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It’s Time for a “Digital Spring Cleaning!”

With spring in full swing, there is a good chance that your weekend plans may include scrubbing, sweeping and sprucing up your home for the season. While clearing clutter is an annual ritual for many households, the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and Better Business Bureau (BBB) have teamed up to remind all consumers not to be digital hoarders and to freshen up their online lives. By conducting a digital spring cleaning and taking care of overdue online maintenance, you will be safer and more secure against losing personal information and becoming a victim of identity theft.

A good rule of thumb is to consistently keep a keen eye on all sensitive accounts like online banking, your credit cards and credit report. As you prepare to digitally declutter, spend a few minutes reviewing NCSA’s  STOP. THINK. CONNECT.™ tips and the additional advice listed. When it comes to rolling up your sleeves and actually starting the cleanup process, stay organized by following this handy checklist, which breaks the bulk of the tasks into four buckets: keeping a clean machine, staying secure, cleaning up your online reputation and purging files.

Here are some user-friendly, actionable guidelines to assist with the safe disposal of electronically stored data.

Prep your data in advance of participating in BBB’s Secure Your ID Day:

  • Know what devices to digitally “shred”: Computers and mobile phones aren’t the only devices that capture and store sensitive, personal data. External hard drives and USB’s, tape drives, embedded flash memory, wearables, networking equipment and office tools like copiers, printers and fax machines all contain valuable personal information.
  • Clear out stockpiles: If you have a stash of old hard drives or other devices – even if they’re in a locked storage area – information still exists and could be stolen. Don’t wait: wipe and/or destroy unneeded hard drives as soon as possible.
  • Empty your trash or recycle bin on all devices and be certain to wipe and overwrite: Simply deleting and emptying the trash isn’t enough to completely get rid of a file. You must permanently delete old files. Use a program that deletes the data, “wipes” it from your device and then overwrites it by putting random data in place of your information ‒ that then cannot be retrieved.
  • Various overwriting and wiping tools are available for electronic devices. For devices like tape drives, remove any identifying information that may be written on labels before disposal, and use embedded flash memory or networking or office equipment to perform a full factory reset and verify that no potentially sensitive information still exists on the device.
  • Decide what to do with the device: Once the device is clean, you can sell it, trade it in, give it away, recycle it or have it destroyed. Note the following:
    • Failed drives still contain data: On failed drives, wiping often fails, too; shredding/destruction is the practical disposal approach for failed drives. Avoid returning a failed drive to the manufacturer; you can purchase support that allows you to keep it – ­and then destroy it.
    • To be “shredded,” a hard drive must be chipped into small pieces: Using a hammer to hit a drive only slows down a determined cybercriminal; instead, use a trusted shredding company to dispose of your old hard drives. Device shredding can often be the most time- and cost-effective option for disposing of many drives.

Have your secure documents and electronics destroyed at one of the following local Shred Day events:

April 14Fort Payne Shred Day will be held at First Fidelity Bank at 1400 Gault Ave from 9:00 am – Noon.

April 28: Huntsville Fall Shred Day will be held at Redstone Federal Credit Union at 220 Wynn Drive from 8:30 am- Noon.

June 2: Decatur Shred Day will be held at the Gateway Shopping Center at 1820 6th Ave SE from 9:00 am – Noon.

To report a scam, go to the BBB Scam Tracker. To find trustworthy businesses, go to https://www.bbb.org