Imagine you’re going about your day when all of a sudden, you’re notified that someone logged into your bank account. Or, you finally get a second to relax from a long day of classes, then you get a text that someone is using your identity for a fake profile on a dating app. These scenarios and others like them are far too common, but fear not—there are easy steps you can take to protect yourself online.
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, which recognizes the importance of protecting computerized systems, networks and programs from unauthorized access and digital attacks. As reports of identity fraud become commonplace, keeping your social media, email and other personal accounts safe is essential to your online identity.
In partnership with Erman Ayday, an assistant professor of Case Western Reserve University’s Department of Computer and Data Sciences, The Daily gathered four simple ways to protect your online identity.
1. Use strong passwords to protect your accounts.
Today, most websites require users to create a password with a minimum length, one lowercase letter, one uppercase letter, one number and one symbol. To ensure your passwords are not easily guessed by an unauthorized user, do not use basic information such as your name or birthday. Also, be conscious of using the same passwords repeatedly across multiple online service providers and social networks. Even if you have a fairly strong password, but use it everywhere, there is a chance you could be putting yourself at risk. For additional security, use two-factor authentication if available to be able to control your accounts even if your password is breached.
2. Avoid sharing personal information online.
Sharing your location, address, social security number, health status and other personal information is the easiest way to lead to identity theft and account hijacking. It’s best to steer clear of creating posts, leaving comments, or including sensitive information in public spaces that are easily accessible to others. Today, the average American has their personal information spread across hundreds of publicly available databases easily accessible by hackers. Due to this, you should never use sensitive information as account recovery hints or other methods to protect your online accounts.
3. Monitor and protect your network.
There are tons of connected devices that a hacker can use to break into your home network and access your personal information. You are only as secure as your weakest link, so it’s helpful to implement end-to-end encryption between services. You have to be just as vigilant of your online identity in public places as you are at home. Anytime you use a public computer, always sign off at the end of your session and delete personal files.
4. Be mindful of granting rights to applications, websites and other online services.
Whether you own an Android, iPhone or similar product, smartphones often ask for all sorts of permissions—from a gaming application asking for access to your contacts to social media applications requesting access to your photo gallery. Be careful not to grant permissions that are not required for an application to operate. You also have the ability to customize and revoke these permissions at any time in the device’s settings.