The internet is an integral and ever-present part of our personal and business lives. While it is a great enabler, it is a great danger too. If we are not vigilant, we could end up sharing more than we intended to, and with a much wider audience than we wanted.
Whether you are commenting on a social media post, sharing a picture on Instagram, booking a flight online, or sending an email, every action you take leaves small little digital breadcrumbs. These breadcrumbs could potentially compromise your digital presence, and with it, your digital identity.
Identity fraud and theft has grown to epidemic proportions in the last few years, and it is in no small part down to how lackadaisical most of us are about cyber security. Too often, we only take action when it is far too late, and we are having to deal with often devastating consequences.
These could include: a cybercriminal cleaning out your bank account or crypto assets, or using your personal information to open an account they have no intention of repaying. It could also be someone impersonating you on social media and interacting with your friends with bad intentions, or perhaps to learn more about you for the purposes of social engineering.
These events could turn your life upside down, on a personal, professional, and financial level. However, it’s not all doom and gloom, there are several steps you should consider which will help you protect your digital identity.
Make sure your connection is encrypted
First and foremost, make sure your connection is encrypted, and this is easy to do. If you see a little lock on the left-hand side of your browser’s address bar, this is good news and means the site you’re visiting uses encryption.
Also look for sites that start with https, instead of http, as this means they have a security certificate. Unsecured sites with no encryption leave you and your digital identity vulnerable to cyber crooks.
Refrain from entering your data into any fields on websites that are not encrypted. This means banking details, email addresses, or personal information like your name, surname and ID number.
Do a vanity search
Googling yourself, also known as a vanity search, will reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly of your digital identity. This can give you a clear idea of how others perceive your online presence. It is important to know how you appear online because it impacts how businesses view you, like potential work opportunities or applying for financial assistance in any way.
There are also several online resources that enable you to see your full digital footprint. If you’re looking to change jobs, rent a new home, or buy a new car, it’s good to know about all the information that is out there and can be freely accessed by a potential employer, for example.
This is also an excellent way to see if you have fallen victim to identity theft, by finding someone claiming to be you on the internet, and because forewarned is forearmed, this can help you take control before it is too late.
Make use of a password manager
It is also a good idea to use some sort of password manager, as these ensure you use passwords that are strong and unique instead of reusing the same one for every site as many people do.
This is understandable, as many of us become overloaded when having to remember fifty different passwords for different sites, loyalty programmes, bank accounts and the like.
On the plus side, password managers are very easy to use, you just set them up and let them do your thing. The better ones will also be able to tell if a site isn’t the genuine article and won’t input the password.
Some good password managers to use are:
Be conscious of what you share online
Be more vigilant about what you do and share online. Often, we just jump on the net and without really thinking, surf, scroll, and click on links. But when your guard is down it is easy to make a mistake, and we must be more thoughtful about every piece of information we share.
Pictures we post can reveal our location. Those silly Facebook quizzes we take on impulse are aimed at tricking us into giving our answers up to the commonly used security questions.
Special offers that are way too good to be true often contain malicious links or are part of a phishing scam.
These are all attempts to gather personal information on you to steal your identity or hack into your accounts. Just have a look at online content creators who had the SWAT team called on them, simply by live streaming and people figuring out their location.
This can cause some serious damage to the reputation of someone. The best you can do as an online consumer is to keep your identity and personal information as secure as possible.
Online, we do not exist in a vacuum. Be conscious of what you type, the sites you visit, the links you click on, and always remember: if something seems too good to be true, it most likely is.