With the recent news regarding the massive internet security breach by Russian hackers, I have decided to educate my readers about how to protect their online information. Because our lives have become digitally dependent, protecting your online identity is a vital part of life. In 2013, 13 million Americans were victims of identity theft. Hackers are in constant pursuit of our most valuable information and unfortunately few of us actually know how to protect ourselves from these internet villains. Once a hacker has obtained your username and password information, they are able to break into any online account that you have. Your bank accounts are at risk, your online shopping carts, your credit, and everything else you value online. I urge readers to not only study this article, but to search for more information on how to protect your online identity.
1. First, DEVELOP YOUR BASIC HYGIENE HABITS for your online use. If you make it a habit to use different personas for all of your accounts, it will be harder to crack your code. Use separate email accounts for your banking than you do for your credit card, and another for your insurance or mortgage account. Routinely change your username and passwords and use passwords that are more difficult and lengthy.
2. Next, MAKE SURE YOU ADJUST YOUR ACCOUNT SETTINGS. Very often default browsers are set to disclose rather than secure your online information. Though adjusting these settings creates an extra step to your online user experience, it is worth taking the time to protect your most valued assets. Its like locking your doors when you leave your house, it may take a moment, but it is necessary.
3. LOCATE AND UTILIZE SPECIFIC PRIVACY ENHANCING TOOLS. There are tools for browsers that will heighten your personal security and inform you on what service providers are able to see from your online activity.
4. MANAGE YOUR COOKIES. Find your browser’s “cookie store” and view how many cookies have been set by sites you weren’t aware of visiting. Your browser may also have an option to block third party cookies.
5. CHECK YOUR PRIVACY SETTINGS. Check what permissions apply to photos you upload, and consider expressing your preferences through mechanisms like Creative Commons licensing. By default when you share a photo via a smart phone or device, you will automatically be sharing the location and time it was taken.
6. Finally, make sure you UNDERSTAND THE REALITIES OF ONLINE SHARING. Once you have shared something you lose the ability to un-share it, and once you have visited a website or created an account, you may lose the ability to erase your digital footprint.
The bottom line is good privacy is like healthy eating habits. If you incorporate it into your daily routine, you will have a better quality of digital life.