What does it mean to create a digital footprint? It’s not something you think about, at least not in our day-to-day. But your digital footprint represents you—your online self. Everything you buy online, every social media message you send, every account you create: all of these leave a digital footprint that can be traced back to you.
In other words, nearly everything you do online can be considered as leaving a digital footprint. Did you make a Twitter post? That’s a footprint. Did you order something through Amazon using your credit card? That’s another footprint. As an online user, you are always leaving digital footprints.
So what makes your digital footprint special? Because your digital footprints contain personal information, such as payment information and online activity, they can be easily exploited by cybercriminals and corporations looking to steal your data and make a quick buck. This data theft also opens you up to becoming a victim of fraud, identity theft, and data breaches.
Today, let’s go over three ways that you can significantly reduce your digital footprint online, from secure passwords to properly managed social media accounts.
3 Cybersecurity Tips for You
1. Encrypt Your Data Online
One of, if not the best, ways to reduce your digital footprint is to ensure that all the data you send out online is encrypted in some capacity. For those of you who might not know, data encryption is the practice of taking your data and making it unreadable to any third parties (hackers, cybercriminals, ISPs, etc.).
See, when you browse the Internet without proper encryption, you open yourself up to all types of dangers, from data breaches to a hacked device to a targeted cyberattack (a DDoS attack, for example). In other words, you are vulnerable as one can be.
Proper encryption channels and protocols are unbreakable, ensuring your data stays safe and in your hands only. There are a couple of ways to encrypt your data. Let’s start with Virtual Private Networks or VPNs for short.
A high-quality VPN will encrypt the data your device sends out, making it impossible for cybercriminals to intercept your data, inadvertently reducing your digital footprint. In other words, once you buy a VPN, a large chunk of your digital footprint will disappear.
It also helps to make sure that all the websites you visit use HTTPS, the encrypted, secure version of HTTP. Not every website uses HTTPS, but browser extensions can retroactively add HTTPS to all sites.
2. Always Use Strong and Secure Passwords for Everything (And Two-Factor Authentication)
Think of your online accounts as individual digital footprints. When one gets breached, your information is exposed, your safety and privacy are put at risk. That’s why you must secure all of your accounts with strong passwords.
Thousands of people (potentially more) use weak passwords or use the same password for every account they have. Do not either of those things. Use a password generator to generate long, secure passwords.
You can secure your accounts further by enabling two-factor authentication where applicable, a security step that requires an input of a code sent to your phone or email. As long as both of those methods are secure, it will be impossible for a hacker to make their way into your accounts.
3. Private Your Social Media Accounts & Refrain From Oversharing
How often do you use social media? Are you someone who uses social media every day—posts throughout the day, makes friends on social media sites, etc.—or are you someone who occasionally logs on to Twitter once a week or so?
If you’re the former—if you often post on social media—be sure that you’re not oversharing. Oversharing, in this case, refers to posting any tweets, posts, blurbs, etc., that contain personal information. If you do, strangers and cybercriminals will be able to track and stalk you via your social media profiles.
In general, you need to be careful about how you approach social media and interactions with others on social media platforms. If you feel it necessary, you can even private all of your accounts, which is recommended by many experts, since there is no telling who is watching your social media activity.
That said, no one is saying you can’t have a presence on social media. However, you must limit the amount of personal information you put out into the public and, if necessary, limit your online visibility to only those you allow to follow your accounts.
Reducing your digital footprint—your data, your online presence, your activity—is paramount to maintaining privacy online. The larger your digital footprint, the easier it is for cybercriminals to target you, for corporations to steal your data and sell it to third parties.
Whether it’s by closing down your social media accounts or changing every one of your passwords, you need to begin working on reducing your digital footprint if you have not already.