Safeguard Your Online Identity

Riaan Badenhorst, Managing Director of Kaspersky Lab Africa

Sitting in a coffee shop or even when just walking down the road, it is clearly evident how ‘connected’ our world has become. Whether it is a smartphone, a tablet, or a notebook, our lives are quickly evolving and centering around the digital environment far more. With us relying on the Internet for everything, from online banking to chatting with friends, how many have given any thought to protecting their digital identities from malicious users – the argument is that it could never happen to me, right?

Unfortunately, though, the statistics make for some concerning reading. A survey in the United States has found that 15 million Americans have their identities fraudulently used each year with financial losses experienced estimated to be in excess of $50-billion. While, locally, the 3 600 reported cases, might pale in comparison, it does not lessen the danger or impact of identity theft.

Protecting your digital identity is something that has to be done year-round – especially as online shopping, booking holiday’s online and of course the convenience of doing banking from anywhere is not something we ignore – and something that is now undertaken as a ‘standard’ process for many people.

But if your identity gets compromised or cloned, then there are very real financial risks that result, which can will put a serious dent in you having a good year ahead.

A compromised digital identity also poses a physical threat. And often, it’s really easy for cybercriminals to find out information about you – think about how much you share on social media platforms. We all tend to share personal details – like those recent holiday snaps tagging your family and friends as you go along – showing where you are and who is with you. Knowing where you live and being able to track your movement’s means you and your family become easy targets for break-ins, hijackings, or worse.

Granted, these are extreme cases, but it pays to be aware of the dangers.

While it might seem counter-intuitive to a connected (and social) lifestyle, it is always advisable to set boundaries about what you post online. So for example, avoid revealing where a photo was taken and stop geo-tagging photos that show exact locations. Also be cautious about posting photos or video clips that reveal your address or show the valuables in your home.

If you have children and they are active online, it is definitely worthwhile having a conversation with them in terms of the type of information they share and with whom they share it with – talk to them about the dangers and why it’s important to remain vigilant.

Fortunately, there is security software that is designed to protect you and your loved ones on a variety of devices. Of course it is a good idea to do some research on the most well-known brands and evaluate which of their offerings fit your lifestyle, but the right solution is usually very easy to use and many focus on family protection.

While we have not reached the stage of having to lie awake at night and worry, we all need to examine what information we share and how we share it. Security software is a great method of protection, but user behaviour is key. After all, it doesn’t help having 10-foot high fences around your home, but you hand the gate key to a stranger?


Tips to protect you in the digital world

  • Never open attachments or click on links in a suspicious email;
  • Ideally, never use unsecure Wi-Fi networks, but if you have no choice, refrain from conducting online banking or online shopping through them;
  • Always keep your operating system, browser, and anti-virus or Internet security software updated with the latest patches and definitions;
  • Do not email or post your date of birth online;
  • Regularly check the privacy settings of your social networking profiles;
  • Only use official app stores to download mobile applications and always check whether permission settings make sense, i.e. why would that game need access to your phone settings?
  • Set up a private email address for personal correspondence and a public one for social networking and other services.
  • Use a strong Internet Security solution for all of your devices

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