Daniella Doughan
Business and Finance Journalist

Daniella Doughan is a business and finance journalist from Sydney, Australia.

Daniella Doughan
Business and Finance Journalist

Daniella Doughan is a business and finance journalist from Sydney, Australia.

Don’t be a hoarder. Deleting unused apps and outdated accounts can assist in strengthening your digital security and may also help to save you money.

If someone asked how many apps you have on your smartphone or tablet, would you be able to answer? Probably not. Keeping track of apps isn’t something most people do on a regular basis. You hear about a cool app, install it, and then let it sit there unused once the novelty wears off.

If you do get around to deleting an app, how do you know your data isn’t somewhere out there putting your business’s security at risk? Last I checked, I still had a 2013 Cricket World Cup app installed, which as well as taking up storage space was leaving me open to potential security vulnerabilities.

For small business owners, the risks are even greater, especially when those apps or accounts could let hackers access sensitive information such as banking details or customer data. Here are some tips to help you feel more in control of your digital footprint and get technologically organised.

A laptop and vase of flowers sitting on a desk

Why do a digital declutter?

Sixty per cent of enterprises that experience a cyber-attack go out of business within six months of the incident, according to research by the Australian government. Leaving redundant apps and old accounts running on a device can slow its performance and expose your business to online identity theft and phishing.

If a forgotten app or online account does compromise your business data, you might face not only the cost of recovering that data, but potentially also the revenue loss that comes in the wake of a damaged reputation.

Running only current apps means you have a better overview of your business tech, so you can focus on challenges from competitors, not hackers.

Don’t forget about internal threats, too. It’s important to review which staff members have access to your social media, banking accounts and intellectual property. Ensure that passwords and files are kept in the right hands. Most people have a combination of business and personal apps on their phones, so be sure to give employees guidelines on the apps they install on company phones.

All it takes is for one disgruntled ex- or current employee to leak sensitive business data on social media, and you have a problem. If an employee leaves your business, are you sure they deleted that Google Drive app with access to your most commercially sensitive documents? Have you at least remembered to revoke all of their permissions?

Tracking down old accounts

Deleting old accounts helps limit your exposure to hackers, from a business and personal perspective.

A good place to start is searching for the terms ‘welcome’, ‘confirm your email’ or ‘new account’ in your current inbox. This will show the services you’ve signed up for over the years so you can start deleting or unsubscribing irrelevant ones. Encourage employees to do the same. There are also services such as Just Delete Me and AccountKiller, which provide a list of common apps you can delete your details from. And if you’re not sure what you’ve signed up for, KnowEm tracks down sites where you’ve registered a username. 

If someone asked how many apps you have on your smartphone or tablet, would you be able to answer?

- Daniella Doughan

Deleting apps

With Google Play and Apple offering over two million apps each, it can be easy to get carried away with installing new ones. So do a stocktake of old apps and delete what you don’t use regularly. Be ruthless. This goes for business and personal apps. Is having personal games apps Candy Crush and Temple Run really necessary? Maybe you no longer need all those yoga, meditation, running and diet apps. Maybe you’ve met a special someone and can delete those old dating apps.

Staying on top of business app updates is crucial, but a personal app can just as easily bring your security undone.

Remember: the older an app or operating system is, the longer hackers have to find vulnerabilities within it.

You can easily find information on how to remove apps on your device, but remember that removing it from your screen won’t actually remove it from the device.

For the apps that you actually use, make sure you have the most up-to-date version and to review its permissions. A well-designed app will ask for permission before it does something, such as access your photo library, GPS, contacts, calendar, camera or contacts. Settings will show you the different types of privacy permissions and you can select individual permissions for specific apps. App Ops for Android users is a permissions manager app that lets users check and change the permissions that apps are allowed to use, all in one central location.

Of course, if you delete an app, it doesn’t necessarily delete or close any online account it may be connected to. You may need to close and delete that account, too.

PC tools that can help

If removing and uninstalling things manually on your PC doesn’t appeal, there are digital cleaning tools that can help. In fact, there are so many cleaning services out there it can be overwhelming. CleanMyMac and CleanMyPC uninstall entire applications and all their extra files, including the browsing history, download history and recently opened files, as well as erasing entire files and digital footprints. Dr Cleaner also removes unused files, cleans memory and allows you to monitor near real-time network and Central Processing Unit (CPU) usage.

Handy tip: These apps can require a lot of battery power and it’s worth paying to get an ad-free version where possible. 

 

Sixty per cent of enterprises that experience a cyber-attack go out of business within six months of the incident. 

- Daniella Doughan

What about trial periods?

Offering users a free trial period with a new product is widespread. But many services require you to input your credit card details to sign up, even though nothing is charged until the trial period is over. If you don’t want to continue using a product, the trick is to turn off auto-renewals before the trial period ends and you start getting charged.

Of course, the more trial periods you sign up to, the more you have to keep track of – so be sparing in what you sign up for. Have firm parameters in place for staff signing up to trial periods, too. It’s a good idea to only allow IT administrators to enable signups for trial apps and software. And of course, watch expiration dates on trial periods like a hawk. Even one day after a trial ends can have you paying for an additional month of service.

Find trusted apps

With so many apps available on a multitude of platforms, it’s crucial for you and your employees to steer clear of unverified suppliers.

Telstra’s Marketplace, Apple’s App Store, and Google’s Google Play have strict requirements in place to help create safe user experiences. For example, the App Store’s guiding principle is to “provide a safe experience for users to get apps and a great opportunity for all developers to be successful.” If an app breaks one of these strict guidelines (by stealing user data, for example), it will be removed from the App Store. Don’t forget to look at individual app reviews, too.

Of course, not all third party apps are untrustworthy. But a thorough digital declutter assists in leaving your organisation more secure and efficient, frees up space on devices, helping them run faster, and leaving you more time to do what you do best – run your business.

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