The Ultimate Guide to Managing Your Privacy and Reputation Online
Controlling Your Digital Identity Has Never Been More Critical.
As we adjust to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, there is a surge of interest in all things digital. Unfortunately, there is also an accompanying wave of cybercriminals trying to take advantage of the demand for additional online services.
Our reliance on technology has never been greater with the shift to working from home, online shopping for everything, the deluge of streaming services, and our reliance on social media to keep human connections alive. There are now many more opportunities for both your privacy and your reputation to be exploited.
Despite the opportunities technology is creating, most of us are oblivious to the myriad of ways that our data is exposed and potentially used by others.
As we shift our lives online, we must protect our privacy and reputation by securing our personal, financial, and medical information. Rather than waiting for something to go wrong, we need to take an active role to protect our digital identity. We want to help you take control of your digital life so that you understand where the pitfalls lie and how you can protect yourself and your family.
Digital Risks Lurk Everywhere
Data Brokers: Who Are They and Why Are They a Threat to Your Privacy?
If you’ve ever Googled yourself, you know that images and content shared on social platforms can be linked to your online identity. But did you know that your personal information is being used to fuel a much larger profile and that companies exist solely to sell this information to other organizations and groups? These data brokers, as they are called, have been spying on all of your online activities for years and know a staggering amount of personal details about you as a result.
What’s even more concerning is what they do with this information, they package it up and sell it to companies, government agencies, and individuals without your explicit permission.
As the world grows increasingly digital and people conduct even more activities online, data brokers will have access to greater amounts of information. That’s why now is the time to learn more about them, and what you need to do to limit their access to your personal data. Here, we’ll shed light on the murky data broker industry and what you can do to address this growing privacy threat.
The Data Broker Industry and it's Threat to Your Privacy
What Information Do Data Brokers Collect?
One data broker claims to have files on 10% of the world’s population with up to 1,500 pieces of information on any single person. This data can be culled from public records and private sources such as government records, census forms, online and offline purchase history, and Web browsing behavior. From these and other sources, data brokers can easily put together a profile that includes income, education, occupation and real estate transactions, in addition to demographic data and contact information.
How Do Data Brokers Profit Off Your Personal Information
They Sell it To
The Threat to Your Personal Privacy
In addition, publicly accessible data broker sites such as Spokeo or Whitepages can be used by individuals to obtain your private information. To get an idea of how extensive this detail can be, do a Web search of your name and see what pops up. There are numerous implications for how this information can be used against you, ranging from lost job opportunities due to an embarrassing arrest record through to extortion and online bullying.
How Can You Stay Safe?
One of the most challenging things about data collection is that changes to your personal behavior can only do so much. It’s important to read all privacy policies carefully before you provide consent but, even then, data brokers still have a wealth of your personal information from other sources. New data is generated about you every time you purchase from a new retailer, move to a new address, change jobs, or just open your web browser to begin a new search.
IDShield can help you fight back against data brokers by getting your personal information deleted from their databases. In addition, by continually monitoring these sites, our team ensures that any new information is removed as soon as it surfaces.
How to Take Control of Your Social Media Footprint
Social media is an integral part of our daily routine, helping us connect and build relationships. With over 2.77 billion social media users, almost everyone relies on the myriad of social platforms from Facebook to Snapchat to Instagram to communicate with their loved ones.
The use of social networks is soaring as we look for ways to keep human connections alive, providing even more opportunities for scammers to take advantage of. While we check out the latest funny meme, TikTok video, or news from our family and friends, we need to keep our personal information protected.
Too many people are oblivious to the privacy pitfalls and fail to take steps to protect their data, setting them up as easy targets to be profiled by advertisers, opening them up to a potential cyberattack, or, even worse, having their identity hijacked.
Think Privacy First
If you don’t activate the privacy protections on each platform, then anybody can view your social media profile and read your personal information. You also need to be aware of some of the creative tactics that cybercriminals are deploying to entice you to share personal details that they can profit from. So, how can you manage not just yours but your entire family’s social media footprint and protect your data?
