If you’re someone who cares deeply about maintaining strong cyber security and pride yourself on your strong password-keeping, vigilant email screening, and every identity verification measure you can, you most likely want to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Here’s one you may not have thought of: Declutter your digital junk.
To reduce your risk of being targeted online, the fewer files you needlessly keep, the better. Abandoned email addresses from when you were 14, or those files sitting in your Downloads folder can put you at risk of being exposed to threats. This is especially true the more files you have. Each of these files is data, data about you. And when accumulated in large quantities, it is definitely a liability.
Where to Start?
Decluttering your digital space is not as daunting a task as it may seem. Start off with destroying old CDs, external hard drives and other storage devices that you no longer need (just remember to backup anything you need from them beforehand).
Then begin with the devices you use regularly—clean out your Documents and Downloads folder, organize your Desktop, getting rid of any financial or medical records you may have. If you want to hold onto copies of such documents, you can always save them on a password protected external hard-drive or cloud-based storage. This makes it less likely to have your personal information compromised if the device is stolen.
Further, you can explore your applications, browser extensions, and especially your email account. Clear out old emails you no longer need and delete unused email accounts altogether. Finally, look through your Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, and other free storage places and make sure there’s no confidential or sensitive information stored there. Finally, look through all the useless apps you may have downloaded on your phone, and cancel your account before deleting the app. Simply deleted it will still allow them to store a larger amount of information about you while canceling the account will ensure that we still not collect any more data about you.
Chances are, there will be at least one instance of having a credit card number, a tax return, and other personal information that you will find and delete during this process, so to make it easier on yourself in the future, start cultivating habits that discourage downloading apps on whim and try to delete documents immediately after you’re done with them.