The Ultimate Guide To Protecting Your Online Identity

With social media having penetrated in all aspect of our lives, keeping your personal data secure and private becomes quite a challenge. Ebay, Evernote, Adobe, Court Ventures, the US Military and now notorious Ashley Madison are just a few companies who failed with keeping customers’ databases safe.

Even if you think you are browsing the web privacy-aware, you may be rather surprised with the amount of your private data listed publicly on the Internet. Just launch a quick search with User Search – a deep web engine that helps you locate places where your personal data like email, mobile phone and more is publicly available. Found some personal records where they are not supposed to be? This tool also allows you to identify website/company owners through their IP address to contact them directly or even make a DMCA claim. It’s a particularly handy option when it comes to social media squatting .

If you are a public persona – a journalist, entrepreneur, business owner or a major niche influencer; protecting your online identity and personal data should become your number one concern.

Secure Your Social Media

Though Facebook now forces users to sign up with their real names only – a policy found rather controversial by a large amount of users, you can still omit listing some essential data like your phone number, address, family connections and more. Those small bits of personal records are enough for a skilled hacker to break into your online storage account or track your credit card data.

On your personal profiles, minimize the details in “About Me” section and stay selective about shooting updates on your location with geo tags and hitting the “like” button just too frequently.

Change your privacy settings to “Friends Only” for all the content you share and avoid connecting with people you do not know in person. Additionally go to Settings -> Privacy and make special adjustments when it comes to getting friend requests or finding your profile through email or phone number. Also, disable other search engines from linking to your profile if you prefer not to have your profile listed in Google Search results.

Third party apps can be a major hazard when it comes to personal information security – including games, quizzes, online polls and other apps that request access to certain information when authenticating through social media.  In fact, avoid using Facebook as a login option when it’s possible.

Using Secure Passwords

Passwords are always underestimated when it comes to privacy. The golden rule here is: the easier it is to remember – the easier it is to crack. Sure, remembering a bunch of long complicated passwords is somewhat uncomfortable unless you are using a secure password manager like One Password or Last Pass.  Both of them allow storing passwords online or locally and synced with other devices; encourages you to use stronger passwords in general, conduct timely audits and even automatically change passwords for you.

Always use two-factor authentication whenever the option is available and change your password once you see any odd log activity in your account.  Never allow websites or browsers to store your login/password data, especially when you are using public Wi-Fi networks.

Never open emails sent from unlisted contacts or containing suspicious links and downloads. In fact, the less software and files you download from the web – the less are the chances of getting your data hacked.

To avoid having your cookies tracked and stored, use private browsing modes when using Chrome and Firefox.

Conducting Online Payments

With eCommerce and online services on the rise, you are now spending more and more dollars online. As a result, credit card data theft is now on the rise with billions of dollars vanishing from users’ accounts each other month.

Always shop through protected https:// connections. Whenever this option isn’t available or you are dealing with an unknown online merchant rather than making a payment through your credit card directly, use online payment systems like PayPal or virtual credit cards like Visa Entropay. Sure, that means some extra dollars spent in commission, however if anything goes wrong the hacker will not have direct access to your bank account.

Keep a close eye on your bank statements and cross check your receipts with the payment history on the statements when it’s possible. In general, whenever you see odd transactions (even small ones), consider making an inquiry to your bank.

Make the following tips parts of your daily web routine. While taking just a few minutes a day, they can save you hours of frustrations if your personal data gets in the wrong hands!

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Written by:
Dianna is a former ESL teacher and World Teach volunteer, currently living in France. She's slightly addicted to apps and viral media trends and helps different companies with product localization and content strategies. You can tweet her at @dilabrien
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