Your digital identity could be a juicy target for identity thieves. If you don’t know what your digital identity is, then you may not know what’s at stake—or how to help protect yourself.
Digital identity defined
Your digital identity consists of various pieces of information about you—in digital form—that, when put together, point to you. Such pieces of information are often called “data attributes.” They can be something obvious, such as a user name or Social Security number, or something less apparent, such as your online comments or search activities.
You might regularly share some of your data attributes to make an online purchase or access your bank account, for instance. But if you share certain types of your personal data—such as your full name, date of birth, and Social Security number—and they're somehow exposed, you’re at risk of an identity thief using them to pretend to be you.
In a world as technology-oriented as ours, it can be a challenge to limit not only what we share, but also how we share it. And even if you take every possible precaution, a data breach at a company with whom you do business could possibly result in identity theft. Still, it’s worth trying to stay on top of how you handle your personal information.
What are your digital attributes?
We touched on a few of these earlier, but let’s take a look at some of the personal data that, either alone or when put together, can point in your direction. This can also include your online activity.
- Login credentials (usernames and passwords)
- Date of birth
- Social Security number
- Medical history
- Online search activities
- Online accounts
- Comments on articles and social media
- Likes, posts, reposts, and shares on social networks
- Signed online petitions
How can you help protect your digital identity?
There is no simple solution to keep your digital identity safe, but here are some tips that can help you protect some of the data attributes that make it up:
- Limit sharing your Social Security number—whether in a doctor’s office, at school, or online
- Use strong and unique passwords on each of your online accounts
- Make sure you’re on a secure network or using a VPN, a virtual private network, when banking, shopping or making other online transactions
- Don’t share your login credentials with others
- Shred documents containing personal information before discarding
- Secure your home Wi-Fi network with a strong password
The digital world provides tremendous convenience and can make life easier in many ways. Having access to our bank accounts and a global social media network gives us connectivity we couldn’t have imagined even just a few years ago. But it’s important to keep in mind that such access and reach involves trade-offs. And it remains as critical as ever to protect your identity—digital or otherwise.