While most people understand physical hygiene, far fewer have heard of “digital hygiene.”
Digital Hygiene is the process of keeping your digital presence safe, clean, and organized. This can include organizing emails and files, changing what you share with certain accounts, or even using new apps to improve your digital security.
The Benefits Of Good Digital Hygiene
Good digital hygiene is an important part of keeping your information safe online. Everything you do online can potentially expose you to scams or cyber attacks, from sending an email to visiting your favorite social media account.
Ditching your digital junk and keeping better track of what information you share helps to minimize these threats. It can also be pretty satisfying to whittle a massive pile of backlogged emails down to a small list of important exchanges.
Tips to Improve Your Digital Hygiene
Clean Up Your Inbox
No matter who your email provider is, it’s important to remember that emails can share a lot of information. Just accidentally getting your email address on a list circulated by third-party advertisers can lead to security issues. To improve your digital hygiene, try these steps:
- Unsubscribe from emails that are no longer relevant. The weekly newsletters from a magazine subscription you no longer have are just going to keep piling up and causing clutter.
- Check email settings in accounts you still use. If you love Pinterest but don’t want to keep deleting multiple pin suggestions emailed to you daily, change your account settings to turn off these emails.
- Take note of emails from any accounts you’ve forgotten about or no longer need. It’s important to know where your information is still live online.
- Organize your inbox into categories with at least one dedicated to account management and security features.
Cutting down the number of emails you receive and organizing them appropriately decreases the chances that you’ll respond to a scam. If you know who you’re receiving emails from, you’re more likely to notice out of place messages from dangerous sources.
Update Your Gear
Always keep your devices, software, and apps up to date. When your laptop recommends a system update, don’t keep rescheduling the update for months. Updates can contain important security patches without which your information could be vulnerable.
NOTE: A security update doesn’t mean your device wasn’t secure before. It means there are new, up to date ways available to prevent new tactics by scammers and hackers to access your information.
As for old, unused devices, do a factory reset. This keeps random strangers from stumbling onto your digital info should it ever be recycled, donated, or sold.
Delete Old Accounts
Every account you use online, from email to social media to games, has access to some of your information, at the very least your email address. While many of us wouldn’t consider our email address to be “sensitive information” it’s important to keep track of who can access any of your information as much as possible.
While you cannot control what companies do with your data, you can limit which companies your data goes to. Start by getting a list of old accounts you no longer use. Sign into those old accounts, clear any data you can, unsubscribe from their emails, and request the account be removed. Most apps will provide a downloadable archive of your activity on their service if you like.
Some companies will continue to keep some of your information from the account, but deleting these old accounts will prevent this information remaining live online for others to find.
Get a Password Manager
Now that you’ve culled your old emails and accounts, you can focus on active accounts. This is where a password manager is useful.
A password manager is an app that will store and encrypt your login information. Many password managers offer browser extensions that let you autofill login fields when accessing your favorite accounts. This way your password always remains encrypted.
Mixing strong passwords with multiple managers is an effective way to keep yourself guarded online. While some browsers offer password managers, an independent manager is preferable.
Just add your pruned list of accounts and apps to your password manager and then use it to generate a new password. Most managers will auto-update whenever you create a new password and can also work across multiple devices.
Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
This security measure requires more than just a password to gain access. Since passwords can be used anywhere, requiring a texted message or a fingerprint greatly stops bad actors from getting into your accounts. If your MFA grants backup codes, type them into your password manager.
Review Privacy and Security on All Accounts/Social Media
While your apps and accounts have a lot of info on you, you can gain some control over them. Check if your apps and accounts allow you to veil critical info like your address or birthday from general users and toggle those as secret as you need. Some accounts, such as Google, allow users to control limited information gathered about their data, so be sure to take advantage of those settings where they exist.