Deleting your personal data, like web searches, can be a daunting activity. You need to take it seriously. If you do not, then other people have the potential to find that data. Below, we break down how to better delete your personal data.

Smartphone or Tablet

We have all been here, you're selling an old phone or tablet, or donating it to someone or some place. Regardless, the device is will no longer be in your possession. Because of this you want to be 100% sure everything is gone from said device. No body wants to find out their Facebook account was accessed from an old device being used by someone else.

Thankfully, most smartphones have made it relatively easy to securely wipe data from them. As long as your data has been encrypted, your data is protected. Most Android and iOS devices are encrypted right out of the box. Because your data is encrypted, factory resets make it almost impossible for any data to be recovered. Here's how your factory reset your devices:

Android

  1. Go to Settings > System > Advanced > Reset >  Erase all data (factory reset)
  2. Tap through each confirmation prompt to confirm the factory reset.
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Image: QCTechJunkie

iOS

  • Navigate to Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings
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Image: QCTechJunkie

Note: For either device, make sure you have all of your photos, music, or anything else backed up and securely stored somewhere.

PC or Laptop

Windows and macOS make securely wiping your pc or laptop easier, and more secure, than it used to be. By default, Windows 10 does not encrypt your data. The upside, Windows 10 can securely erase your files during a reset. Meaning that recovery programs will not be able to grab any data after the reset.

Windows 10

  1. Go to Windows Settings > Update & Security > Recovery
  2. Click Get Started, under Reset this PC, and choose Remove Everything
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Image: QCTechJunkie

macOS

By default, OS X Yosemite and newer will encrypt Mac's with a tool called FileVault. Make sure this feature is running via Apple > System Preferences >Security & Privacy > FileVault. Enable this encryption if it is not already enabled. Once encrypted your data will be impossible to recover after a full reset.

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Image: QCTechJunkie
  1. Go to Apple > Restart
  2. Hold CMD + R as your computer restarts
  3. Choose Disk Utility from the options list and select your drive
  4. Click Erase
  5. Select Mac OS Extended (Journaled)
  6. Click Erase

Web Accounts

Going through every web account and how to delete it is an impossible task. Therefore, we can provide you with some general guidelines on what you should do though. Most websites will maintain your data, post delete, for 90 or more days.

Example Web Account: Facebook

  1. From your Facebook account, open Settings
  2. Click Your Facebook Information
  3. Optional: Click Download Info
  4. Click Delete Account
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Image: QCTechJunkie

Example Web Account: Google

Google maintains a lot of data about you. Thankfully they provide you that data via your My Activity page. From this page you can adjust various data logging levels by clicking Activiy Controls. Lastly, clicking Delete Activity will take you a page where you can choose what data you want deleted from your account. If you choose to delete everything, make sure to get a copy of your data from Google Takeout.

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Image: QCTechJunkie

Example Web Account: Apple

Apple also makes things pretty painless for deleting your data they have collected. Simply go online, sign into your Apple ID account, click Request to Delete Your Account, read through the disclaimer, and confirm your choice to delete the account.

Other Personal Data

PCs, laptops, phones, tablets, and social media accounts are not the only areas that have collected personal data from you. For example, smart home speakers, like Amazon Echo or Google Home, collect data on you as well. The data Google Home collects can delete be delete from the same My Activity page we wrote about earlier. Amazon will allow you to delete your Echo's voice recordings from your Amazon Devices page.

Cloud Storage services, like Dropbox, will probably keep copies of deleted files in case you need them at some point in the future. Features like this are great when you need to recover something you realize you still need. However, this feature is not great if someone gains access to your account, because they can easily go digging around and recover those files as well. In the end, if you have something sensitive that you need to delete, especially from cloud storage, you need to make sure it's actually deleted.

Example Cloud Storage: Dropbox

  1. If you haven't already, delete the files you want to permanently delete.
  2. From the file browser, click the trash can icon to show deleted files.
  3. Once you find the file or folder you’d like to permanently delete, hover your mouse pointer over the file or folder name, and check the checkbox that appears.
  4. Click Permanently delete.
  5. Click Permanently delete in the pop up that appears.

Example Cloud Storage: Google Drive

Unlike Dropbox, Google Drive allows you to permanently delete multiple files or all of your deleted files.

