Most of us are tech-savvy enough to understand what we should be doing to keep our tech lives running smoothly. We know it, yet we sometimes almost willfully neglect to take some fairly simple steps. Even those of us who work in IT routinely ignore best practices and fail to keep pace with a changing technological world. It’s an understandable phenomenon, because until there’s a problem, it’s easy to be lulled into a sense of complacency.
However, 2012 was full of high-profile examples of why we need to resolve to stop being lazy and start taking action. From natural disasters where complete data centers were flooded to major outages by leading cloud infrastructure providers, like AWS.
To help you get on track in 2013, here are the top 5 tech-inspired New Year’s resolutions you should make and vow to keep.
1. I will follow security best practices for all of my online accounts.
We all know we should be fully protecting our information online, yet a lot of us fail to take a few simple protections to ensure Internet safety. Nothing illustrated that more clearly this past year then when Wired’s Mat Honan had every one of his important accounts compromised by a hacker. Here are the simple steps to guard against making the same mistakes.
First, it’s important to remember to keep your email accounts as protected as possible, since they tend to be depositories for the bulk of personal information. If you can, set up 2-step verification on your email account. That way, a person could only access your account if they also had access to your cell phone.
Second, choose (and update) passwords that are strong, unique to each site, and that you change frequently. Take some time to review some handy tips for choosing a strong password here. To be the most secure, you’ll want to regularly change your password. If you have difficulty remembering to change them, a good password management resource such as LastPass or 1Password can prove invaluable.
Think before you click:
Even the smartest people get taken sometimes by links in emails, texts or images that turn out to be malicious. If you get an email without a subject line, an email from someone you know which only has a link and limited text, or any URL that just doesn’t quite look right, don’t click on it. Better to apologize to your friend for ignoring his email than to unintentionally get hacked and send your entire address book an email with malware included.
2. I will always back up my data.
As 2012 was moving into the home stretch, the East Coast faced one of the most destructive storms in memory. Hurricane Sandy pounded the Eastern Seaboard and left an estimated $63 billion dollars in damage in its wake. While businesses impacted by Sandy have surely learned some lessons about keeping their data backed up offsite in the cloud, they were not the only ones to lose valuable data.
In fact, many individuals who also were hit with flood or fire damage and weren’t backing up their computers often enough or kept their files backed up only on a physical hard drive at their home, also lost irreplaceable data. The truth is, we never know when something bad will come along, so it’s important to follow data protection best practices by keeping all of your files, photos and media backed up offsite, not just on an external hard drive which can also be vulnerable. By utilizing a cloud storage network such as Symform, you can make certain that your data is kept protected (and can be restored) during any emergency.
3. I will control how much data I share with others.
In 2012, we all became more reliant on social media, mobile apps, and cloud-based applications. The more these applications have become a part of our daily lives, the more personal information we are willfully handing over to other people and to companies. However, 2012 also saw many of these companies, such as Facebook, Google, and Instagram, make significant changes in their Terms of Service and Privacy policies. Suddenly, some of the privacies users thought they had were taken away, and not always with much notification. It’s an important lesson to remember. Anything you entrust to the hands of a company might one day be made accessible to more people than you originally anticipated.
In 2013, promise yourself to be more cognizant and protective of how much personal data you give to companies and more selective of who you trust with this information. Think twice before allowing your mobile apps access to your personal data. Actually read the privacy policies and adjust the settings to a higher level of privacy on Facebook, Google and other social or collaboration sites. If you use a cloud drive, like SkyDrive, make sure your default setting isn’t “public” and control access to those files by other people or applications. And always take time to stay abreast of policy changes that may have a significant impact on how you share your data.
Furthermore, remember that your smartphone isn’t just a phone anymore, but also a handheld computer that allows ready access to your personal data. Utilize a mobile security app such as lookout or Vault to make certain your data isn’t accessible if your phone is lost. And always keep your phone locked and password-protected when it’s not in use.
4. I will move away from paper to e-everything (or at least e-almost everything).
In 2012, leading climate scientists made a startling claim. It seems our icecaps are melting at a more rapid pace than was originally thought, which in turn is leading to a significant rise in ocean levels. It’s a scary prospect, and one that behooves us to all do our part to protect our fragile environment.
One way we can start to make a difference is to move away from paper and start taking advantage of new technologies that allow us to both store and consume our information digitally. A catchall productivity app like Evernote can help you store data and notes, and it will automatically keep this information synched across platforms. A solid e-reader like Kindle, Nook, or Kobo Reader will also help reduce your paper usage. For more ideas on how to go paperless, check out this step-by-step guide for going paperless.
5. I will monitor and protect my online reputation.
As 2012 came to an end, we were suddenly reminded of how important it is to remain vigilant about how and what we post online. This lesson came from none other than the social media tsar, Mark Zuckerberg’s sister Randi. When she accidentally revealed a family photo that she would have preferred kept private, it proved that anyone can accidentally reveal data online. For 2013, resolve that you will not only monitor, but actively protect your online reputation.
If you haven’t already set up Google alerts via Google’s Me on the Web, do it immediately. It’s an easy way to keep tabs on when you are mentioned—and how you are mentioned—online. Also, a reputation management app such as Reputation.com can help you monitor and control how and what others are seeing about you.
Finally, it’s a good idea to make certain that you utilize different usernames for different types of websites. For example, if you are using an online dating website like OkCupid, you want to choose a username that is unique to that site. If you reuse the same username across websites, you could be inadvertently allowing others to access more information about yourself than you intended. Remember, your online reputation will follow you forever; this year resolve that you’ll make protecting it a key priority.