Clean Up Your Presence

By Todd Miller, Information Security Officer

Over the years you have accumulated data, both physical and digital, such as family photos, account passwords, and IRS forms. This data can be found on hard drives, cloud storage, or online accounts. Over time it becomes a good idea to recover, delete, or destroy this information. 

Online Accounts and Storage

It is best to leave the least amount of personal information out in the world at large. If it is not there, you won’t have to worry when the next data breach is reported. 

  • Consider closing social media accounts you no longer use in order to minimize the amount of personal information that is accessible to those who are not in your contact circle.
  • Close accounts from online retailers you no longer use. Delete any payment information, then delete the account. If you do not intend to make future purchases, consider using the guest account option. This lessens the chance of the retailer saving your information.
  • Loyalty programs should be deleted if no longer used. These are generally associated with your phone number, address, and possibly where you shop locally. They may also have payment information.
  • Cloud storage should be cleaned out periodically. Consider removing old outdated backups or important files that are no longer needed. It could also be good to eliminate photos you would not print.
Physical Storage and Paper

Consider all your storage devices: CDs, DVDs, USB drives, hard drives, floppy disks, or boxes of IRS tax returns or other sensitive documents. It is a good idea to purge all data that is irrelevant or outdated, regardless of media type. 
  • Disposing of disk media after its useful life is easy: Just run it through your shredder, if possible. Floppy disks can be destroyed the same way after removing the plastic shell and the metal hub.
  • Shred your paper documents.
  • When donating or disposing of a computer, copy the information you will need to a USB or external drive. Then wipe the drive with a utility tool that will permanently delete the data. You can also physically destroy the drive by using a paid service or disassembling it.
  • Solid state drives, memory chips, and USB drives can be destroyed by paid services, crushing, or shredding.
  • Don’t have a shredder? Chances are we’ll host a free shred day in your area within the next year.

Other Devices, Smartphones, Tablets, or Gaming Consoles

Perform a “hard reset” to bring the device back to factory default. This should remove all traces of personal information, but be sure to verify that the device is clean and set back to its original condition.