How to protect your identity online

how to protect your identity online blog

Identity theft is a serious problem plaguing individuals and businesses in Australia. In fact, the Australian Federal Police reported that identity crime costs the country over $1.6 billion each year. This is largely because cybercriminals are using increasingly sophisticated methods to gain access to devices, accounts, and data. Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do to protect your identity online.

Mind what you share on social media

While everyone knows not to divulge financial information on social media, small details are enough to put your identity in jeopardy. For instance, hackers can glean contact information, address, and answers to password reset questions from your Facebook profile. Even something as harmless as posting geotagged selfies tells hackers where you are and reveals sensitive information in the background.

Avoid these risks by setting your account settings to private and being cautious about accepting friend requests. Ideally, you should only accept friend requests from people you’ve met in real life. Additionally, turn off geotagging and don’t post anything that may compromise your security. This includes details about your travel itinerary, daily schedule, and contact information.

Stick to secure websites

Be careful of the websites you visit, especially when entering sensitive information or making an online transaction. Don’t unwittingly trust professional-looking websites. Thoroughly assess the website before entering your personal details and credentials. You can tell a site is secure if the URL has an “https” or lock icon. This indicates the site uses end-to-end encryption protocols to keep your data safe.

Secure your devices

Cybercriminals are constantly developing sophisticated attacks to steal your personal information. To mitigate these threats, install anti-malware software and mobile device management (MDM) systems. The former protects your devices from data-stealing computer viruses, spyware, and other malicious programs. Meanwhile, MDM systems allow you to monitor your mobile devices from a centralised console and wipe them remotely in case they’re lost or stolen.

Also, make sure your apps and devices have the latest security updates. These patch system vulnerabilities that allow hackers to compromise your accounts and steal your identity.

Minimise app security risks 

It’s possible for apps to have too much access to your sensitive data. For example, there are apps that track your location, record browsing history, and even share data with other third-party apps. If these apps are compromised, hackers will have unfettered access to your personal data, so make sure you’re not overly generous with the permissions.

The apps you install on your device also matter. Some apps may have weak security measures, while others could be developed by hackers themselves. Ask a cybersecurity expert to conduct a vulnerability assessment to ensure the apps you use are safe. 

What’s more, it’s a good idea to limit access to business apps, especially when you’re working remotely. This reduces the chances of hackers intercepting your data if you use mission-critical apps in unsecured networks.

Avoid public networks 

Free public Wi-Fi networks are notoriously unsafe. Cybercriminals use these networks to intercept data between your device and the network it’s connected to. This allows them to gain easy access to your accounts, emails, and even credit card information.

The best way to stay safe is to avoid the Wi-Fi networks in airports and coffee shops. Instead, use your mobile device’s 4G LTE connection since data travelling through this network is secured and encrypted. If there’s no other option but to use public Wi-Fi, a virtual private network (VPN) will keep your web activity hidden from prying eyes.

Follow password best practices

Passwords are often the most vulnerable areas of any system for two big reasons. People tend to set short, easy-to-guess codes like their names and birthdays, and recycle them across multiple accounts. However, these tactics won’t slow cybercriminals down. They can use brute force attacks to steal your password and infiltrate your accounts. They may even gain access to other accounts that use the same password.

Stringent password management is key to avoiding these risks. This involves setting 12-character-long passwords or “passphrases” that contain a mixture of letters, numbers, and symbols. It also means coming up with unique passwords for each account. If you find it difficult to remember every code, password manager software like LastPass keeps a record of your passwords in an encrypted database.

Don’t rely solely on passwords

Although complex passwords are essential, they shouldn’t be the only security measure protecting your accounts. Multifactor authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of security on top of passwords by requesting a secondary method of identity verification. This could be as simple as a one-time authentication code delivered via SMS or as complex as a fingerprint or facial recognition scan. Either way, enabling MFA prevents hackers from accessing your accounts even if they manage to guess your password. 

Watch out for suspicious emails 

Don’t interact with unsolicited emails that contain suspicious links and attachments. Hackers often use these emails to distribute malware or redirect their victims to a site that steals sensitive information. They also masquerade as legitimate entities (e.g., a bank teller) to trick you into giving away information. If you’re unsure whether an email from your bank is authentic, contact your bank directly over the phone to verify the message.

The online world is scarier than ever as more bad guys are lurking around, but security awareness can go a long way. If you need more tips on how to defend yourself against cybercriminals, talk to Empower IT Solutions today. We offer practical advice and recommend advanced cybersecurity solutions to protect your identity and keep your business safe.