time to ensure you’re doing all you can to lock down your tech tools.

Here are four actionable tips you can take:

1. Restore Devices to Factory Settings Before Parting With Them

With the holiday season just around the corner, perhaps you’re considering selling a tablet you no longer need so you can generate some cash. There are many websites and physical shops that’ll accept devices in good condition. Or maybe you want to play Santa and give an old tablet to someone in your family who’s not concerned about having the newest model.

Before doing away with yours, though, select the option to restore the gadget to factory settings. That way, you can rest assured the next owner won’t see personal details you forgot to delete.

2. Verify App Permissions Regularly

Many of the apps you use every day probably share personal details. During the setup process of installing applications, you’ll usually see a pop-up window that indicates the kinds of information that’s normally disclosed through the app. If you don’t agree with the outlined permissions, there are usually ways to alter what’s shared.

However, many people absentmindedly accept the default permissions sharing option and only skim through the section that lists shared information. If you relate to that approach, there’s an easy way to take action — with another app.

MyPermissions works on the Android and iOS platforms and offers a streamlined way to scan your social media networks, computers and devices and check which permissions you’ve authorized for each application. It’s also possible to set alerts and receive notifications when apps access personal information.

After you’ve done an initial check, continue verifying permissions every month, or more often if you install apps frequently. Furthermore, adopt the habit of taking time to read details about permissions when downloading a new app rather than just blindly giving acceptance. Finally, scroll through your device and decide whether you really need everything you’ve installed.

3. Delete Old Files in All Applicable Places

Hopefully you’re already accustomed to periodically deleting unwanted files from your tablets, computers and smartphones. That’s a smart step to take because it not only helps those devices run faster, but it also gives hackers less data access if your files become compromised.

However, if you use a cloud-backup service, don’t forget to delete old files from the cloud instead of just from physical devices. The process for doing that varies based on the service you use, but it’s normally very straightforward.

This tip applies both to cloud-based backup services and cloud-storage services such as Dropbox and Google Drive. When people use the cloud-storage services, they often upload important documents, especially if they’re nervous about losing work due to a hardware failure or if they want to access those files from anywhere. When deleting files for good, don’t overlook those cloud-based storage sites, especially if you rely on them to hold sensitive information.

4. Set up Automatic Software Updates

There are dozens of ways to make your time online as secure as possible, and you can adjust settings so some of them occur in the background. Namely, see if your software has an automatic updating feature, and if so, turn it on. Software manufacturers publish security updates, patches and other enhancements to improve the user experience, especially if they’ve identified security Vulnerabilities.

By enabling automatic updates, it’s easy to keep software as current as possible without further action on your behalf. Plus, ongoing updates allow you to always access the latest versions of software, preventing you from unknowingly using buggy, outdated versions that don’t include all available features.

The tips above all only take a few minutes of your time, but they could safeguard you from hours of headaches that result from compromised data. Tune up your tech today while simultaneously celebrating Cyber Security Awareness Month.

By Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a technology writer dedicated to exploring issues related to the Cloud, Cybersecurity, IoT and the use of tech in daily life.

Her work can be seen on such sites as The Huffington Post, MakeUseOf, and VMBlog. You can read more from Kayla on her personal website.
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