SPRING CLEANING: TIME TO CLEAR YOUR DIGITAL CLUTTER

Just like your home, your digital life can become cluttered: things pile up, get out of date, get lost, or are no longer needed. External hard drives and USBs, phones and tablets, wearables, networking equipment, smart home devices and office tools like copiers, and printers all contain valuable personal information.

A digital spring cleaning can reduce the risk of cyber criminals accessing old information that could help them figure out how to get to your new information. To get started, make a list of all devices where you store personal information. Then perform complete backups on each device. Follow these tips to make sure that your digital spring cleaning is complete.

  • Purge Files on Desktops, Laptops, and Hosted/ Cloud Services
  • Perform a thorough review of your digital file locations with a focus on personal records.
  • Delete or archive multiple drafts of the same document, outdated financial statements, unused apps, and downloaded files.
  • Empty your trash or recycle bin on all devices: Make sure to securely and permanently delete old files.
  • Learn more at https://health.ucdavis.edu/itsecurity/. Clean Up Mobile Devices
  • Delete unused apps.
  • Update operating system and apps.
  • Review location services, Bluetooth, microphone, and camera settings for all apps. Safety-Check Web Browsers
  • Review all browser security settings to make sure that they are still keeping you safe.
  • Delete sensitive information from autofill settings and turn off automatic capture of your form entries.
  • Remove saved passwords and disable automatic password storage.
  • Uninstall seldom-used browser applications. Only maintain one or two browsers that work well with most websites.
  • Review Email and Other Online Accounts List all online accounts including Email, social networking services, and other accounts that require a username and password to access them.
  • Close accounts that you no longer need.
  • Remove outdated credit card and contact information.
  • Remove contacts on social networks that you don’t personally know.
  • Delete or archive old emails and empty your email trash.
  • Unsubscribe from newsletters, email alerts, and other automatic emails that you no longer read.

Are you concerned about Cyber Security?

By following the tips below and remaining vigilant, you are doing your part to protect yourself and others.

Tip #1 – Keep software up-to-date: Installing software updates for your operating system and programs is critical. Always install the latest security updates for your devices:

Tip #2 – Avoid Phishing scams – beware of suspicious emails and phone calls: Phishing scams are a constant threat – cyber-criminals will attempt to trick you into divulging personal information such as your login ID and password, banking or credit card information. Phishing scams can be carried out by phone, text, or through social networking sites – but most commonly by email. Be suspicious of any official-looking email message or phone call that asks for personal or financial information.

Tip #3 – Change your password frequently: We all have too many passwords to manage – and it’s easy to take short-cuts, like reusing the same password. A password manager can help you to maintain strong unique passwords for all of your accounts. These programs can generate strong passwords for you, enter credentials automatically, and remind you to update your passwords periodically.

Tip #4 – Be extremely careful of what you click: Avoid visiting unknown websites or downloading software from untrusted sources. These sites often host malware that will automatically install (often silently) and compromise your computer. If attachments or links in the email are unexpected or suspicious for any reason, don’t click on it.

Tip #5 – Never leave devices unattended: The physical security of your devices is just as important as their technical security. If you need to leave your laptop, phone, or tablet for any length of time – lock it up so no one else can use it. If you keep protected data on a flash drive or external hard drive, make sure their encrypted and locked up as well. For desktop computers, lock your screen or shut-down the system when not in use.

Tip #6 – Safeguard Protected Data: Be aware of Protected Data that you come into contact with and its associated restrictions. Keep high-level Protected Data (e.g., SIN, credit card information, student records, health information, etc.) off of your workstation, laptop, or mobile devices. Securely remove sensitive data files from your system when they are no longer needed. Always use encryption when storing or transmitting sensitive data.

Tip #7 – Take the time to use your mobile devices more safely: Considering how much we rely on our mobile devices and how susceptible they are to attack, you’ll want to make sure you are protected: • Lock your device with a PIN or password – and never leave it unprotected in public. • Only install apps from trusted sources (Apple AppStore, Google Play). • Keep the device’s operating system up-to-date. • Don’t click on links or attachments from unsolicited emails or texts. • Avoid transmitting or storing personal information on the device. • Most handheld devices are capable of employing data encryption – consult your device’s documentation for available options. • Use Apple’s Find my iPhone or the Android Device Manager tools to help prevent loss or theft.