Empty your entire trash

  1. On your computer, go to drive.google.com.
  2. On the left, click Trash.
  3. Make sure there are no files you want to keep.
  4. At the top, click Empty trash

Delete an individual file forever

  1. On your computer, go to drive.google.com.
  2. On the left, click Trash.
  3. Click a file.
  4. At the top, click Delete forever .

Example Cloud Storage: OneDrive

OneDrive, like many cloud storage services, will store deleted files in a Recycle Bin. From there you can restore files, if you need to. You can select Recycle bin in the OneDrive left side navigation

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Image: Microsoft
  • To permanently delete specific files or folders from the recycle bin, select those items, then select Deletein the top navigation.
  • To permanently delete the entire recycle bin at once, select Empty recycle bin in the top navigation.

Regardless of the device or web account or service, it is always a good idea to make sure your data is deleted properly. We have only listed a handful of examples and how to delete your data properly. A simple web search should help you figure out the best route for deleting your data from whatever device, account, or service you use. If anything, you will learn more about the data you leave behind, something you do with out realizing it. Trust us, it's worth the extra effort to protect yourself and your data from leaking out into the wrong hands.

Android 9 Pie is finally here for everyone who own Pixel devices. Then all other eligible Android devices will get the update. I have been running Pie on my Pixel 2 XL for over a week now and here are some of the new features Android 9 Pie bring to your device.

1. Adaptive Battery

Google has been working hard at maximizing battery usage for Android for some time now. The latest step in maximizing your battery is Adaptive battery. Android will learn over time which apps are most important to you and prioritize battery usage for them. This means apps you rarely use will not hog as much battery as they used to in previous versions of Android. With this feature on, low priority apps will see a delay in notifications to your phone. And yes, Battery Saver is still a part of Android, which helps squeeze out as much battery life as possible when your already low on battery power.

2. Adaptive Brightness

Android has always had an auto brightness control, but it only used the phone's light sensor to make adjustments.  Adaptive Brightness is another smart/learning feature for Android 9. Over time, the feature will use ambient light levels, you brightness adjustments, and the apps you use to help build better brightness profiles tailored to your phone use.

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Image - Google

3. App Actions

Android will start creating customized shortcuts, for you, in the app drawer. The customized shortcuts are based on how you use your home. For example, over time Android 9 will learn that Tuesday morning around 8 am you typical use navigation and listen to an audio book during your morning commute. This will in turn prompt Android to start providing app shortcuts in your app drawer for for those two options. Android will also provide a shortcut to a favorite artist on Spotify, or favorite music application, when you connect headphones to your phone.

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Image - Google

4. Slices

Coming later this fall Android 9 will start including app shortcuts in search results whenever you start a search on your phone. Let's use Lfty as an example. If you search for Lyft you will see app quick links for ordering a ride to work or home, depending on the day and your location. You will also see estimated costs in the shortcuts too.

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Image - Google

5. Screenshots With One Hand

For most people, taking screenshots on Android phones involves press the Volume Down and the Power button at the same time. This feature has always worked well for most. Android 9 Pie has introduced a new way to take screenshots. You can now just long press the Power button to bring up the power options. Included in those options is an option to take a screenshot. With this feature, you can now take screenshots with one hand.

6. Gesture Navigation

Android 9 Pie introduces some additional gesture controls for users. The newest is the ability to swipe up on the Home screen to see recently used apps, versus using the square overview button. If you swipe up a second time the app drawer will appear. In practice this makes navigation a little bit more intuitive with one hand. Depending on your phone you can adjust this from Settings > System > Gestures menu.

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Image - Google

7. Rotate Screen Confirmation

Prior to Pie, users had two options for screen rotation: Auto and Fixed. Those options are still present, but if you have the option set to fixed, Android 9 Pie will prompt you  with a rotation button. This button's location is where the square overview button used to be. This rotation button will appear anytime the system notices the phone's rotation has changed from portrait and landscape.

8. Per Bluetooth Device Volume Memory

One thing I personally struggle with is managing the volume of my media when switching between the Bluetooth headphones I wear at the gym and the Bluetooth audio connection in my car. With Android 9 Pie the device will remember the volume settings last used for each Bluetooth device. It's a simple feature but a powerful one.

