The 21st Century world has migrated online. Your health records are hosted online. Your banking is transacted online. Many go to school online. Citizenship and national identity details are ultimately hosted online. You maintain an online presence and identity that requires protection in much the same way as you purchase home alarm systems and live behind fences and gates.
More so, it would seem. Recent instances of security breaches involving high-profile individuals and tech-heavy companies highlight the perils associated with technology. The hack of Sony’s Playstation Network readily comes to mind.
What you post online can be seen by anyone. Data you volunteer online can be exposed, in which case there is nothing you can do about it. The key is ensuring that whatever information you release doesn’t come back to haunt you.
Protecting Your Identity While Online
Personal Information: Your address, family members’ names, passport information, dates of birth, PIN numbers, car details, health status and the like are private. Keep them to yourself.
Photos: Taking pictures with your smartphone usually means they are given a GPS signature which could reveal your location. If you upload your pictures, use privacy settings to restrict access to them.
Emails, phishing and malware: Be cautious when opening unsolicited mails, as they could infect your computer with viruses or subject you to fraud, malware or scam. Some viruses harm your computer while others are able to steal your personal information and ultimately your identity. Some mails claiming to emanate from your bank, especially when they require you to enter personal or financial information, should be treated with suspicion.
Public computers: Avoid typing in sensitive information when you are in a public environment such as a library or an internet café. Some of the computers have spyware tracking your keystrokes and your personal information could be compromised.
Educating children: Children should be educated about the hidden dangers of the internet, and taught about safe use of the internet. Teach them never to display identifying information on the internet, or post pictures, sensitive information or details of upcoming activities on the internet. On a personal security note, they should be taught never to meet in person with people they meet online.
Parental control: Internet use by children should be supervised. Periodically review their emails and, if possible, have software installed which limits their internet use to safe parts of the internet.
Webcams: Webcams can be hijacked and turned on remotely, giving intruders access to your home. Arrange to have them disabled or disconnected when not in use. Educate children about the risks.
Wireless: Be cautious when using your laptop on unsecured networks. Hackers on the network can intercept your internet activity and even access files on your computer.
Shopping: Avoid making purchases from insecure websites. Secure websites use ‘HTTPS’ in their address line.
Selling: Avoid selling or listing goods in classified ads online. Never meet people alone, and if you do, it should be in a busy place. Avoid using pictures taken on a smartphone to sell goods and items, or you could be leading criminals to your home address.