Digital advances have come fast and furious over the last two decades. Every miraculous breakthrough is very quickly superseded by the next; many of them going on to capture the imagination of millions of people around the world and entering the mass market bracket. Among them are Facebook, Instagram, Google, iPod, Android, Ipad, Iphone, Cloud apps, Twitter, and so many others. That’s why it’s so important to take steps to protect your identity.
Today, a lot more communication and transactions are done in the digital space. As a result, there is more and more personal information that people are sharing online. The result has led to a severe information security problem, in light of the prevalence of ill-intentioned people and techno-savvy hackers out to access your data for various purposes.
In this information era, data that is shared via the internet can easily be used for criminal purposes such as:
- Social security number
- Religious information
- Tastes and preferences
- Workplace and work history
- Email identity
- Financial information such as credit card number, debit card number, and bank account number
Protecting your identity online against identity theft is strongly advised, and here is how you can do it.
What does identity theft mean?
Identity theft is when a person accesses and uses another person’s confidential information and other data for unauthorized purposes such as credit card manipulation and usage, access to financial services, and other nefarious activities.
How can you protect your identity and data online? Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Create different online identities
Having multiple digital characters will confuse potential identity thieves and hackers. There are various ways you can achieve this;
- Use separate email addresses for private communications and official (workplace) communications. Never use the two interchangeably.
- Create one email identity for use in government and bank and finance related communications such as insurance, home loans, and credit companies. This email should NEVER feature in social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
- Create a different email address for personal stuff such as your mobile phone, internet services payments, cable TV, and landline phone.
- Have a third email identity for social media use. This one will be used strictly for sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter
- A fourth email address will be necessary as the character to use to access various apps and websites. Many of these ask for your email identity before you can access their services or content.
2. Use Passphrase instead of Password
The username and Password we use for our emails are the soldiers at the gate guarding our digital identity. As such, they should be chosen carefully for maximum security. Use password managers like Dashlane, I pass, and LastPass. Make your Password as tricky as possible. Even if you are not so inclined to engage password managers, as so many of us do not, at least take some necessary precautions such as;
- Use passphrase, comprising at least three random words, instead of Password.
- The passphrase should have a minimum of 8 characters. Also, ensure it includes spaces. Ideally, make it 16 characters.
- Mix numbers with letters and other symbols on your keyboard
- Do not use the apparent statistics like your birthday or children’s birthdays
- To strengthen your passphrase, avoid using easy to link words like the month of birth, favorite sport, children’s names, etc.
- Use a different passphrase for your other email identities.
Simple passwords are too enticing for hackers to crack. If you use the same simple Password for many different emails and sites, you are making it very easy for hackers to access all your data. If you insist on simplicity, at least make some effort to use a more complex password for sites that contain data relating to your bank account and other financial information.
3. Use a second-tier verification and identity method
A secure password and paraphrase are not entirely protective when it comes to sophisticated and highly skilled hackers. If you have reason to believe that you can be a target of hackers willing to expend time and effort hacking you (perhaps you are a wealthy person or a political person, or you hold a sensitive leadership position), have additional access security.
4. Develop security conscious online behavior
To ensure maximum security with all the information you share online, over and above the tips; given, think safety at all times when you are online. For example, you should;
- Make use of quality antivirus software, which is regularly updated, for all your electronic devices like computers, laptops, and smartphones.
- Be alert for spam mail
- Avoid using public WIFI
- Be alert for phishing emails, especially those making offers and giving services you did not apply.
5. Keep in touch with news and developments to protect your identity
Keep alert and stay informed by following current news about the latest events in internet security, including incidents of breaches.
Subscribe to sites that provide information on the latest online security developments.
The majority of us cannot do without the internet. It has made life so much easier and saved us a lot of time and money by drastically reducing physical travel. It has, alas, also invited a host of miscreants who view it as an easy place to access your hard earned money. Take care not to fall prey to them by following as much advice about ways to protect your identity as possible.