9. Smarter Notifications

Over time Android 9 will start to learn which notifications you tend to dismiss relative to the number of notifications you get from an app. If the system determines a certain app is spamming you with a lot of notifications, and you are just dismissing them, then Android 9 will ask if you want to mute said notification. Now you will not see that particular notification anymore. Additionally, under Settings > App > Name of the App > Notifications, you will be able to see a notification count and options to change app notification preferences to mute or on.

10. Improved Do Not Disturb

In addition to silencing incoming alerts, Do Not Disturb mode will now silence all visual alerts as well. This means your phone's display will not light up anymore either. But fear not, any starred contact will still ring your phone, making sure you miss nothing important. Check out Settings > Sounds > Do Not Disturb for all the additional options.

11. Digital Wellbeing

Digital Wellbeing is Google's commitment to Android helping to improve your life and not distract from it. These tools are still in the beta phase, but Pixel owners can try them out now. One of the best benefits is being able to see how you spend time on your phone. You can see which apps you spend the most time with and you can setup limits on usage. Obviously, these limits are easy to disable. But, this is a step in the right direction to help curb phone use and focus on you.

12. Wind Down

An extension to the Digital Wellbeing section is a feature called Wind Down. Many people tend to be on their phones late into the night. Phones screens have a nasty affect on your sleeping habits. With Wind Down you can setup a bedtime schedule. As your bedtime approaches your phone will begin to fade your phone's screen to grey scale, reduce the color temperature (make the screen less blue), and enable Do Not Disturb. This helps prepare you for sleep. When you wake up in the morning, those settings will revert for you.

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Nearly everything on the Internet starts with a DNS request. DNS is the Internet’s directory. Click on a link, open an app, send an email and the first thing your device does is ask the directory: Where can I find this?

Unfortunately, by default, DNS is usually slow and insecure. Your ISP, and anyone else listening in on the Internet, can see every site you visit and every app you use — even if their content is encrypted. Creepily, some DNS providers sell data about your Internet activity or use it target you with ads.

- Cloudflare

On April Fool's Day of 2018 Cloudflare announced their brand-new DNS service. The statement above explains the importance of having a good DNS service. Not all DNS providers are created equal. Cloudflare's DNS service is almost 20ms faster than Google's DNS service. We here at QCTechJunkie have updated all of our devices to use Cloudflare over Google. And there is no real reason why you should not at least try Cloudflare's DNS yourself.

One reason to use Cloudflare's DNS, over the one your ISP probably has you using, is for data privacy. According to Cloudflare:

We will never log your IP address (the way other companies identify you). And we’re not just saying that. We’ve retained KPMG to audit our systems annually to ensure that we’re doing what we say.

Frankly, we don’t want to know what you do on the Internet—it’s none of our business—and we’ve taken the technical steps to ensure we can’t.

Setup Cloudflare’s DNS

Setup is easy, as long as you know where to look. In fact Cloudflare will recognize the device you are on when you go to https://1.1.1.1/. From there they will provide you with basic instructions to setup up your device to use their service. But, why do that when we will cover the major four platforms for you right here:

Windows

  1. Click on the Start menu, then click on Control Panel.
  2. Click on Network and Internet.
  3. Click on Change Adapter Settings.
  4. Right click on the Wi-Fi network you are connected to, then click Properties.
  5. Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (or Version 6 if desired).
  6. Click Properties.
  7. Write down any existing DNS server entries for future reference.
  8. Click Use The Following DNS Server Addresses.
  9. Replace those addresses with the 1.1.1.1 DNS addresses:
    • For IPv4: 1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1
    • For IPv6: 2606:4700:4700::1111 and 2606:4700:4700::1001
  10. Click OK, then Close.
  11. Restart your browser.

MacOS

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Search for DNS Servers and select it from the dropdown.
  3. Click the + button to add a DNS Server and enter 1.1.1.1
  4. Click + again and enter 1.0.0.1 (This is for redundancy.)
  5. Click + again and enter 2606:4700:4700::1111 (This is for redundancy.)
  6. Click + again and enter 2606:4700:4700::1001 (This is for redundancy.)
  7. Click Ok, then click Apply.

