10 Ways to Protect Your Online Footprint

by Carson
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By browsing the web and signing up for accounts, everyone leaves an online footprint of their own. However, you need to protect it because it might make or break your reputation in the future. Here are 10 things to do to leave the best marks you can on the Internet.

Table of Contents

  1. Don’t overshare on social media
  2. Don’t fall for phishing traps
  3. Protect your passwords
  4. Review and delete accounts that you don’t need
  5. Protect yourself from malware
  6. Look for data breaches
  7. Be aware of your browsing history
  8. Modify your privacy settings accordingly
  9. Design a detection and recovery plan for use when you’re hacked
  10. Google yourself

1. Don’t Overshare on Social Media

It might be sad to say this, but there are still people revealing much of their daily lives on social media publicly. This is a terrible thing to do, and it’s oversharing. If you share too much of your personal details, your safety might be affected. Attackers might have an elevated chance of obtaining your password if you have bad habits on passwords, and real-life criminals can use this to steal your belongings and properties, or even threaten your physical safety.

Moreover, employers will check your social media accounts if you want to apply for a job. Therefore, if you want to post something to social media out of your emotion, don’t do so. This might cause you to post inappropriate content to the public, which will be viewable to anyone, including your employers, and it could be a negative factor in whether your application is successful.

Therefore, most personal information is not something to be shared online. These include:

  • Passwords
  • Answers to security questions
  • Social security numbers
  • Personal phone numbers
  • Current locations
  • Your current location
  • Your home address
  • Embarrassing information
  • Anything else you don’t want to put online

2. Don’t Fall for Phishing Traps

Do you know that you can share passwords or sensitive information even if you don’t intend to do so? Scammers will design webpages that look like authoritative websites that victims use often. After that, it will send out emails asking you to confirm details, frightening you with a threatening message, or pretending that a reward that is too good to be true is being awarded. This makes the user very emotional and make irrational decisions, providing sensitive information to the scammers’ websites.

As a result of these threats, whenever you look for email in your inbox, make sure that you stay calm and be aware of suspicious signs, even if the email is from your friend or someone you know. For instance, if they want you to log in to an account to confirm the details, don’t click on the link. Instead, visit your account page directly by manually typing the URL or using a search engine. If you suspect a spam email from someone you trust, make sure you contact them immediately using methods other than email. Their account might have been hacked by scammers.

3. Protect Your Passwords

To protect your online footprint, you need to secure your passwords. This way, attackers will have more difficulty accessing your account and polluting it with harmful information.

Make sure your passwords are long, strong, and unpredictable. Here are a long list of categories of passwords that you can’t use for your accounts.

  • Passwords that follow common, predictable patterns (e.g., ‘123456’, ‘111111’, ‘qwerty’, ‘asdfgh’, and all of their close variants)
  • Passwords that are shorter than 12 characters
  • Passwords that are made of only one or two words (e.g., ‘helloworld’, ‘password’), or common combinations of three or more words (e.g., ‘letmein’)
  • Passwords that are close variants of any of the passwords above: Substituting less common and similar characters into any of its characters where the original variant is one of those above (e.g., ‘p@$$w0rd’, ‘h3ll0wor1d’), adding or deleting characters (e.g., ‘p@sswRd’, ‘he1low0rld4’), spelling the passwords backward (‘drowssap’, ‘dlrowolleh’), or any combination of the three
  • Passwords that are solely or largely based on personal information (e.g., (birthday + username))
  • Passwords that are used, or close variants of those used, in other accounts
  • And much more
An example of passwords that should be used and ones that should not be used

Moreover, look out for conditions in which you should change your passwords. For instance, if it, or the password hint, has been accidentally shared, or there is a data breach with some company you have an account on, go ahead and change your password immediately. Also, if that happens, modify any related passwords as well. If the leaked password gives you access to a password manager, for example, you may find yourself hacked on many different accounts!

4. Review and Delete Accounts that you Don’t Need

If you, for a long time, haven’t reviewed what accounts you have, it’s a good idea to take a look at them now. More accounts mean more holes for attackers to hijack your online footprint, especially if they are not being maintained actively. If you’ve decided you don’t need your account anymore, consider deleting it. While you might be reluctant to do so, you will have fewer cybersecurity threats to worry about, and you’ll definitely thank yourself later.

