Privacy and the Internet: How to Secure Your Identity Online

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When making online purchases, you should know that websites collect personal information pertinent to your transaction, such as your credit card details and billing address.

Sometimes, these websites may use your private data to customize your preferences, like marketing specific products related to the purchase you made.

But how do you determine if your purchase was legitimate? And how do you know that the information you provided won’t be used against you? Simply put, how do you protect your identity online?

Some solutions may be as simple as using stronger passwords or keeping your antivirus software updated. For businesses, one security measure may be to install secure endpoint solutions to protect workstations from malware and other threats.

This article explains what online privacy is and how you can protect your online identity from unauthorized access.

What Is Online Privacy?

Online privacy is the amount of protection you have over your private data when you connect to the internet.

On a broad scale, online privacy covers how your personal information is used, collected, and stored. Many websites and online services collect personal data so you can utilize those services according to your preferences.

Personal information refers not only to details such as your mother’s maiden name, your date of birth, or where you live. Personal information may also include:

  • Your current location
  • The shops you often visit
  • The types of items you purchase

This information may be collected by the websites you visit or third parties associated with those sites to provide you with services that match your preferences.

While this method of using personal information may be convenient for you to a certain degree, unchecked usage of private data may be harmful in the long run.

Without the appropriate security measures to protect your personal information, you may become vulnerable to various risks like malware attacks, phishing scams, and even identity theft.

What Are the Ways to Protect Your Online Identity?

Some people get anxious when it comes to sharing details on any online platform, so they do some alternative treatments to calm themselves or research some ways on how to secure their profiles.

Below are some of the popular methods to secure your online identity and protect your personal information.

Keep Security Software Up-to-Date

New viruses and malware come out almost every day. Without an updated security application such as an antivirus or anti-malware software, you increase the chances of your computer being infected.

Criminals may use these viruses or malware to infect your computer and steal your private data. These criminals may deliver the virus or malware through various means like email, questionable websites, or USB drives.

At the very least, the viruses may slow down or damage your computer or device. At worst, the criminals may acquire your personal information without your consent. They may even demand a ransom for you to get your data back.

Keeping your security software updated reduces the risk of viruses and malware infecting your computer or device. In turn, criminals may be less likely to get hold of your private data.

Use Strong Passwords

Criminals may sometimes brute-force their way to access your personal information by guessing your password. You may think this method is less likely to work, but many people use passwords that are easy to crack.

In NordPass’ list of the top 200 common passwords for 2020, “123456” topped the list with over two million users using this series of numbers.

A determined hacker may break this password in less than a second. Additionally, most of the passwords in the top 200 list may be cracked in less than a few seconds, proving how easy breaking those passwords can be.

Use stronger passwords to make it harder or even impossible for criminals to break your password and access your private data.

Consider any or all of the following methods to strengthen your password management:

  • Use longer passwords with eight or ten characters or more
  • Combine uppercase and lowercase letters, special symbols, and numbers
  • Do not use sequential characters like “12345” or “ABCDE”
  • Do not incorporate your private details like date of birth, address, or social security number into your password
  • You may use password generators to create strong passwords
  • Use two-factor authentication (2FA) to add another security layer on top of your password
  • Consider changing passwords regularly

Beware of Phishing Scams

Have you received an email from a long-lost relative or your boss asking for personal details that they might otherwise not have asked? Have you asked them personally, and they told you they never sent such an email?

If so, there is a chance you were a phishing victim.

Phishing scams involve some level of social engineering where the message sender pretends to be someone you know to trick you into revealing private information to them.

Some of the usual phishing methods are done through email, instant messaging, and social networking sites. The victim is often asked to download an attachment or click a link to a website.

The attachment may contain malware, or the link may redirect to a fake website. That website may pretend to be a legitimate entity, like a government agency, your bank, or your workplace.

Study the message details first before replying or clicking any suspicious links. Some telltale signs that the message is a phishing scam include questionable URL links or spelling and grammar mistakes.

Activating the spam filter in your email account may also minimize the chance of falling victim to phishing scams.

Ensure Sites Are Reputable When Making Purchases

Whether you are a frequent online buyer or an avid online sports betting fan, secure your identity by ensuring that the websites are legitimate. Check if they have appropriate security measures in place.

Check the reviews from other customers who made purchases from that site. Find out if the website has a privacy policy or uses a secure and encrypted connection. In addition, inspect the URL if the link is correct or legitimate.

Website addresses starting in HTTPS are more secure than those beginning with HTTP. HTTPS links are also safer for financial transactions.

Aside from being reputable, websites should provide purchase confirmation or an order tracking feature.

Conclusion

Most internet users automatically assume that nothing online remains private. Every time you go online, send an email, visit a website, or make an online purchase, you transmit a certain amount of personal data into the public domain.

Even when you upload a photo to a social networking site and set the picture to private, there may still be a chance that a stranger may “capture” that image.

However, there are ways to prevent or minimize the chances of unauthorized access to your personal information. Even simple tasks like updating security software and using solid passwords may significantly reduce such risks.

Consult an IT security expert for more information on how you can protect your online identity.

Last Updated on December 15th, 2023