Scam Corner: Close Up Hacker Opportunities With A Digital Clean-Up

The new year is often a time when people decide to bring organization to the chaos and disorder in life. While this often means tidying up physical objects, don’t forget to tidy up the electronic computers as well. Since smartphones are really hand-held computers, that means tidying up them as well.

Hackers know about a lot of software and the bugs and holes that allow them to either take over a computer or access its data. Computer (and phone) owners should take several steps to clean things these digital devices. While this won’t keep a hacker completely out of a computer or phone, it can make it a less interesting target making the likelihood of access less.

Avoid Easy-To-Guess Passwords

One easy task is to avoid using easy-to-guess passwords. Use complicated passwords that are longer, have several numbers, capital letters, lowercase letters, and special characters. If keeping track of all those passwords is going to be troublesome, consider using a password manager such as Lastpass or 1Password. They keep track of all of the usernames and passwords for websites, and only require the user to memorize one master password. These master passwords can be an entire phrase such as Eeeny&Meeny&Minee&Moeisa3yearoldStory. A passphrase is long, complicated, but easy to remember.

Clean Up Accounts

Little men standing on top of a hard drive platter with brooms cleaning up the surfaceClean up existing unused online accounts. Log into these websites and delete the account completely so that there is no personal information kept on the site. An unused account is an invitation to hack, since it isn’t being monitored with regular usage. As an example, notice how many social media accounts are hacked because the account holder doesn’t log in any more.

For sites that are still used, consider updating the passwords for them and turning on two-factor authentication that sends a text message to the phone or one that uses a phone authentication application. Prioritize changing passwords on accounts that have not been updated recently.

Clean Up Applications And Data

After cleaning up online, consider cleaning up the information on the computer and the phone. View the list of all of the applications on the computer and determine if any are not used any more. Select these and remove the applications. Likewise, on the phone review all of the apps that were user-installed and remove any that aren’t used. Doing so may even save some money. If the app requires a username and password, go to the website of that app and delete the account as well.

For the apps and accounts that remain, make sure that these applications and phone apps are up-to-date. When manufacturers discover holes that would allow a hacker to infiltrate a computer via their app, they will issue updates to close those holes. Having the latest application version is going to be safer than older versions with bugs that hackers know about and exploit.

With our desktops, laptops, and phones being used for so many life activities, it makes sense to spend time cleaning them up so that hackers have less of an opportunity to gather data from your computer or phone. With the cleanup and organization mindset of a new year, now is a perfect time to take action.

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