What is a Digital Identity?
A Digital Identity is the online or digital version of a person's identity, that can be used to identify an individual. This includes personal information such as, full name, address, date of birth, or banking details. Therefore, it is key in 2023 to have a strong digital identity, due to information being used against you to access many different online services, such as social media, banking, and email. If a 'bad actor' gained access to these accounts, they could potentially access all these services and cause serious harm to an individual.
How Do You Conserve Your Digital Identity?
One of the most important ways to conserve your digital identity is by utilising strong passwords. In today's digital age, it is seen as essential for everyone to utilise a password manager and not reuse the same passwords. Moreover, with cyber attacks becoming more advanced and sophisticated, it is more important than ever to use this to your advantage in protecting yourself against cyber threats. It is generally an agreed-upon statement that all Internet users should not be reusing passwords, but should rather curate multiple strong, unique passwords for each online account that is being utilised. Strong passwords that contain several different types of characters are compulsory for some online services. This means the password that you enter when you sign up is not accepted if it is too short or not complex enough.
To create a strong password it is important to follow these rules:
- Use at least 12 to 16 characters,
- Use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols, including both uppercase and lowercase letters,
- Do not repeat any characters,
- Avoid using dictionary words, names, and pronouns, in any language,
- Avoid usernames, IDs, and any words or number strings that might be used to identify you, for instance, a birthdate or other date that’s special to you,
- Do not use any predefined letter or number strings, such as parts of the alphabet, acronyms, the Pi sequence, or the Fibonacci sequence, and
- Do not use any password more than once.
Another easy way to defend your online identity is to utilise two-factor authentication (2FA). This is where a login portal will ask you to submit two forms of identification to grant access to your account. 2FA uses two of the following three factors to verify your identity: something you know (like a password), something you have (like a key), or something you are (like a fingerprint). Therefore, adding these additional security steps will strengthen your online accounts significantly. Thus, with the implementation of 2FA, it will make it borderline-impossible to be a victim of a brute-force attack method. This method is where a third-party threat will attack the login page with thousands of passwords at a time, and hope for one of the selected passwords to be utilised by the victim. In turn, the attacker is gaining access to the targets account.
It is also key to remain extremely vigilant towards phishing attempts. In 2023, phishing is the most common attack method used by malicious threats. Phishing attacks have been known to be utilised by some of the world's most advanced hacking and ransomware groups. This is where the bad actor masquerades as a reputable entity or person via email or other forms of communication. The attacker will commonly use phishing emails to distribute malicious links or attachments that can execute a variety of malicious functions, such as extracting login or account information from users. However, it is not only email phishing that attackers use to commit these sorts of offensive engagements. Threats will use a variety of attack vectors, such as:
- Spear phishing, where an attacker will target one person in particular,
- Whaling, where the bad actor will target a senior member, and
- Smishing/vishing, where a hacker will send a text message or call the victim's mobile phone instead of sending an email to the user.
Protecting yourself and learning to spot phishing emails is fairly straightforward. First of all, you should always be cautious if you receive an email or text message from an unknown number that is requesting that you click on a link. A lot of these scams will claim that you have to act now to claim a reward or to avoid a penalty. You should also be on the lookout for spelling mistakes or bad grammar. Councils and organisations tend to employ editorial staff to make sure customers get high-quality, professional content. If the email you received contains poor grammar or repeated spelling mistakes, it is advised that you should send it to your spam inbox. Sometimes these errors are the product of poor translation from a foreign language, or even an attempt to avoid filters that block these attacks.
Online Presence on Social Media
One more straightforward approach to protect your online identity is by minimising your online presence on online social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Our obsession with social media apps is at an all-time high, the average person spends around 2 hours a day on social media sites, so it is essential to protect yourself on these sites. It is essential to analyse your privacy settings on your social media accounts.
All social media sites will have recommended advice to give users regarding securing their social media accounts and minimising their digital footprint, however, there are a few key pointers that are universal. First of all, you should take some caution when using these platforms. Anyone can make an account on these platforms without any form of identification. This can open the door to third parties to curate a social media account and, with the objection of being someone who they are not, you should take a moment to check if you know the person, and if the friend/link/follow is genuine. You should also take a second before you post something and assess your digital footprint. This includes photos, status updates, comments/replies, and even what you like and follow on social media. Criminals can use this publicly available information to steal your identity and even curate phishing campaigns to fool victims.
To conclude this week’s blog, taking care of your digital identity is essential in today’s online world. With the growing risk of your Personal Identifiable Information (PII) being used against you to commit attacks on users, it is imperative to take proactive measures. Using unique, strong passwords can play an extremely important role in protecting your online accounts, as well as utilising password managers. Implementing 2FA on all available accounts will add an additional layer of security to your online accounts, and make it more challenging for bad actors to access. You should also remain vigilant and informed with the latest security and software patches, as this will protect you against fresh vulnerabilities discovered by security researchers. And finally, minimising and taking care of your 'Digital Footprint' on social media accounts by reviewing privacy settings can help you reduce your chances of a successful phishing attack on yourself. By following these measures, you can significantly improve your online security and protect your digital identity, as well as mitigate potential risks.
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