Android

  1. From your Android’s app list, open the Settings app.
  2. Under the Wireless & networks section, tap Wi-Fi,
  3. Long press your preferred network in the list until a context menu appears.
  4. Tap the Modify network, then tap Advanced options.
  5. Tap Advanced options, then tap IP Settings.
  6. Change Dynamic to Static.
  7. Using your router’s configuration, enter your device’s IP address and gateway.
  8. Tap the DNS field, then erase the number in the field.
  9. In the DNS 1 field, enter 1.1.1.1
  10. In the DNS 2 field, enter 1.0.0.1 (This is for redundancy.)
  11. Tap Save.

iPhone

  1. From your iPhone’s home screen, open the Settings app.
  2. Tap Wi-Fi, then tap your preferred network in the list.
  3. Tap Configure DNS, then tap Manual.
  4. If there are any existing entries, tap the - button, and Deletenext to each one.
  5. Tap the + Add Server button, then type 1.1.1.1
  6. Tap the + Add Server button again, then type 1.0.0.1. This is for redundancy.
  7. Tap the + Add Server button again, then type 2606:4700:4700::1111. This is for redundancy.
  8. Tap the + Add Server button again, then type 2606:4700:4700::1001. This is for redundancy.
  9. Tap the Save button on the top right.

Home Setup

If you want to make things easier for all your devices on your home network, you can configure your router to use Cloudflare's DNS. Doing this will eliminate the need to configure each device on your home network. Below is the general setup for most routers:

  1. Connect to your preferred wireless network.
  2. Enter your router’s gateway IP address in your browser.
  3. If prompted, fill in your username and password. This information may be labeled on the router. Default username and passwords can be found here.
  4. In your router’s configuration page, locate the DNS server settings.
  5. Write down any existing DNS server entries for future reference.
  6. Replace those addresses with the 1.1.1.1 DNS addresses:
    • For IPv4: 1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1
    • For IPv6: 2606:4700:4700::1111 and 2606:4700:4700::1001
  7. Save your settings, then restart your browser.

Note: Configurations for your router maybe different, consult your routers owners manual for more information.

Connected devices in our home is common place, and the number of those connected devices in our home is growing. This means there are a growing number of opportunities for someone to access your home network and your devices on that network. Because of this we want to take a moment to go over some steps you can take to help make your home's smart devices safer and more secure.

Please keep in mind there is an ever growing array of smart home devices, we cannot go over specifics for each gadget. One general rule of thumb is to go through the device's documentation for initial security precautions. If your device does not have a guide, double check the manufacture's website.

Keep Your Gadgets Up to Date

Windows and macOS do a great job and downloading and installing updates. Most smart home gadgets do not. There are many reason why this could be or by default the devices does not need internet access, just access to devices on your home network.

This, ultimately, means it is on you to keep track of devices updates. This can be a pain when you have a lot of devices to deal with, but it is worth it in the end in order to safe guard your home network and the devices connected to it. Checking for updates for your smart devices can happen through the smartphone app for the device, if there is one, or by checking the manufacturer's website.

For a lot of smart home devices, updates will not release on a regular basis, unless a security exploit crops up. So, setup a schedule to sit down and run through checking for updates on all your devices. Doing this, at least, once a month is a good starting point.

If your smart home device does have an update, it could take a few steps to install. Some devices require you to connect it to your computer, which are usually for devices that do not have access to the internet. Other devices will allow you to update them via Bluetooth with an application on your phone.

An update routine extends to all of your electronics in your home, not just smart devices. Check for updates for you computers, phones, TVs, sound bars, and especially routers. Routers these days are doing better at alerting you an update is available, provided you log into their admin page. Most manufacture websites will tell you if there are updates and how you can update your devices.

Review Your Device Security Settings

Technology today is very much set it and forget. It is very nice to get up and running with new devices and then never have to worry about them. But, often some of the default settings can be too relaxed on security. We recommend that if your device has a settings menu, that you go through each option. If there are settings you are not familiar with, then check the manufactures websites for a better explanation on what the setting does.

