Today, 87 percent of the U.S. population regularly goes online. Have you ever thought about what personal information you leave behind? Every time you go online, you leave electronic footprints that add to your digital identity.
But do you know what your digital identity is and what can be done to control this imprint?
What is your digital identity?
Your digital identity is made up of the information you leave behind each time you visit the web. Each online activity you participate in — searching, shopping, socializing, commenting, paying bills, emailing — leaves imprints of your online presence. These imprints last forever.
Additionally, every piece of personal information that is stored online, such as medical and government records and personal assets, will add to your digital identity. Unfortunately, the growth doesn’t stop there. According to data risk company Spirion, each item of information you provide online can be duplicated into 1,000 copies.
Imagine 1,000 copies of your sensitive data out of your control — all deriving from a single item. In other words, that’s 1,000 chances your information may fall into the wrong hands.
As easy as it is to access information in today’s age of technology, it becomes clearer that we must improve our cybersecurity. Take for example the IT security professional who demonstrated how easy it was to hack into a family friend’s bank account. Even though he had only met her once, he discovered that her “…digital identity sat precariously on the foundation of her college e-mail account.” Upon accessing that email account, “…the rest of (her) security defenses fell like a row of dominoes.”
Need motivation to care about your digital identity?
Here are three big reasons: it can affect your reputation, how your personal information is shared and the standings of your financial and other online accounts.
Reputation (avoiding a bad rap)
People tend to be more confident and outspoken online. Just remember: you are what you post, and you are associated with the sites you visit and the people you interact with. Be cautious of what you post online, and consider who may be reading it. You will be indefinitely tied to anything with your name on it.
Sharing (stop spilling all the beans)
In this share-centric world, it can be easy to get caught up in oversharing. For some, life may seem like an open webpage. Be sure to set your privacy settings appropriately and only post what you don’t mind the whole world seeing.
You don’t have exclusive control over how others may share your information. Between direct links or screen shots, your information is up for grabs the minute you post it. This area of your digital identity also feeds into social engineering risks. The more information you provide, the easier it is for criminals to piece your identity together. This can leave your personal and financial information at risk for fraud and theft.
Financial accounts (protecting hard-earned money)
When you choose to conduct financial matters online like accessing your bank account, transferring funds and paying bills electronically, you increase your risk of having personal information and funds stolen. If someone gains access to your accounts, they can easily take them over.
What can you do to safeguard your online accounts?
- Set up two-factor authentication on accounts whenever available. This feature texts or call you with a unique code each time you log in.
- Create a passcode (such as a unique phrase) that you provide up front to companies associated with your accounts. This way, you can validate your identity whenever you access those accounts.
- If possible, have a computer dedicated exclusively to financial and bill payment accounts. That means it isn’t used for any other online activities, including emailing.
Being mindful of cyber security offers the best protection for your digital identity. Make time for yours with the tips above so you can continue to take advantage of the many benefits the Internet brings you.