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What is your digital footprint and how can you minimise it?

20 December, 2021

In today’s day and age, it’s virtually impossible to use the internet without leaving footprints in the (digital) sand.

Whether it’s the public playlist we make on Spotify, the office selfies we take at our Christmas parties or the information we let slip on our social media profiles, we run up a large digital footprint each day.

But what is your digital footprint, why is it important and how can you minimise it? Join us as we share everything you need to know.

What is a digital footprint?

Your digital footprint is the sum total of the data that you leave behind as you use the internet, whether that's posts on social media, online purchases or any other publicly available data on yourself. This can either be passive or active.

Passive footprints are data that gets collected without you even knowing, such as where you came from when the footprint was created and your IP address. An active footprint, however, is information that you have optionally shared on websites (cookies) or social media, such as social media comments, profiles or forum interactions.

For example, if you have a profile on Facebook and LinkedIn, strangers can find out personal information about your life and your career. In just a few clicks, an attacker can begin to build a pretty accurate picture of who you are. This is why you’ll often see relevant ads on social media, as companies can target you based on your internet history, interests and purchasing intentions.

Why is your digital footprint an issue?

With so much of our lives lived online, knowing what we’re leaving out in the open has become incredibly important.

However, understanding your digital footprint’s contents is even more so. Why? Because whilst your publicly available data can be personally useful, cybercriminals can also exploit it for their own ends, using it as the basis of spear-phishing attacks or in identity fraud.

Additionally, your digital footprint can be permanent, as once the data is public there is very limited control of what happens to it or how others will use it. Employers can research you on social media and can make instant hiring decisions based on people’s social media presence.

What can I do to minimise my digital footprint?

Check your digital footprint

You can easily check your digital footprint by searching your name on Google. Use your full name and include any spelling variations.

This will allow you to see what information is currently available publicly, and what a stranger can easily find out about you. If any of the results are negative, or you want something removed, contact the site administrator of that website and ask if it can be removed, or log in and remove the information yourself if you can.

Abstain from posting personal details online

Whilst you may think it’s harmless posting about your dog or birthday, these details are often used as passwords to many sites, and therefore can be easily exploited as hackers can use this info to get into your banking and other important sites.

Additionally, check your social media privacy settings. By ensuring that only your friends can see your updates, you prevent strangers and hackers from building a full picture of who you are.

Be careful of public WiFi

Using public unsecured wifi is an easy way to give out personal information. You don’t know who set up that wifi and who is watching.

Never send any personal information when using these wifi networks – wait until you get home and can use a private secure connection, or use a VPN to connect securely. While you are out and about, your phone’s hotspot is a great alternative.

Password security

Ensure your passwords are the strongest they can be. A strong password contains a mixture of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols and never includes any personal details such as name or date of birth.

The more complex your password is, the harder you are to hack. Don’t record your passwords anywhere and try to use a different one for each of your accounts.

Keep your software up to date

There are numerous viruses and digital malware that’s designed to mine your data, so it is important to ensure your anti-virus software and any other programmes are kept up to date to protect you against the latest security issues. Older software is easier to breach and leaves you open to more avenues of attack.

To find out more about your digital footprint and how to minimise it, enrol your team on our new Digital Footprint course and reduce your organisation’s risk of being breached.

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