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What Does Your Digital Footprint Say About You?

Each one of us has a digital footprint – the data that is left behind whenever you use a digital service. Whether you access the internet using a mobile phone, tablet or laptop, each time you go online or use a digital service, you’re leaving a trail of information behind you.


For example:


  • Emailing - Social Media

  • Shopping - Geolocation/Mapping

  • Messaging - Banking

  • Professional networking - Gaming

  • Web browsing - Video sharing

  • Fitness apps


There are two ways a digital footprint can be created: passively & actively.


A passive footprint is created when your data is collected often without you being aware of it. For example, a search engine storing your search history whenever you’ve logged in and web servers logging your computer’s IP address whenever you visit a website.


An active footprint is created when you voluntary share information online. Every time you send an email, sign up for a newsletter or post something on social media, you’re actively contributing to your digital footprint.


The recent pandemic has accelerated changes to the way we work and interact with others. Now more than ever, relying on our devices to work remotely and flexibly as many companies are taking on a hybrid approach.


The digital footprints we leave, are exactly the type of information that criminals rely on. Data is seen as the new drug on the block and is freely traded by cybercriminals. It is a gold mine for cybercriminals to exploit for their gain and no one is immune.


A data breach is a security incident in which information is accessed without authorisation and in the last few years millions of personal details have been stolen and traded online. Organisations targeted and breached include; British Airways, Yahoo, Facebook, Dixons Carphone, Wonga, Ticketmaster, Marriot Hotels, Mumsnet, eBay, Equifax and Travelex.


Information involved in a data breach usually consists of:


  • Sensitive business data: Information that could impact the reputation or profitability.

  • Financial information: Customer bank details, debit or credit card information.

  • Personally, Identifiable Information (PII): For example, National Insurance number, bank account number, email address.

  • Protected Health Information (PHI): Medical information that identifies an individual.

With that in mind, it’s a good time to review your digital footprint, consider these top tips-


SOCIAL MEDIA:

  • Search for yourself – use a search engine to find out what information about you is already out there.

  • Deactivate old unused online accounts. – Old accounts are a gold mine for personal information.

  • Check your privacy settings - These can be found in any platform’s settings menu, and allow you to control who can see your information.


EMAIL:

  • Require strong, unique passphrases on email accounts

  • Turn on two-factor authentication on sensitive accounts

  • Do not use personal email accounts for company business

  • Deactivate old unused email accounts

  • Unsubscribe from mailing lists – these are digital trails leading back to you.


DEVICES:

  • Set a password/pin so that it cannot be accessed by other people if you lose it.

  • Delete unnecessary apps and update the rest regularly

  • Only download apps from trusted sources and check reviews prior to downloading

  • Check access requested by apps – are they necessary?

  • Secure with passcodes or biometric authentication, such as fingerprint recognition


Recent high-profile data breaches linked to commerce, fitness apps and social networking platforms continue to pose a global cyber threat. Breaches may result in user passwords, email addresses and phone numbers being identified and sold for criminal purposes.

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