Some key settings to look out for:

  • Internet access
    • If the device does not really need an internet connection run and does not have a check or auto update function, disable it's internet access. Only give it access when you know an update is available.
  • Password for Settings Menu / Access
    • If the device has the option to create a password to get into the settings menu or to use the device, make sure to set a password. Do not make it something easy to guess. Password managers can help out here.
    • Also, if the device already has a password to access it, change it. Default passwords for various devices have a long history of being documented online.

Once again, this routine should extend to all of your household devices. If the device or account to access your device offers two-step verification, enabled it. Also, if your device sends you notifications, like a security camera, to an email account, make sure you have a strong password for that email account. If a hacker gains access to your email, they could potentially see security snapshots and be able to determine when you are home or not.

Be Smart When Buying Gadgets

Sticking with bigger name companies for your smart home gear does have it's benefits, even though they cost more. Samsung and LG can still be hacked just as the next company, but they at least have the resources to fix flaws in their devices if one  is found. Newer or smaller companies, though having cheaper devices, may not ever fix found flaws or support could hard to work with when you run into issues. Devices that do not have a clear way of getting a hold of support is usually a sign that they probably will not fix security flaws in their devices.

In this day and age, we see many innovating smart devices, thanks to sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Always do your research when buying into these products. Look into the company and see what security measures they have in place for the device you are thinking of purchasing.

Keep in mind many new companies have a habit of starting out with a bang but then disappearing just as fast as they exploded onto the market. The last thing you want is a smart lock or voice-activated device, that does not function anymore.

Keep It In The Family

Because of the reasons stated above, it is best to get devices that all fall under the same umbrella. By limiting the number of smart home platforms you install in your home, you limit your exposure to attacks. Some smart home umbrellas include:

Once you have picked a system, we recommend you find products that work within that system. Some systems, like Samsung SmartThings and Google Home, will work with each other. But, that is not always the case.

Now, if you already have a miss mash of smart home devices, trying to get your setup under one or two umbrella's could prove difficult. Luckily, BullGuard’s Internet of Things Scanner is handy at helping to determine if any of your smart home devices are on the Shodan site. Shodan is a search site that scans the internet for any network device that is publicly accessible. Basically, if you find one of your devices is listed on that site, then someone could hack into it, so disconnect that device from the internet immediately. Then, check for updates and your security setting for that device.

Pay Attention to Your Router

The router in your home is the gate keeper to everything connected to the internet in your home. Smart devices, computers, mobile phones, game systems. Keeping it secure is the key to improving your home network security. The big three things you need to do are:

  1. Make sure the router's firmware is up to date
  2. Change the default username and password for the settings menu to something other then the default password and username.
  3. And let your devices connect to the internet only if they need to.

For example, you have a Roku plugged into your TV. The TV may have smart features as well, but they will not be as useful as the Roku is. Because of this, your TV does not need to be connected to the internet, at least not all of the TV. Remember today's TVs will get firmware updates that might fix issues, so it's good to have it connect to the internet every now and then to check for updates.

One special note about all devices that need internet access, be cautious about devices that prompt you to automatically configure your router for you. They do not need access to do that, so do not give that device the username and password to your router's settings menu. Additionally, most router's these days have a list of devices that are connected to your router, which you can control internet access too or block from your network.

Upgrade Your Router If It's Old

Router's are getting better at keeping themselves up-to-date, but you still have to do some manual work. But, if you find that your router is not getting updates or the last update is already years old, it might be time upgrade. Today, many routers are built with smart home security in mind. Many will monitor your device's network traffic and will block common routes used by hackers and malware. Some will even go as far as blocking devices that appear to have poor security settings. Two routers we recommend, that have these features, are the Asus Blue Cave ($170) or the Luma Whole Home WiFi (3-Pack) ($135). If you rent a router from your Internet Service Provider, make sure to ask them for an upgraded router. But really, you're better off using your own router.

Buy a Network Security Device

There are also devices you can purchase that are dedicated to just monitoring your smart home for vulnerabilities. These are nice options if you do not want to  upgrade your router. Some of these devices are:

We will note that a lot of these devices have not ample third party testing. So, the claims made by the manufacture are just that, with no solid user proof to back them up. You are more then welcome to try them out, bu do so with caution. If you are using a device listed above, then leave some comments below on your experiences.

In the end, the best protection of your devices is to keep them up to date. Check for software/firmware updates, password protect them, if available, and make sure they are hard passwords.

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