It's almost the start of a new year, which means it's time to pop the cork at midnight and gobble down some cheesecake. It's also time to think about the year ahead.
For those of us who sit at a computer during the day or at least have a love-hate relationship with technology, we know the start of the year can be stressful enough. What's going to crash on our work computer? Will we lose data on our laptops?
Fortunately, the new year is also a good reminder about some precautionary steps you can take to hopefully ward off would-be hackers and criminals and to give you some peace and mind beyond the first few weeks of the year. This is my list of the steps I always take. If you have a few of your own, drop me an email or post on my Twitter feed.
1. Change your passwords (and I mean all of them)
It's one thing to change your Gmail password once in a while (I also recommend using two-factor authentication), but what about the long lost Vudu.com or Hulu account? And all of your social media logins? They probably contain your credit card info, so it's best to change them. Use a new strong password on your phone, websites you use, bank accounts, and anything else that comes to mind. One trick I've used? Check your bank and credit card statements for any paid accounts you use.
2. Upgrade your phone (or at least update it)
It might seem like a weird time of year to upgrade to a new phone since Apple tends to announce a new model in the fall and so does Google. Yet, when you upgrade to a new phone, you will also add all of your apps and can pick a new strong password for the device itself. Even if you don't upgrade, consider resetting your phone and "starting over" fresh for the year. Your phone will suddenly seem faster and it's a good security precaution. At the very least, make sure you have the latest operating system version installed.
3. Reset your laptop (even if it's annoying)
It's aggressive, I know. I tend to use a Chromebook for writing so this doesn't apply to me as much, but for a Windows or Mac laptop, I recommend a hard reset as a way to clear out all of the resources and (most importantly) removing any and all viruses and adware. Believe me, you have them--they proliferate all year long. The best way to deal with them is to start over. Just make sure you save all of your data in the cloud before you do a reset.
4. Reset your phone (even if it's even more annoying)
While you're at it, go ahead and reset your phone. It's a dramatic move, and there's less of a chance your device has any viruses or adware installed. I also recommend an upgrade to start the year, but if you skip that, a hard reset means you can go through and pick the apps you really want. That will help the phone run faster and use less local memory. And, once again, you will be forced to pick some new passwords.
5. Update your apps (even if you think they're updated)
As the year goes along, it's easy to forget all of the apps you use at work, on your phone and tablets, and on a personal laptop. Many of them will update to the latest version automatically, but some don't. (I sometimes turn off auto-updates for apps, especially the ones I don't use that often.) By updating the apps, you are using the latest security protocols and can make the most of the latest features.