Let’s Reverse the Threat of Identity Theft!!
Our online identities are critical. In fact, you could argue that they are our single most unique asset. Whether we are applying for a job, a mortgage or even starting a new relationship, keeping our online identity protected, secure and authentic is essential.
This week is Stay Smart Online Week in Australia – an initiative by the Australian Government to encourage us all to all take a moment and rethink our online safety practices. This year the theme is ‘Reverse the Threat’ which is all about encouraging Aussies to take proactive steps to control their online identity and stop the threat of cybercrime.
What Actually Is My Online Identity?
On a simple level, your online identity is the reputation you have generated for yourself online – both intentionally or unintentionally. So, an accumulation of the pics you have posted, the pages you have liked and the comments you have shared. Some will often refer to this as your personal brand. Proactively managing this is critical for employments prospects and possibly even potential relationship opportunities.
However, there is another layer to your online identity that affects more than just your job or potential career opportunities. And that’s the transactional component. Your online identity also encompasses all your online movements since the day you ‘joined’ the internet. So, every time you have registered for an online account; given your email address to gain access or log in; joined a social media platform; undertaken a web search; or made a transaction, you have contributed to your digital identity.
What Are Aussies Doing to Protect Their Online Identities?
New research from McAfee shows Aussies have quite a relaxed attitude to managing their online identities. In fact, a whopping two thirds (67%) of Aussies admit to being embarrassed by the content that appears on their social media profiles. And just to make the picture even more complicated, 34% of Aussies admit to never increasing the privacy on their accounts from the default privacy settings despite knowing how to.
Why Does My Online Identity Really Matter?
As well as the potential to hurt career or future relationship prospects, a relaxed attitude to managing our online identities could be leaving the door open for cybercriminals. If you are posting about recent purchases, your upcoming holidays and ‘checking-in’ at your current location then you are making it very easy for cybercriminals to put together a picture of you and possibly steal your identity. And having none or even default privacy settings in place effectively means you are handing this information to cybercrims on a platter!!
Is Identity Theft Really Big Problem?
As at the end of June, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission claims that Aussies have lost at least $16 million so far this year through banking scams and identity theft. And many experts believe that this statistic could represent the ‘tip of the iceberg’ as it often takes victims some time to realise that their details are being used by someone else.
Whether it’s phishing scams; texts impersonating banks; fake online quizzes; phoney job ads, or information skimmed from social media, cybercriminals have become very savvy at developing novel ways of stealing online identities.
What Can You Do to ‘Reverse the Threat’ and Protect Your Online Identity?
With so much at stake, securing your online identity is more important than ever. Here are my top tips on what you can do to give yourself every chance of securing your digital credentials:
Passwords, Passwords, Passwords
As the average consumer manages a whopping 11 online accounts – social media, shopping, banking, entertainment, the list goes on – updating our passwords is an important ‘cyber hygiene’ practice that is often neglected.
Creating long and unique passwords using a variety of upper and lowercase numbers, letters and symbols is an essential way of protecting yourself and your digital assets online. And if that all feels too complicated, why not consider a password management solution? Password managers help you create, manage and organise your passwords. Some security software solutions include a password manager such as McAfee Total Protection.
Turn on Two-Factor Authentication Wherever Possible!
Enabling two-factor authentication for your accounts will add an extra layer of defence against cybercriminals. Two-factor authentication is simply a security process in which the user provides 2 different authentication factors to verify themselves before gaining access to an online account. As one of the verification methods is usually an extra password or one-off code delivered through a separate personal device like a smartphone, it makes it much harder for cybercriminals to gain access to a person’s device or online accounts.
Lock Down Privacy and Security Settings
Leaving your social media profiles on ‘public’ setting means anyone who has access to the internet can view your posts and photos whether you want them to or not. While you should treat everything you post online as public, turning your profiles to private will give you more control over who can see your content and what people can tag you in.
Use Public Wi-Fi With Caution
If you are serious about managing your online identity, then you need to use public Wi-Fi sparingly. Unsecured public Wi-Fi is a very risky business. Anything you share could easily find its way into the hands of cybercriminals. So, avoid sharing any sensitive or personal information while using public Wi-Fi. If you travel regularly or spend the bulk of your time on the road then consider investing in a VPN such as McAfee Safe Connect. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypts your activity which means your login details and other sensitive information is protected. A great insurance policy!
Thinking it all sounds a little too hard? Don’t! Identity theft happens to Aussies every day with those affected experiencing real distress and financial damage. So, do your homework and take every step possible to protect yourself, for as Benjamin Franklin said: ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’.