“Out of sight, out of mind,” cyber criminals exploit this aspect of your digital footprint the most. They’re well-versed in manipulating it for their benefit, leaving many in the dark about how their personal details are exploited online.
Thankfully, just a few hours of your time is all it takes to make it near-impossible for them to take advantage of your digital footprint. Are you ready to give hackers the cold shoulder? Here are ways to protect your digital footprint.
What is your online footprint?
A digital trail is left by every online activity – posting on social media, purchasing, enrolling for a newsletter, checking the weather, filling out surveys, or sharing an article. All these actions lead to a digital footprint that can reveal personal details such as IP address, geographic location while connecting, and other shared online information. Don’t assume that IP addresses only reveal geographic location information. This information is valuable for identity and behavioral tracking by credit card issuers, marketers, advertisers, law enforcement agencies, and other organizations.
Why is it important to secure your digital footprint?
Digital trails can have some advantages. They can simplify your online life with personalization, with tailored food orders being remembered and grouped with personalized offers. You can even enhance a “positive” representation of yourself to important stakeholders online by shaping your image through social media posts, messaging, and further online actions. On the contrary, your digital tracks could also lead to many negative occurrences, like identity theft, privacy breaches, and unwanted solicitations. Cybercriminals could further use collected information on these tracks to unleash effective social engineering attacks.
How to protect your digital footprint?
#1 Do something with old accounts
Even dormant shopping and social media accounts may retain financial and personal data. Ditch your worries about possible breaches by deleting or deactivating those accounts. Simply visit the account settings of any app, account, or website that no longer interests you, and deactivate or delete your account.
#2 Use a Virtual Private Network
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) secures all your internet data and IP address from tracking by anyone online. Whether you tap into local businesses’ public Wi-Fi, the VPN prevents your data from getting hacked. Additionally, it maximizes privacy and security, and it adds an extra layer of protection for data collection. Some VPNs are so effective that they can even fool services. For example, you want to watch movies that are not available in your region. The only way to watch BBC iPlayer USA is to be physically or virtually in the USA. The same VeePN can virtually move you to the US by changing your IP address. In addition, you can use the free trial version.
#3 Deactivate old email accounts
As email evolved through the years, most accounts are left idle and abandoned with personal and sensitive information in old messages. Neglecting them makes personal data an open book and vulnerable to hacking. Instead of risking your privacy, it is best to delete unused accounts to protect yourself.
#4 Use tighter privacy settings
Social media, e-commerce, email, search engines, online conferencing, and various other service providers normally offer users the chance to manage privacy settings for their accounts. By opting for more restrictive privacy settings, you could minimize your digital footprint and find greater peace of mind. Mind you, security upgrades can have some disadvantages like in the case of deleting search history. Doing so could make future searches more inconvenient. Blocking pop-up ads could also lead to the missing of some ads or interesting offers. Remember that enhanced security can sometimes lead to certain trade-offs.
#5 Rethink your relationship with social media
It is important to exercise caution when revealing personal information online, even with stricter privacy settings. For instance, think twice before participating in social media surveys as they can disclose confidential data. Likewise, sharing pictures of your loved ones might seem harmless but bear in mind that others can also share them without your permission, putting your information at risk.
#6 Unsubscribe from mailing lists
On occasion, when we browse or shop online, we may enter our mailing address to receive the latest deals or discounts. However, when we accumulate a lot of subscriptions on various mailing lists, our inboxes can quickly become cluttered. In an effort to reduce your digital footprint and limit the number of third parties with access to your data, start unsubscribing from the non-essential mailing lists. Most people do not read all of the newsletters and ads they receive anyway.
#7 Disable location tracking
By enabling location tracking, you can receive location-specific recommendations when searching for nearby businesses. However, this also means that your security could be compromised if you permit location tracking at all times. Therefore, it’s important to keep an eye on which apps and services have access to your location and ensure they only track you whilst using the service.
While the convenience of a digital footprint has its advantages, it can also open you up to potential dangers like identity theft and data breaches. For this reason, it is essential that you take steps to ensure your digital security. By taking precautionary measures such as deleting dormant accounts or using a VPN, you can protect yourself from online threats and reduce your digital footprint.