Don't Accept Every Request to Connect
Rather than gleefully clicking on every request from a new follower or third-party application, always take time to verify each invite. With friend requests, check and block fake accounts or people you don’t know well. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are full of fake profiles, and those accounts can be a cybercriminal, a suspicious organization, or just a stranger who wants to monitor your activities. If you see any concerning behavior, you should report and block the account. Adopt the mantra that it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
The same goes for third-party apps. Be very careful before accepting requests to link apps to any of your social accounts and make sure to regularly audit which are connected to protect yourself from data-harvesting software. There are multiple examples of this happening from surveillance concerns with WhatsApp to ToTok, which appears to be a messaging app that the New York Times identified as a mass surveillance tool!
Control Your Settings
Look at the privacy and security settings on your social media accounts and make sure that only your approved contacts can see your posts. Be careful about sharing information that reveals too much about you or your family, including changing jobs, going on vacation, or moving to a new house. Make sure that you check the privacy settings of images in addition to text, as that is another loophole that can be exploited.
Think Before You Share
Check your social media profiles and make sure that you are not sharing personal information, including your address, phone number, date of birth, and social security number. Your close friends and family should know these as needed. Also, those quirky polls that ask for random information are often not so innocent and are a way to get you to disclose personal data. So don't make trackable information available to everyone, including cybercriminals. Again, less is more when it comes to your personal information on social channels.
Protecting Your Family's Reputation on Social Media
Don’t forget to make sure your children’s social media activity is not exposing your data. For kids, privacy is a learned behavior, so you need to make sure they are vigilant. With screen time limits removed in response to our new normal and social usage soaring for kids of all ages, this is increasingly important. Taking an active role can help prevent unwanted access to your data or home network coupled with ensuring that a social profile doesn’t come back to haunt your child later in life.
Social media has opened up numerous ways for us to entertain ourselves and keep up with our friends and family. By taking some proactive steps, we can all reap the benefits without lasting damage to our online reputation and identity. At IDShield, we can help you navigate the potential pitfalls and take back control of who can see what you share, watch, browse, or comment on across social media.
5 Steps to Protecting Your Smart Devices
Our homes are now a hotbed of connected devices from virtual assistants to connected thermostats to smart doorbells to fridges that never run out of milk. These intelligent products share a mission to make our lives easier. However, smart devices come with a host of growing concerns as convenience is prioritized over privacy.
Smart devices often have lax security and come with a default password as standard or no password at all, which makes them an easy target for cybercriminals. There are also growing concerns related to the data that these connected devices are constantly gathering, including voice-activated assistants. Connected TVs are increasingly popular; however, they track what you and your family watch to recommend other shows and movies and allow brands to make more money with targeted ads. Businesses are profiting by exploiting the data gleaned from what you and your kids are watching to serve up products that they think you will be interested in.
Take Action Before Connecting Devices
Consumers need to be aware of the potential pitfalls with connected devices. This was brought to the forefront with the recent hacking of a Ring camera. While this is an extreme example resulting from password reuse, it shows how easily a smart device can transform from a useful tool to a horrifying threat. As the number of smart devices is poised to continue its rapid growth, you need to put the foundations in place to stop the exploitation of your family's information and privacy.
Take Back Control of Your Smart Devices
Protect your Home Network
Make sure that your network is password protected and hide it from view so that it doesn't show up. Go into the router settings to do this. You can also create a guest network for your smart devices to add an extra layer of security so that others are not able to access your computers or smartphones.
Before you connect any device, make sure to set a new password that is both strong and unique. Recent legislation in California now prevents devices shipping without a password, but you still need to update the default password that comes as standard with many devices. Also, never reuse passwords. As the Ring camera example highlights, password reuse opens you up to potential problems if the password was exposed in a prior breach.
Don’t Delay Software Updates
You should check for and run any software updates as these often have security patches and can help prevent cybercriminals from gaining access. Do this before connecting any of your family's devices to your home network and regularly audit your appliances to see if there are any software updates.
With the explosion in intelligent speakers, many homes now have multiple devices offering help from the familiar voices of Alexa, Siri and Google. However, these products are continually watching and listening to us. So, make sure that you turn the microphones off when they are not in use. Adopt the approach that you can’t be too careful.
Review Privacy Settings
In response to the growing concerns around privacy with smart devices, many of the major manufacturers, including Apple, Amazon, and Google, are providing enhanced privacy controls. Make sure to check the privacy settings with every device and opt-out of data tracking and ads. Also, make sure to regularly check that the settings don’t default back to sharing your data.
