Cyber Security 101: How to Protect Not Only Your Home, But Your Identity

How Does Cyber Security Work?

There are many new smart home technologies available that can provide additional security for our homes.  However, have you ever stopped to think about your digital footprint? It’s not usually something we think about until we have had a potential data breach or stolen identity. But it’s important to be aware of and safeguard your digital footprint so that you can protect your identity. Cyber security is something we should all be familiar with, as we live in a time where our data is shared just about everywhere.

What Is Your Digital Footprint?

Your digital footprint is the trail you leave for all of the activities you do online. Think about what types of things you do online in your everyday life. You make online purchases, post on your social media, sign up for newsletters and free offers, complete surveys, check the weather forecast, and much more.

Everything that you do online creates a digital trail, which can include your IP address and personal details that you share online. An IP address is a unique series of numbers assigned to each internet-connected device. It may reveal the city, area code, and zip code from where you are connecting. But don’t worry too much. It doesn’t contain your name, mailing address, or phone number. The purpose is that data can be tracked and analyzed by marketers, credit card companies, advertisers, law enforcement agencies, and other organizations to learn about your online habits and create a customized profile of you.

As creepy as that sounds, it’s simply the online version of your personal footprints you leave behind when you walk on a sandy beach. Others will be able to see where you have been, of course.  But unlike footprints in the sand that eventually wash away, your digital footprints can be permanent.

Are Digital Footprints Beneficial Or Can They Do More Harm Than Good?

Digital footprints can be beneficial for a variety of reasons. They can make the time you spend online more personalized and convenient. This explains why you see targeted ads when you search the internet or scroll on social media.

Unfortunately, the downside of digital footprints is that they can make you vulnerable to identity theft, decreased privacy, and unwanted solicitations. Cybercriminals use digital footprints to create targeted social engineering schemes, phishing attacks, and other online scams.

The Importance Of Cyber Security

It’s extremely important to protect yourself from identity theft and other cyber attacks. With the common use of smartphones and computers, we can check our banking and credit card accounts, view our medical records, apply for loans, and so much more. Even checking your weather app, you are using your location on your mobile device, which shows the area in which you are located when you are in possession of your phone. There is so much of our personal data floating around in the cyber world on a daily basis.

Common Concerns About Cyber Attacks

The most common concern about cyber attacks is identity theft. We don’t always check our credit reports until we want to purchase real estate or apply for another type of large loan. If you haven’t checked your credit reports in a while, you may be surprised to find that you have credit cards under your name that you didn’t sign up for. When a cyber criminal obtains your personal identification information, they can easily set up credit card accounts in your name, then charge up a large bill they don’t have to pay!  This can damage your credit history and give you a bad credit score, making it difficult to obtain loans. 

How To Safeguard Your Digital Footprint

There are ways you can protect yourself and limit the potential dangerous impacts on your digital footprints.

Google yourself.

Actually, try it with multiple search engines. Scroll through the first few pages and see what the results are. You may find that your personal information is listed on certain websites. If you want it removed, or if you find incorrect, misleading, or inappropriate information, you can contact the site administrator to request to have it removed. 

Set alerts.

After you do the search, you can set up alerts to keep track of your online mentions in the future. You will receive notifications when your name appears online. Keep in mind that other people in the world may have the same name as you. You can add keywords to your search that are associated with you, such as your hometown or your business name.

Adjust your privacy settings.

Online service providers, such as social media, email, e-commerce, search engine web browser, and video conferencing give users the ability to manage the privacy settings on their accounts. Take the time to learn about privacy settings and adjust them accordingly on these types of services you use. The National Cybersecurity Alliance provides direct links to manage your privacy settings on the most popular sites. Try using more restrictive privacy settings to reduce your digital footprint and decrease your risk of fraud. Keep in mind this may delete your search history, block pop-up ads, and other useful things you have become accustomed to. However, your online security is important, so do what you feel is best for you.

Restrict mobile app permissions.

When you grant access to your photos, location, camera, contacts, and other information on your mobile devices, this makes your data available to the app owner. Be careful and make sure you trust the company when giving access to your data. Keep in mind that you can still use many of these apps without granting all of the permissions they request.

Deactivate online accounts you no longer use.

The more online accounts you have, the more digital footprints. You can close accounts you set up with retailers that you no longer shop with. Also, be more selective about opening new online accounts. You can checkout as a guest with an online retailer to reduce the need of stored data.

In Summary

There are many other things you can do to protect your data, your online security, and even your home. These are a few basic tips to get you started. Remember to be careful what you post online to your social media account and neighborhood apps. Don’t reveal too much about where you live. Be cautious with taking online surveys that are meant to collect your data. Once you become more aware of these data collection schemes, you will get better at protecting yourself and your family from possible cyber attacks and scams.  

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