Well, we all need a little break. And most of us are stuck inside this month.
So why not use that time to complete a few overdue tasks on cleaning up our digital lives?
Perhaps it’s time to weed your password garden, or you need to scrub down your files - we all have a few digital tasks that we need to work on that we’re putting off. The good news is that these are a good way to exercise control in a part of your life when, perhaps you’re feeling like the world is a bit outside of your control
“Digital Spring Cleaning Challenge ” will run from April 1 to April 30.
Digital spring cleaning has lots of benefits
- Protect yourself from trolling and hacking - which is getting more rampant
- Reduce the amount of sites that have your information
- Protect yourself from digital ransoms (it’s a thing - your computer gets locked remotely and they demand a ransom!)
- Protect yourself from identity theft!
- Speed up the performance of your computer + phone
- Actually find the photos you’re looking for without spending forever looking at selfies of the bottom of your chin
- Spring cleaning that doesn’t involve going out to buy more hand sanitizer
Digital Spring Cleaning Task ideas
- Get rid of the 2,000 screenshots + random downloaded PDFs that have accrued on your desktop
- eliminate apps that you no longer use off your phone or computer
- Organize your photos online
- Create a digital (secure) vault of important files (like passport, social security card, etc) that loved ones can get to in a crisis
- Utilize a password manager and change your passwords to randomized passwords
- Check to see if you information has been part of a data breach
- Create a backup system for your computer!
- Move your 20 different full SD cards onto a backup drive (this one is for me)
- Kill off old facebook groups, or instagram or twitter accounts
- Transfer shared passwords from an insecure google sheet into a password manager, and change them
- Implement 2-factor auth on your accounts
- Get rid of old gmail/yahoo/hotmail accounts that can be used as a backdoor to break into your other accounts
- Clean out your “vulnerable passwords” or reused passwords in your password manager
- Freeze your credit if you have been leaked
Forum admin @aaronpk wrote up a guide to the things you should consider - some that you might not have thought of, for digital spring cleaning
Full blog post here: backups, 2-Factor Auth, Passwords, Inbox, Files, Apps
If you aren’t backing up your data already, now is a good time to start! If you are already backing up your data, then now is a good time to check those backups to make sure they’re working!
Here are some ideas for how to back up your data:
- Buy an external hard drive (it’s only ~$65 for a 2TB drive or ~$95 for a 4TB drive) and set up a weekly reminder to copy your laptop onto it, or use Time Machine if you have a Mac
- Set up Backblaze ($60/year for unlimited storage) to back up your computer to the cloud continuously
- Use a cloud storage service like Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, or One Drive and sync your computer’s files to their services
- Buy a NAS for your home or office (like a Synology or Qnap) and set it up as a Time Machine destination or set up a file syncing service on it
Bonus: Back up your backup! If you’re backing up to an external drive or a NAS, set that up to back up to another device or off-site!
If you’ve already got an expert backup solution in place, then now is the time to double check that you can actually restore from your backup! Try restoring a few random recently created files from your backup to make sure that your backup is up to date and actually working.
Organize your files
Do you store all your files on your desktop? Do you have a pile of SD cards on your desk and you aren’t sure of what’s on them? Time to organize! Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Clean up your desktop and sort your files into a place where you can actually find things
- Download the photos from your camera SD cards and sort them by date or by event
- Make a place to store digital copies of your bank statements and bills
Get rid of that paper clutter in your life! If you have a stack of statements taking up a file drawer, scan everything! Once you’ve got a place to store your files and back them up, you probably don’t need paper copies of everything anymore!
You don’t even need a fancy scanner to do this, a smartphone can do a surprisingly good job of scanning these days! Try an app like Dropbox or Tiny Scanner Plus to turn photos of your documents into scanner-quality digital versions.
Clean up your inbox
Whether your goal is inbox zero, or declaring email bankruptcy, your inbox is a great place to tidy up this month! The biggest think you can do to decrease your inbox clutter is to unsubscribe from all those newsletters you’re getting that you just hit “mark read” for the last year! Unsubscribe from these emails and don’t look back!
