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Digital Spring Cleaning And Decluttering

Cybersecurity Awareness –   By Ron Frechette, The Cyber Guy
Reference: The Park Press

Longer days, warmer weather, flowers in full bloom, are all the marvelous signs of spring time!  It’s also a time when we have the unusualurge to clean and declutter.  Have you ever wondered why people in just about every culture on earth have the urge to clean during spring?

There are several origins of spring cleaning that date back centuries and are still practiced today. The Iranians practice “khooneh tekouni” (shaking the house) on Iranian Norouz, the Persian New Year, which happens to fall on the first day of spring.  In the Jewish culture, ancient Jews were commanded to conduct a thorough cleansing of their homes prior to Passover, which begins in spring. Catholics have traditionally cleaned the church alter during the season of Lent which falls within the spring.  And from a seasonal standpoint, especially before central air and heat existed, opening the windows to let the fresh air in and cleaning the house of soot build-up from months of coal-burning furnaces made common practical sense.

Spring cleaning and decluttering have also proven to have a profound positive impact on our physical and mental health.  The process of ridding mold and germs hidden deep within the crevice’s our homes dramatically reduces the risk of physical illness.  These types of microorganisms carry all types of nasty viruses that once ingested, over time, can lead to various chronic and life-threatening diseases.

From a psychological perspective, thoroughly cleaning and decluttering has been linked to higher concentration levels, being more creative, deeper sleep, better moods, and decreased stress.

So what does all of this have to do with cybersecurity you ask?

The Digital Age has brought a whole new set of risks related to viruses (a.k.a. malware) that also reside deep within the crevices of our digital devices.  Similar to biological viruses, digital viruses or malware can be also contracted in various ways by our devices unbeknownst to us. Music and photo files that we share, infected websites, spam emails, infected word docs or pdf attachments received from a friend or family member, free games, toolbars, media players and other system utilities are some of the ways we can become infected.

These viruses, over time, can also have a devastating impact on the quality of our lives.  Having our personal and/or work information deleted, stolen or put up for ransom can cause major problems. Identity theft is extremely disruptive over course of one’s life.  Cyber criminals compromising our protected healthcare information (PHI) is at an all-time high in 2017.  Healthcare providers are required under federal law (HIPAA) to conduct annual security risk assessments.  Be sure to ask your healthcare providers if they are conducting annual security risk assessments to help protect your healthcare data.

The psychological effects of identity theft and data breaches can be devastating.  Psychosomatic impacts vary from feeling physically sick, lack of sleep, increase in anxiety, depression, and in extreme cases- like that of the Ashley Madison Hack- suicide.

Incorporating a Digital Spring Cleaning and Decluttering Regimen will help reduce our risks of infection and compromise.  The National CyberSecurity Alliance and Better Business Bureau created a Digital Spring Cleaning Checklist and easy-to-follow four-week plan that we highly recommend.  Here is a high-level overview of the list:

Digital Spring Cleaning Checklist

WEEK 1:  Keep Clean Machines
Get started by making sure that all web-connected devices are squeaky clean.

WEEK 2: Make sure you’re secure
Enhancing the security of your online accounts is a must and a fast, simple way to be safer online

WEEK 3: Digital File purge and protection
Tend to your digital records just as you do for paper files. Be sure to properly dispose of sensitive materials – such as hard drives, disks and memory cards – at a community shredding event.

Week 4: Clean up your Online Reputation
Parents and older kids with social media accounts can take an active role in making sure their online reputations shine.

To download the entire pdf copy of go to:

In closing, we live in a new age where most the time we spend is in front of some type of digital device. And that device most likely has sensitive information about our lives that cyber criminals would like to have and we must protect.  A good spring cleaning and de-clutter will decrease your risk of cyber-attacks and give you some peace of mind to worry less and sleep better!   Wishing everyone a safe and secure spring cleaning season!

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