By following these steps, you can stop both cybercriminals and organizations from invading your home's privacy and infiltrating your information. IDShield can help you take back control, allowing you and your family to enjoy your smart home’s many benefits without worrying about the privacy implications of intelligent devices.
Online Security: Proactive Practices to Protect Your Online Lifestyle
In the digital age, an increasing amount of activity is taking place online. Whether it’s ordering a last-minute gift item from Amazon, streaming the latest Netflix release, or logging on to corporate resources from your personal computer, it’s safe to say that the Internet is playing a more prominent role in your life now than ever before. And in this environment, it’s also safe to say that the threat to your online security has never been greater.
Cybercriminals are continually looking for ways to capitalize on our digital lives, and every new innovation brings with it an array of tactics they can exploit. The following are a few common risk areas and what you can do to address them.
Online Account Takeover—Don’t Reuse Passwords!
Account takeover is an extremely common means by which cybercriminals can obtain unauthorized access to your accounts and, from there, your financial data and other sensitive information. If you’re like most people, you probably reuse passwords across multiple accounts or use easy-to-guess variations. One survey found that though 91% of respondents recognize that this practice poses security risks, 59% do so anyway.
Password reuse is a problem because data breaches are a reality of modern life. Equifax, LinkedIn, Marriott International, and Yahoo are just a few of the high-profile breaches to make headlines in recent years. However, data breaches happen multiple times every single day. The credentials exposed in these attacks are available for sale on the dark web, a shadowy part of the internet that isn’t visible to search engines and can be easily obtained by cybercriminals to utilize in other breach attempts. That’s why one of the most important things you can do to safeguard your information online is to create strong, unique passwords for every one of your accounts. As part of this, it’s also a good idea to invest in a password manager tool as it’s nearly impossible to remember the passwords for every online account.
Review Requests for Information Thoroughly—Don’t Share Data Just Because You’ve Been Asked!
Phishing scams, in which cybercriminals pose as legitimate people or companies to trick you into sharing sensitive information, are another common security vulnerability. Recent research found that 68% of all phishing attacks impersonate well-known brands or trusted individuals in an attempt to elicit a feeling of confidence. Luckily, there are some common red flags that can alert you to a potential phishing attempt.
We’ve all heard of the “Nigerian Prince” scam, yet this and similar emails falsely claiming to be from royalty cost Americans more than $700,000 in 2018. These scams illustrate another common phishing red flag—generic greetings such as “Dear Sir” or “Hello Friend.” Grammar or spelling mistakes should also be cause for concern. It’s always possible that some of these signs could appear in a legitimate communication, however, it’s important to err on the side of caution and contact the company directly if you harbor any doubts before clicking on any links.
Overly Urgent and Personal Subject Lines
Of course, friends, family and co-workers may often send you emails with subjects that are personal in nature and convey a sense of urgency. However, if you receive communication like this from someone not in your contacts or a sender purporting to be a business entity, it’s always best to investigate further before opening the email.
Check the Sender
Checking the specifics of the sender’s email address can also help you determine whether or not an email is legitimate. To do this, right-click on your keyboard or hover your mouse over the “from” and check for things like numbers, characters or additional letters that don’t seem right.
Phishing attempts will direct you to a URL where you can sign up for the service in question. It’s important that you review these links before you click on them and check for anything suspicious like misspelled names or extra characters.
Adopt a Proactive Security Defense
In the physical world, you would never leave your front door unlocked and allow strangers to wander through your home. It’s important that you take this same approach in the digital realm and exercise good security practices in your legitimate online interactions.
Never provide your credit card number, Social Security information or similarly sensitive data over email, text or chat. Another critical step is reading terms and conditions, privacy notices and other documents to which you are consenting prior to clicking the “I Agree” button. As mentioned above it's also a good idea to review all of your social media and web profiles and remove any sensitive information they may contain such as your birthdate, phone number and mailing address.
While our lives have certainly become increasingly digital, it is possible to reap the opportunities of the connected world without falling victim to its disadvantages. IDShield can help you protect your online lifestyle and ensure the security of your personal information today and in the digital future of tomorrow.
IDShield Can Help Ensure that Your Private Information Remains Private