Delete unused apps from your phone
If you have 5 screens of apps and only use the first 2, maybe consider whether you really need those other apps! Before you delete the apps from your phone, open them up and check if there are any online accounts associated with them that you should delete first. Open each app, log in, download your data if you care about it, and request the account be deleted, then delete the app!
Everybody loves passwords, right?
Unfortunately, it’s a regular occurrence by now that companies are hacked and their password databases are published online for anyone to download. This means that if you’re reusing passwords between accounts at different services, there’s a good chance someone will find a password at one service and log in to your other accounts that haven’t been hacked.
Here’s what you can do to clean up your passwords:
- If you are using the same password on more than one service, change those passwords now
- Check if any of your emails or usernames have been part of a data breach by looking them up in https://haveibeenpwned.com. Yes, this is a legitimate service run by a reputable person in the security community.
- Use a password manager! This will let you generate strong unique passwords for each account without having to remember them. Two good services for this are 1Password and LastPass. Your browser likely also has a built-in password manager, but the dedicated apps are a better solution since they are portable between all your devices and are easier to manage.
Once you’re set up with a password manager like 1Password, you’ll get a bunch of tools for helping maintain good password practices going forward! 1Password has a feature to show you any accounts that are using the same password, and can keep track of which services you use have had data breaches so that you can go update your passwords at those services. It will also let you know if any services you use support multi-factor auth and recommend setting that up, which takes us to the next section!
Enable Multi-Factor Authentication
Multi-factor authentication means requiring something more than just your password to log in to an account. Since password database breaches are so common these days, it’s a good idea to add multi-factor authentication to your accounts if they support them, so that hackers can’t just steal passwords from one service and use them to hack your accounts at another.
Adding multi-factor authentication means a hacker won’t be able to log in to your account if they steal your password from a data breach. It will add a small step when you’re logging in to things, but the security benefit is worth it.
There are many types of multi-factor authentication such as fingerprint verification from your phone, face recognition, SMS verification, hardware devices like a Yubikey, or code generator apps like Google Authenticator or Authy.
Any additional factor is better than none, so don’t worry too much about which one to use. Often a service will support only one or two different kinds anyway.
Go through your critical accounts like your credit agency, banking and personal finance apps, your email and social media accounts, find the ones that support multi-factor authentication and enable it.
If you’re using 1Password, then it will give you a list of accounts you have that support multi-factor authentication where you haven’t enabled it yet.
Turn Digital Spring Cleaning into a routine
While these can seem like overwhelming tasks if you have to do them all at once, remember it’s never too late to start, and you can always make slow incremental progress too!
Add new accounts you create to a password manager, and slowly add your existing accounts as you log in to them. Unsubscribe from email newsletters as they arrive in your inbox. While Digital Spring Cleaning month is a good chance to tick off a lot of the boxes at once, it’s worth it to set up these practices so that you can maintain them going forward!
By making a little progress over a long time, you’ll avoid ending up needing to spend a full day or two cleaning up a mess at the end of the year.
Don’t try to do everything - just pick one or two goals to spring clean!
Whatever it is, make sure the goal involves dealing with your digital footprint and making it more secure or organized.
Digital Spring Cleaning will have a special forum badge and even a STICKER for people that complete the challenge, that will (probably) be cat themed.
- You must establish your own goals about what and how you are going to do. State them in this thread in the first few days of the month to get us kicked off in the right direction.
- Each week, report on how you did in this thread . You can report on where you’re at, ask for help, or complain about how many photos of your cat’s paws are on your computer.
Who This Challenge is For
Anyone who wants a little public accountability to clean out their files and make their internet safer. If you liked any of our previous challenges and want to keep it going, here we are!
What do you get out of participating?
- Something that is important to do
- A community to support you as you do something a little weird
- A CUTE forum badge for participating
- And if you do the challenge, you get a STICKER mailed to you.