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Hello, I’m a Digital Hoarder

Joanne Spataro

Jan 08 2016

It may be a new year, but you still have the same old clutter on your laptop. Your computer manila folders are stuffed with photos and data, screaming for an intervention. You might as well stand up and say, “Hello, my name is [name here] and I’m a digital hoarder.”

Digital clutter is doing more than weighing down your computer. It’s a huge security risk, especially since 2016 will see the rise of nastier malware and ransomware. How can you have a tidy desktop that enhances your computer’s security? Here are your top five New Year’s resolutions to clean out and protect your data.

  1. Keep your data in multiple locations. Hackers use ransomware to encrypt your computer and hold it hostage until you pay them money. This type of hacking has been going on since 2014 and will skyrocket for individuals and companies in 2016. A portable hard drive and cloud service are two of the best alternative storage solutions; this way, you won’t need to pay the ransom. Use a quick restore disk to reinstall your computer’s operating system and copy files from your backup into the computer. Bye, hackers!
  2. Clean out your temporary files—for good. Delete all of your temporary Internet files and cache of browser information and passwords since the beginning of time. When you do this in your History tab, uncheck the box that allows autofilling of passwords and browser information. Having autofill allows ransomware and malware attackers to potentially get ahold of your credit card numbers and Social Security number. Next, use disk cleanup utility to empty the Recycling Bin and make additional disk space. If you have your files backed up onto a portable drive or cloud, delete them from your computer. To be even more spic and span, use a free shredder program on your hard drive to overwrite unallocated space with zeros and ones.
  3. Get someone else to back up your data. Maybe you’ve already survived a malware or ransomware attack and still have a folder of corrupted files on your desktop. FTK® Imager can recover files corrupted on a system. Find the file on the device by keyword and copy and paste into a Word document. Use Imager to recover deleted or corrupted files and photos. FTK also gives you a data carving tool to recover pictures and data.
  4. Don’t throw out that old computer. If Santa gave you a new computer, don’t dump your old one at a garage sale. Someone with a simple, free hex tool can hack into that old computer and take all of the data you thought you cleaned by reformatting the disk and deleting files. Nope; data is still there. Instead, delete all of the files, run disk cleanup and then run the shredder program to wipe out all of the unallocated space. Better yet, remove the hard drive and sell the computer only.
  5. Look at your install programs. Your computer’s memory may be sluggish because of add-on toolbars you used back in 2013. If you haven’t used an add-on in the last 6 – 9 months, delete it. To see which programs are eating up the most of your memory on Windows®, go into program system configuration, click the run window, type in msconfig and when that comes up, you can click on the different tabs to see what’s running each time they boot up. There could even be Trojan viruses. Once you’ve deleted and/or quarantined these files, complete disk defragmenter under Start/All Programs/Accessories/System Tools. This is where you will find disk cleanup and disk defragmenter. To round this out, check to be sure your firewall is turned on and your antivirus program is up-to-date.

Once you’ve incorporated all five of these New Year’s resolutions, you’ll be ready to charge into 2016 with a clean slate—and a clear mind.

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