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Security Tips for 2017

Tips on what to do with your old and new devices

Planning to buy a new mobile device or computer? Review these important security tips for cleaning your old device before disposing of it and steps to take to secure your new device.

  • Wipe your old mobile device before you donate, sell or trade-in using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique such as a hard reset or factory reset. Some software also allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen.  If your phone has a SIM or SD card, remove or erase the card prior to separation. Always power back on and double check your device for phone contacts, voicemails, emails, photos and other personal data to ensure the device was reset properly.
  • Secure wipe your old computer before you donate, sell or trade-in. Overwrite the data multiple times to make sure personal data is not recoverable. Deleting data is not enough.  Physical destruction, shredding or removing the hard drive is the safest method, however, if you want to donate, sell or trade-in, overwriting the hard drive is effective.  A number of overwriting tools are available for download and or purchase. Also be sure to remove any CD ROM drive disks, USB drives or dongles prior to separation.
  • Configure your new device with security in mind. The “out-of-the-box” configurations of many devices and software are default settings which are often geared more toward ease -of-use and extra features rather than securing your device to protect your information. Enable security settings, paying particular attention to those that control information sharing.
  • Disable unwanted and unneeded services. Capabilities such as Bluetooth, network connections, mobile wallets and Near Field Communications provide ease and convenience in using your smartphone. They can also provide an easy way for a nearby, unauthorized user to gain access to your data. Turn these features off when they are not needed. Also consider disabling or uninstalling other features or apps you will not use.
  • New Computer? Turn on your firewall and install antivirus software. Firewalls provide an essential function of protecting your computer or device from potential fraudsters. Without a firewall, you might be exposing your personal information to any computer on the internet.  Install antivirus software if it is available for your device and enable automatic updating of the antivirus software to incorporate the most recently identified threats.
  • Lock your new device. Locking your device with a strong PIN or password makes unauthorized access to your information more difficult. Passwords are more secure than PINs and should be at least 8 characters long combining upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. If you have an Android device and want to use a lock screen pattern, make sure t he pattern includes at least 7 points and doubles back over itself (e.g., at least 2 turns). Additionally , make sure that your device automatically locks after a brief period of inactivity, preferably between 30 seconds and two minutes. This way, if you misplace your device, you minimize the opportunity for someone to access your personal information.
  • Regularly apply updates to your new computer. Manufacturers and application developers update their code to fix weaknesses and push out the updates. Enable settings to automatically apply these updates to ensure that you’re fixing the identified weaknesses in the applications.
  • Be careful when downloading apps. Apps provide a lot of wonderful capabilities for your device, but they are a common way that malicious actors disseminate malware or gather information about you. Always make sure you trust the app provider and download the app from the Google Play Store, Apple’s App Store, or other trusted source, as they proactively remove known malicious apps to protect users. Be proactive and make sure you read the privacy statement, review permissions, check the app reviews and look online to see if any security company has identified the app as malicious.
  • Set up a non-privileged account for general web use.  Privileged (such as Administrator or Root) accounts allow you to make changes in how your device operates but a compromised administrator account provides attackers with the authority to access anything on your device. Use a non-privileged account when browsing websites and checking emails.

For more security articles and tips, visit the Security section of our website.