Tip #8 – Install antivirus/anti-malware protection: Only install these programs from a known and trusted source. Keep virus definitions, engines and software up-to-date to ensure your programs remains effective. Tip #9 – Back up your data daily or weekly: Back up regularly – if you are a victim of a security incident, the only guaranteed way to repair your computer is to erase and re-install the system.

Creditor protection – Top 10 tips for business owners

Whether you’re an established entrepreneur or just starting out, it’s important to regularly review your creditor protection strategy. Most business owners, officers and directors don’t

realize that their personal assets are at risk of creditor claims in the event that something goes wrong with their business.

Here are some tips to help manage your risk:

  1. Consider incorporating your business if it is either large or at risk of litigation. Professional practices should carefully consider this option.
  2. Not all debt is created equal. Always pay your statutory debt on time; directors and officers can be personally liable for these debts.
  3. Ensure sufficient personal liability coverage (e.g. director’s home and auto coverage). In the event of a serious accident, your personal assets (e.g. home, car, boat) could be seized to pay any shortfall in insurance.
  4. Ensure that your spouse is outside the reach of creditors in the event that anything goes wrong in the business. Directors and officers can carry liability for debts. If your spouse is an employee, or not involved in the business, you will have much more flexibility in your creditor protection plan.
  5. Make use of spousal Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) to transfer wealth to a spouse – and away from creditor risk.
  6. Consider moving your personal assets – like your house and your savings – to your spouse’s name. You can transfer home ownership to your spouse tax free. If your spouse is involved in the business, consider setting up a family trust.
  7. Hold life insurance contracts personally (not corporately). Name a “family class” beneficiary on life insurance contracts (spouse, child, grandchild or parent of the annuitant) and list yourself as both the owner and the annuitant/insured. Doing so may prevent creditors from seizing the assets, as well as ensuring the assets transfer immediately to your beneficiary at the time of your death. Remember that if the death benefit is payable to your estate, your assets can get tied up in probate and may be subject to fees and seizure by creditors of your estate.
  8. Place your savings into investment products sold by insurance companies. A segregated fund contract or a Guaranteed Interest Contract (GIC) product purchased through an insurance company offers potential creditor protection when you name a “family class” or irrevocable beneficiary.
  9. Get professional tax and legal advice on a creditor protection plan. This is not a do-it-yourself plan.
  10. Make a plan now. Once your business is in trouble, it is almost impossible to establish a creditor protection plan. It must be done while the business is healthy or new.

Be cautious about naming an irrevocable beneficiary

Your rights as an owner become limited. You can’t:

  • Change the beneficiary
  • Change the ownership
  • Cash in the policy
  • Assign the policy as collateral for a loan

…without the consent of the person you’ve named as

irrevocable beneficiary. Naming a child as irrevocable beneficiary on an insurance contract, including an investment contract, means that the contract is effectively frozen until the child is grown – because children cannot legally give consent until they have reached the age of majority. Manulife generally recommends against naming irrevocable beneficiaries based on the limitations this designation can impose on the owner.

A note on liability

Business owners, officers and directors can be personally

liable for:

  • Any debts they have given a personal guarantee
  • Any statutory debts, such as wages (2 Directors are personally liable for wages to a maximum of 6 months for each employee owed.) and vacation pay
  • Any source deductions and commodity taxes
  • Health and safety violations including environmental damage

A publication by Manulife – Investment Insight

The commentary in this publication is for general information only and should not be considered investment or tax advice to any party. Individuals should seek the advice of professionals to ensure that any action taken with respect to this information is appropriate to their specific situation. Any amount allocated to a segregated fund is invested at the risk of the contract holder and may increase or decrease in value. Manulife, Manulife & Stylized M Design, and Stylized M Design are trademarks of The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company and are used by it, and by its affiliates under license.