Protecting Your Online Identity
As cyber security attacks continue to increase in frequency and complexity alongside evolving technologies, the COVID-19 pandemic, and remote work and school, it is essential to prioritize protecting your identity online. According to Javelin’s 2021 Identity Fraud Study: Shifting Angles, 49 million Americans fell victim to identity fraud in 2020, costing an estimated $56 billion US dollars. Strikingly, $43 billion in losses stemmed from scams which targeted consumers directly either via robocalls or phishing emails. Staying informed on best practices for protecting your online identity is your first line of defense for preventing yourself from falling victim to identity fraud attacks.
Update the below chart with stats from Javelin Identity Fraud Report cited above:
Tracing your Online Identity
You've most likely been giving away information about yourself online for years through social media, professional networks, and ancestry sites. Practically all the answers to common security questions can be found on these sites, even if you no longer frequent them. Cyber criminals can easily develop a profile about you by collecting personal information available from these online locations. This profile can then be used to exploit many areas of your personal or professional life, including that of identity theft.
Below are examples of the types of personal information stored, and subsequently accessible, on common sites:
- Social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram): Your birth date, email address, home city/state, interests/hobbies, favorite food, places frequently visited, vacations, life events (wedding, births, deaths), photos, relationships, and your conversations with friends and family.
- Professional network sites (LinkedIn, career sites): Your birth date, phone numbers, photo, email address, work history, education, skills, professional affiliations, certifications, languages spoken, and your professional associations and connections.
- School and classmate sites: Your education, school names, hometown, nicknames, friends, and connections.
- Ancestry/genealogy sites: Your birth date, family members, maiden name, hometown, birth city.
- Internet public records, maps, newspapers, and White Pages: Your address, previous addresses, phone numbers, property tax records, property value, pictures of your home, criminal records, court ruling, bankruptcy data, obituaries, weddings/marriages, and legal filings.
- Old site accounts: Remember Friendster, MySpace, WebKinz, WiiChat, NeoPets, FarmVille, and countless other sites you once used but are now just a thing of the past? These sites live on — along with your personal information — long after you have moved on to the latest popular site.
How to Protect Your Online Identity
To protect your online identity, you must treat your personal information like gold, and not give it away freely. To control the amount of personal information about you online and to protect the information that is already out there, consider the following tips from our ACA cyber experts:
- Follow password best practice recommendations and never reuse passwords. Access controls may be the last line of defense, so use unique, complex passwords for each site and multi-factor authentication wherever possible. See our password strength best practices
Keep systems and software updated with the latest versions and security patches.
Perform a cleanup of the sites you use on a regular basis and reduce the personal information you make public. Review and implement privacy settings to minimize who can view your information.
Revisit old sites you no longer use to remove personal information or delete the account entirely.
Opt out, delete private information, and remove listings from as many sites as possible.
Use an ID monitoring service (e.g., LifeLock, IdentityForce, ID Watchdog).
Freeze your credit for free with one of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Transunion, and Experian).
Enable multiple alerting options (email/SMS/phone) with your financial institutions.
For More Information
If you have any questions, please contact your regular ACA Aponix consultant or contact us here.