5. Protect Yourself From Malware

If you get infected with malware, you can end up uploading inappropriate content onto your social media profiles. They might even cause you to contribute to criminal actions without knowing it. Therefore, while malware isn’t entirely preventable, it’s crucial that you do your best to protect yourself from malware and keep your devices and online footprint as clean as possible.

To prevent yourself from contracting malware, please be aware of the following points:

  • Refrain from visiting unknown or unauthoritative websites
  • Do not click on any links that seem suspicious in any way
  • Use a secure network or VPN
  • Keep all your apps, drivers, games, software, and operating systems up-to-date
  • Refrain from opening attachments or clicking on links in emails
  • Use Internet security software and antimalware software to block and remove malware
  • And much more (22 tips here)

6. Look for Data Breaches

Data breaches are unexpected events involving data being leaked from a company’s server. The data might include user profiles, email addresses, personal information, or even highly confidential data like passwords. If a company suffers a data breach, it should send emails to notify users that it’s time to change their login credentials, and if you receive some notification like that, do so immediately.

However, a cyberattack might use malware to mask the data breach process and prevent companies from trying to protect your data. Therefore, it’s essential to look out for signs of your account being hacked and news reports about certain companies suffering from a cyberattack.

7. Be Aware of Your Browsing History

You might think that your browsing history is kept private to you, but many people, including search engines and ISPs, can see it. They can also share it with third parties mentioned in their privacy policies, which many people overlook. Also, in the process of sharing, they might either fall into the wrong hands or be accessible by employers and institutions through APIs. Therefore, even though you might want to search for something potentially inappropriate out of your emotions, it’s better to keep your online records clean in case someone else can see them.

8. Modify Your Privacy Settings Accordingly

When you sign up on social media, review your privacy settings. They might be sharing so much information about you that you don’t need. In that case, you have to modify your privacy settings accordingly. For instance, if you want to keep your profile a secret but do not review your privacy settings, you may expose it to everyone on the Internet. If you put unsuitable or inappropriate information onto your profile, assuming that it’s kept secret to you, it might harm your online footprint since you’ve made it searchable by everyone.

However, remember that even private information or messages on social media might not be private. They might get screenshot and uploaded on their social media accounts, or the server will collect the data and share it with third parties. Either way, it’s best to keep your online behavior desirable even though you think you’ve kept improper posts out of the way.

9. Design a Detection and Recovery Plan for Use When You’re Hacked

Even if a person does everything right to protect themselves from malware, they might still get malware at some point. Thus, designing a detection and recovery plan for cyberattacks is critical. This should include:

  • Looking out for signs of malware yourself, including:
    • The antimalware software returns a positive result for threat
    • Your passwords don’t work
    • Your computer suddenly slows down
    • You sent unknown messages to other people
    • Your files or settings are modified or deleted without your permission
    • Your computer frequently crashes or slows down without appropriate reason
    • And more
  • Dealing with malware
    • Evaluate the situation quickly
    • Disconnect yourself from the Internet
    • Change your passwords
    • Erase your computer and reinstall your operating system
    • Review backups
    • Investigate the issue and look for weak points in your cybersecurity defenses

10. Google Yourself

Here’s one final tip: Once in a while, Google yourself. Review what news articles you’ve got or what social media posts are immediately visible. If you see anything wrong with your posts or don’t want the public to see them, delete them immediately. If you have been criticized by news articles, you should contact related companies to alleviate the issue if you think it’s a misunderstanding. Alternatively, take a look at what went wrong and learn from your mistakes, even though you might not be able to salvage your reputation completely.

Conclusion

In this article, we’ve introduced 10 things to do to protect your online footprint. This includes following basic cybersecurity advice and assuming that nothing online is private. It’s beneficial to make up more tips, but make sure you post these additional methods in the comment sections so that we can expand and improve this article.

References and Credits

  1. (n.d.). How to Protect Your Digital Footprint. Retrieved June 14, 2022, from https://www.bitdefender.com/cyberpedia/how-to-protect-your-digital-footprint/
  2. (n.d.). Protect Your Online Identity. Retrieved June 14, 2022, from https://ociso.ucla.edu/security-best-practices/protect-your-online-identity

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