Whether you are logging into a bank account, sending an email to a co-worker, or posting a picture to a social media page, every action you take can potentially compromise your digital presence. Identity fraud has become an epidemic in recent years, and it is no doubt due in part to how little thought people give to their cybersecurity. And the things we do online can have massive consequences offline.
It could just be a few faulty credit card purchases or theft of your crypto assets. But it could also be someone using your SSN to access the credit they have no intention of repaying. Someone may also try to impersonate you on social media and interact with your friends with malicious intentions or share confidential information that could negatively impact your business. Even your former employer may get all data about your activities. These outcomes can wreak havoc on your personal and professional life. The good news? Avoiding problems is actually not very difficult. Below are five ways to protect your digital identity.
Ensure your connection is encrypted
Take a look at the address bar on your browser. See the little lock on the left-hand side? That means that this site is using encryption. By using such sites, you ensure that you are safely sharing your data. Unencrypted sites leave you vulnerable and put you in danger of having your personal information stolen.
It could be harmless if you are just playing a game or reading a blog post. But if you are inputting passwords or credit card information, this could get risky. It is especially dangerous to use public Wi-Fi networks, where attackers with the right skillset can see your activity.
It is not just about the sites you visit, however. If you store information in the cloud, make sure you are getting the extra protection of the cloud. To be extra safe, use a VPN that hides and encrypts your traffic.
Do a background check on yourself
When you think about your digital identity, you probably think of the things you see every day: your email, your Twitter feed, your YouTube account, and so on. Here is the thing: so much of what makes up your digital identity is what you do not see. The best way to see the complete picture is to run a background check on yourself.
Using sites like UnMask, you can see your entire digital footprint. If you are applying for a job, a home rental, or credit, knowing all information about you that is available to others can help you prepare to answer tough questions. It also allows you to clear up any criminal or financial information that was falsely reported and delete anything online that you did not realize was there.
Another benefit to running a background check on yourself is to see if you are the victim of identity theft. You can see if someone is parading as you by looking through financial records, social media platforms, dating sites, and many other data sources. With this knowledge, you can take control before the digital breach makes its way to the real world.
Have a password manager
You have probably seen the password manager app that comes standard on many phones. These simple tools are crucial for ensuring that you use strong and unique passwords that are never repeated between accounts.
Creating passwords alone does not quite cut the mustard anymore. In a world where a single Facebook account can log you into several other services, all it takes is accessing one email account for a hacker to be able to access all other accounts. A password manager can help you update your passwords regularly, use strong passwords that cannot be guessed based on personal information, and use different passwords for all your accounts.
Most password managers are easy to use. All you need to do is set them up and let them autofill your login info when you get to your favorite sites. This also protects you from phishing scams. If a web page is fraudulent, your password manager will not enter the password.
Monitor your online activity
Too many people use the Internet on autopilot. Search, scroll, click, and repeat. It is as natural as breathing. However, if you are looking to protect your digital identity, it is crucial to be critical of every piece of information you type and share. Think about a post on Instagram, for example. Does your photo inadvertently reveal sensitive information? Is there something that could reveal the answer to a secret question on one of your accounts? Remember that your Internet presence does not exist in a vacuum.
It is also important to be mindful of phishing scams. As mentioned above, using a password manager is an effective way to stay safe. But it may not always be enough. If you ever get an email or text that requests information from you, always triple-check the source – even if it appears to be from a reputable organization. Never give up your information unless you 100% know where it is going. And do not click on suspicious attachments.
Monitor your offline activity
Managing your digital presence means minding your behavior in the real world. For example, you should always be skeptical about receiving calls out of the blue from your bank or utility company. Many scammers will attempt to contact you offline to validate information online.
They can then use this information to infiltrate your accounts, move around cash, and get their hands on your social security number. Although less common, some scammers will even attempt to contact you in person. Be wary of seemingly harmless interactions with people who seem to be a little too nosy for a casual conversation.