According to Avast, your online or digital identity is “any personal data existing online that can be traced back to the real you.” Every time you send an online message, do a Google search, post a Facebook status, or upload an Instagram photo, you’re strengthening your online identity. Unfortunately, having a robust online identity can help cybercriminals commit real-life crimes against you – like fraud and identity theft. In most cases, you are in control of your online identity, so here are a few helpful tips for protecting it.
Use Encrypted Connections
When visiting websites, you can easily misstep into unsafe waters. A quick peek at your browser’s address bar can indicate that a site might be sketchy. For instance, encrypted sites with secure connections display a small lock icon to the left of the URL. If this lock is missing or appears to be unlocked, the connection is deemed unsafe. In these cases, you should not enter any info – especially not passwords or payment data.
As you browse the Web, consider connecting to a VPN (virtual private network), which can hide and encrypt your online activities. This will protect you from hackers and prevent your online searches and actions from being traced.
Look Out for Scams and Spam
Many common internet scams use what you share online against you. For example, you may see a post floating around on Facebook that urges you to comment with your mother’s maiden name plus the street you grew up on to reveal your “fairy name.” While it may seem like harmless fun, it’s actually a trick that hackers use to get users to share answers to common security questions.
Similarly, phishing can take the form of a contest or prize. An email might read, “You’ve won a million dollars in the lottery! Just enter your social security number as proof to claim it!” The prospect of a big prize can cloud our minds and urge us to share information we shouldn’t.
Public profiles that collect thousands of likes pop up on our feeds daily, and it’s natural to crave the same attention. But having your profiles open to the public is a dangerous game. We often share personal details without thinking twice – like a first day of school photo with our child’s school name written on their whiteboard or a picture of your new house with the address displayed on the porch.
When profiles are public, anyone with an internet connection can type your name into Google and view those details, giving criminals what they need to find your child at school or to call your bank as “you” to inquire about your mortgage. You should avoid posting personal details in the first place, but if you do, make them private.