As our lives become increasingly digital, protecting personal data is more relevant than ever before. We are signing up to more accounts, and sharing more information online, and thus, the threat of identity theft and data breaches has never been greater.
Digital identity theft can have serious ramifications on an individual’s financial and physical health. Hackers and thieves can take over our financial investments, and stealing digital data and identity can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. In today’s cyber world, hackers stealing our identity can malign our reputation, create fraudulent accounts and affect our social relationships online and offline.
So, how can we protect our digital identities from hacks and thefts? There are simple precautions one can take to protect data and reduce the risk of identity theft.
Protecting your identity on social networks
While registering on social networking and dating websites, consider how much information you are sharing for public view. Review your personal profile and privacy settings, and adjust them to a level you are comfortable with. Beware of the default setting, which is often public.
Only accept friend requests from people you know, and if on a dating site, talk with the other person only on the dating platform. Fraudsters will often try to move the conversation onto a different platform such as WhatsApp, but don’t feel pressured to give them your phone number until you are ready.
When online dating moves to a face-to-face meeting, you have to be sure that the person you are talking to or meeting is who they say they are. Digital identity apps which let you swap verified details with other people are a sure-fire way to be confident about who you’re meeting.
You could choose to swap your name and photo with another person for example - both of which have been verified using biometrics and a government issued identity document. This gives both people confidence that the other person is real and genuine. Digital identities make the process of verification and authentication simple and secure, and help prevent fake accounts and catfishing.
Protecting your professional identity
Building and managing public online profiles can help potential employers assess candidates and employees. But an online job hunt comes with the risk of identity theft.
To protect your personal and professional information while posting on job sites, review the privacy settings. Some job sites allow you to limit the number of resume and profile views or hide information such as current employer and contact details.
Do not share your phone number, home address or other sensitive information unless asked for it by verified sources. Employers could ask candidates to share their verified information using a digital identity. This gives the employer confidence that the individual’s information, such as their name and nationality, is genuine and accurate, and in turn, the individual gets a receipt of who they have shared their details with.
Additionally, steer clear of unfamiliar job opportunities and offers that sound overly lucrative.
Keep track of your online accounts
It is important to keep track of the different online accounts you have, and delete any you no longer use. The more online accounts you have, the bigger the risk of identity and personal information being compromised. A password manager is a good way to keep track of the websites you are signed up for. It can list the different accounts you have login details for, and safely store these details for you.
Ideally, individuals should not rely on passwords to secure their accounts, as they can easily be hacked and fall into the wrong hands. They should use more secure solutions, such as logging in with their fingerprint instead of entering a PIN or password. Biometrics are unique to the individual, making them more secure than passwords. They are also more convenient as individuals no longer have to remember different login details.
However, if a password is still required, a password manager can encrypt and securely save all of your passwords; offering a more secure way of logging into accounts. Ideally a password manager would be secured with an individual’s biometrics and not a master password - as this password could become compromised.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)