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Cornell University

Data Hygiene Best Practices

This article applies to: Security & Policy

Even if you practice perfect data hygiene and keep your computers clean of confidential data, viruses can still steal data while you are using it. You must also practice safe web browsing and keep your computer software up to date to minimize the chances of viruses being downloaded to your computer.

  • Refer to the Regulated Data Chart to see the systems approved for confidential and sensitive information.
  • To prevent data from being automatically saved to unknown locations, always choose to "Save" files when downloading them. That way, you'll know where to go to delete them.
  • Create a folder on your Desktop or Documents to store the files you don't need to keep long term. Purge those temporary files regularly.
  • When you delete files on your computer, always remember to empty your Recycle and Trash bins.
  • Perform regularly scheduled checks for confidential data. If your department recommends using Spirion, run it often. If confidential data is not addressed regularly and promptly, it is at risk of being stolen.
  • Carefully scrutinize your Spirion results. Immediately destroy confidential data using the Shred or Scrub features, or if it needs to be kept, contact your technical support team to determine an appropriate solution. Make sure you do not destroy important system files for your computer.
  • Warning: Using Spirion to shred email will shred or corrupt your entire mailbox. If confidential data is identified in an email message, to permanently delete the mail message without damaging your mailbox, open your email application (Outlook, Thunderbird, or Eudora), delete the message, then empty the trash and compact your folders. If you are unsure of how to permanently delete select emails, contact your local technical support for guidelines on your specific email application.
  • Consider other sensitive data that may be on your computer and where you may have stored it. Spirion will only find data that is considered to be confidential, and if it's something that should never fall into the wrong hands, it should not be stored on your computer.


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our university's privacy practices, including
information use and third parties, visit University Privacy.