Friday, April 19, 2024

Time to reduce digital clutter this 2024, says Kaspersky

This New Year, you could have resolved to quit a vice, to learn something new, to manage your finances better and maybe check a couple off your bucket list of places to visit.

Cybersecurity company Kaspersky suggests adding another practical and smart resolution to your 2024 list: to protect your precious data by clearing your digital clutter.

What is digital clutter?

It’s a by-product of the digital age. This happens when users of devices create digital documents and files at an unstoppable rate as it is now. Users install way more apps than they use, rarely update them and usually don’t adjust the security/privacy settings of these apps properly.

In this situation, users don’t worry about storage limits and become lethargic about reviewing these files and updating the apps. For example, users typically install 12 Android apps every month but delete only 10 so they actually add two apps to their device every month that are generally left unused and idle.

This means that the digital junk sits on the devices or in the cloud forever. These all amount to what we call digital clutter.

Poor user maintenance of device content also generates a build-up of digital clutter. Kaspersky data shows that in 55% of cases, people regularly revise the contents of their device and delete unused docs and apps. In 32% of cases, people sort their digital clutter occasionally and in 13% of cases, users do not try to delete any docs and apps at all.

A Kaspersky report showed the top five data that’s commonly stored on devices are general photos and videos (90%), photos and videos of travel and personal emails (tied at 89% each), address information/contact information (84%), and personal messages via SMS/IM (79%).

A research that Kaspersky ran with OnePoll in 2019 showed that one’s fridge can show the security risk of this human habit. Two-thirds (66%) of those who have bought the same item to go in their fridge twice by accident have also found it difficult to locate a document or file while at work.

2023 saw at least three major cyber incidents in the Philippines that caused fear, anger, and frustration among Filipinos. From ransomware attacks to data leaks that compromised massive public data and personal financial information, these threatened not just the government and businesses but especially ordinary people who didn’t think they would be affected until it happened.

“When it comes to cybersecurity, education is the most powerful form of defense. The more we educate and prepare ourselves, the more likely that we can minimize the risks to our personal data and money,” said Yeo Siang Tiong, general manager for Southeast Asia at Kaspersky. 

“It’s been found that only about 8% of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions due to a lack of personal control, excessive stress and negative emotion. I say start small until it becomes a habit. A few simple changes in the beginning will go a long way towards protecting yourself and your data. Stay committed and most importantly, get help. There are so many resources, tools and people that you can count on for support to help you keep your resolutions,” added Yeo. 

Kaspersky suggests doing one or more of these tips to become safe digitally this new year:

  • Kiss passwords goodbye. 2022 saw one major improvement in network security in: giants Apple, Google and Microsoft simultaneously introduced passwordless sign-ins. Instead of a password, your device stores a unique cryptographic key for each site. There’s no need to type it in and it’s extremely difficult to steal. Kaspersky recommends switching wherever it’s offered as it will slash the risk of your account being hijacked. It’s also convenient because you no longer need to think up a password, memorize it and later enter it. Chrome, Edge, and Safari support the technology on both desktop and mobile platforms.
  • Go disposable. Information leakage remains one of the biggest digital risks for all of us. User data gets stolen from ISPs, insurance companies, delivery services, social networks, and even school databases. The stolen data is then used to perpetrate various scams. Unfortunately, there’s little we users can do to prevent leaks. But we can ensure there’s less information out there about us, and make it harder to match: that is, comparing the names and phone numbers in two stolen databases wouldn’t give an attacker any more info on us. Kaspersky recommends giving minimal information to non-critical services (primarily online stores and commercial digital services) by not specifying your last name or social media accounts, and generally skipping optional fields. And use disposable e-mail addresses and phone numbers as your contact information. Numerous services provide temporary phone numbers for receiving confirmation texts, as well as one-time email addresses — just google “disposable phone number/e-mail address”. Some paid services of this kind even offer disposable credit card numbers, which makes online shopping even safer.
  • Get away from toxic social media. Year after year, we encounter way too many negative events, plus the waves of hate on social media continue to reach new heights. If social media gave you the jitters in 2023, this year it’s time to part company for good. Incidentally, we’ve compiled a list of tips on how to walk away without losing valuable data. That said, some prefer not to quit, but to migrate, for example, to Telegram or Mastodon.
  • Stop doom scrolling. Social networks and news sites can consume hours of our time and lots of nervous energy. To avoid endless checking of news and posts, set a time limit on your phone for social networks and news apps. Start with an hour a day, and try to stick to it. Many vendors offer this feature: Apple’s name for it is Screen Time, Google’s is Digital Wellbeing, and Huawei’s is Digital Balance. And if your children are spending too much time on social networks, Kaspersky Safe Kids can help. Those prone to deceive themselves by making up for the missing time on their devices should enable additional self-control tools in the settings of the social network itself. YouTube also has such a feature, called Take a Break.
  • Keep private and work lives separate. Separating work and private life is good for many reasons. It helps both physical and mental health since work doesn’t interfere with family-and-friends time, and domestic matters don’t distract you during working hours. And your employer gets improved cybersecurity because you don’t mix personal and work information, apps, and so on. Ideally, the separation should be physical, which means different phones and computers for work and private life. It remains only to remember not to use personal sites, e-mail, and social networks on your work device, and vice versa.
  • Observe cyber hygiene. Use security software on all computers and phones. For each site that still requires a password, make it unique. Regularly update all apps and the operating system. These tips are nothing new, yet millions of people continue to ignore them, some out of ignorance, others out of laziness.

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