Imagine if you started receiving bills for goods and services you had never purchased, or if your bank account was suddenly emptied, or if multiple instances of you were discovered to be claiming benefits all over the country. These things really happen, and identity theft of this kind can ruin lives. How can we protect our identities online and remain safe?
What Is Your Online ID?
Think of your online identity as multi-dimensional. It’s more than a set of basic stats lifted off a sheet of paper. It is both personal data and sensitive personal data. Your online identity includes both information you upload about yourself, together with what others say and post about you: conversation, images, places you go, people you see. Collected together this data builds up a rounded picture of the real you.
Personal Data And Sensitive Personal Data:
Personal Data is information such as your name, address and age, data which identifies you as a living person. Sensitive Data is racial or ethnic information, religious beliefs, political affiliations, sexual orientation, and medical and criminal records (if any). (Information Commissioner’s Office ico.org.uk). You must take care to keep this data private. A good start is to say “no” to those sites that want to share it for third party marketing purposes. You don’t need all that email spam anyway. Just say no.
Understand How Your Digital Identity Grows Organically:
A project undertaken by the University of Reading, This Is Me, explains how our digital identities grow on the net. The site offers workbooks and exercises aimed at helping you understand and manage yours.
What Is Online Fraud And How Do They Do It?
Today’s cyber criminals are organised, sophisticated and global. These groups need your money to fund far more serious forms of crime and they want your credit card details, and access to your bank accounts. We do ourselves a favour, and help to keep our own societies civilised if we contribute to the effort to keep our own identities safe. Here some basic tips to help stop the fraudsters accessing and stealing yours.
Change The Locks:
The Daisy Chain. Remember those from when you were a kid? Pretty weren’t they? A lovely little string of daisies, all matching and all chained together, all the same, like your passwords. Once the hacker has got into your first account, he is into all of them. So don’t do it. Create a different password for every single one of your online accounts, all hundred of them. You heard me.
Strength. Create a strong password. Most sites will guide you on one this. Include upper and lower case letters, characters and numbers. Still using ADMIN123? Shame on you. WordPress users had a nasty scare recently when all guilty sites were hacked. How many times does WordPress have to tell you to change it?
Security settings. You must check your security settings on every site you sign up to. Boring? Yes we know, when you’re itching to get through to the fun stuff, so plan a separate 15 minutes when you will do it, and get in the frame of mind. Social media sites in particular, have default settings that make your personal and sensitive data publicly accessible. This means over time, the cyber-criminal can build up a detailed profile of your real identity and maybe then he can apply for credit cards in your name, and you won’t even know about it. Scary or what?
Barbarians At The Gate:
You need a good security software package on your computer, if you are a Windows user. Run scans regularly, use the Registry Cleaner a lot (just press the button) and upgrade the software when it demands it. For a mere twenty odd pounds a year, you can help to keep the malware out. It is false economy not to have it.
Fiona Faith Ross lives in South Devon, UK. She’s an English teacher from a family of English teachers. She writes science fiction, with a focus on the interaction between humans and technology. Her debut novel for YA, Far Out, is published on Kindle. Her interests include web technologies, literature, painting and writing. She knows the importance of great protection both online and physically, and that’s why she recommends Accident Advice Helpline.