We live in an age where technology dominates every component of our lives, from making coffee in the morning to diagnosing life-threatening illnesses in patients. No matter how much you try, spending a tech-free and non-digital lifestyle is a thing of the past. Even if you try hard to stay hidden from the eyes of the world, your digital footprint will always give you away, whether you are hiding in the mountains or in a cave away from civilization.
Your digital footprint refers to your entire online activity that is present on the internet, and it is recorded from the time you make your first email address or social media account. Then, all your searches, comments, posts, and even your online purchases and subscriptions build up your digital footprint.
Your digital footprint is created by websites that collect your information by installing cookies on the device you are using to access the internet. This information usually includes the IP address, login details, your device’s MAC address, and other parts of personal information that you choose to share. This is why online security has become a serious issue, and people are concerned about keeping their digital identities protected.
This article covers all the ways in which you can strengthen your online security and also protect your digital footprint from being exposed to the wrong people.
- Search for Yourself on the Web
The first thing you should do is to find out what people see about you if they search your name. You can also do so by searching for your name in the various search engines on the internet, including Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. You can explore the first few pages of the search results that appear and check out the information that is publicly available about you.
Generally, you would find links to your social media accounts and comments, which isn’t alarming. If you find any sensitive personal information or details, then you may have to contact the website owner or administrator in order to have it taken off. Moreover, you might find misleading or false information about you or posted under your name, for which you should take instant action.
- Set Alerts for Online Activity
Following the first step, you can set alerts for whenever your name is mentioned online. The alert will help you find out the information as soon as it is posted, and you can also add keywords that will help you find out if someone has mentioned your name or written anything about you. This would also help you eliminate search results or mentions about people who have the same name as you.
- Review Your Privacy Settings
Another key step that you should follow in order to protect your online identity is to review your privacy settings. Be it an email account or social media website, all of them provide you the ability to choose and maintain your own privacy settings, which help you determine how much of your personal or contact information will be visible to certain audiences, i.e., friends, friends of friends, the general public, or only you.
- Use Social Media Cautiously
Even if you have strengthened your privacy settings on social media, you may choose to reveal certain personal information to people you meet online. Moreover, you may choose to reveal your personal and sensitive information in social media surveys, and they might not be very particular about maintaining your privacy.
Even as you upload pictures of yourself, your family, or friends on social media, you will have to be aware of the fact that it can be seen, shared, and even saved by your friends, connections, colleagues, or strangers. Therefore, you won’t have any control over your privacy.
- Make Use of Two-Factor Authentication
One of the most efficient and secure ways of protecting your digital footprint is to enable two-factor authentication on all of your social media and email accounts, including the accounts you use on online stores, subscription-based websites, and e-commerce sites as well. Moreover, your online banking accounts should also be protected by two-factor authentication.
When you enable two-factor authentication, you are sent a one-time pin (OTP) to your device every time you try to log into an account and enter the password. The pin can be sent through a text message, email, or a notification on your smartphone. Moreover, the pin is unique every time, so the chances of anyone guessing it are very slim. Note that if you set up 2fa for your phone it is also wise to use a secure phone provider to protect yourself from SIM swaps which are an increasing threat to unsuspecting people.
- Protect Your Password
If your online account is like a door, then the password is like the key used to open it. Just as someone can open the door if they get their hands on the key, hackers and people with malicious intent can access your accounts and do anything they want to. This is why you should always have a strong password.
Ideally, your password should have a combination of a minimum of ten characters, and it should include numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, and symbols. However, you should ensure that the password is something that you remember properly. Otherwise, you may forget it and have a lot of trouble changing it. You can also use a password manager, which creates unique passwords for all your accounts, so you don’t have to remember all of them.
By following these guidelines, you will be able to safeguard yourself against data theft or any other mishap. However, these methods should be a part of your regular routine and not a one-time thing. In this day and age, it is increasingly difficult to secure your data, which is why you should be extra careful.