Cyber security doesn’t just stop with technology. Improving your digital footprint via your online actions is just as important.
More and more Britons are being worried that they are going to be exposed to a cyber-attack. With 72% of professionals have considered leaving their jobs due to Cyber Security dangers in their workplace.
Did you know that when you use the internet, you create and leave a digital footprints?
This blog aims to explain what a digital footprint is, and how you can control and monitor the footprint you are leaving. As it could be a hacker’s key to destruction.
What is a digital footprint?
Just like a physical footprint, a digital footprint is evidence of where you have been online. That means every time to post, share, and engage with content online, your footprint shows your activity.
Another way to look at it is to consider it as a digital trail. As websites that collects information like an IP address, login details, and other personal data can reveal who you are online.
However, your footprint can be categorized into Active and Passive digital. Let us explain…
Active vs Passive Digital Footprints
This type of digital footprint are ones that are left behind from the user without the intention of doing so. This also could mean that the user has no idea there are leaving a footprint.
As an example, a website that collects information about the number of times a user has visited a website would be passive. The reason for this is because the user doesn’t choose to ‘hand’ them the data, as the data is collected via the users IP address.
On the other hand, active footprints are made when the user makes a deliberate choice on the internet. This could be text, images or videos to a social media site. Or even personal data like a user’s name, email address, and phone number, can be used when users submit them into contact forms.
How do I keep mine protected?
Apart from the obvious advice of “don’t go on the internet”, you will always leave a trace of where you have been. However, there are some steps you can take to ensure your information isn’t being shared easily.
Step 1: Enter your name into several search engines
It may seem a bit crazy but using multiple search engines can reveal any negative footprints you could have left.
It’s worth searching your first and last name and reviewing the first 2 pages of results. What is displayed? Is it accurate?
If you do find something that is outdated or not appropriate for who you are now, remove it or contact the website which is hosting the content.
Step 2: Reviewing your privacy settings on social media
We’ve previously written about how to protect yourself on social media, and your footprint is no different. It’s worth reviewing the privacy settings on your public social media pages.
Facebook is a good example of privacy control. Facebook allows the user to limit anything posted to only been seen by target groups. This can be friends, friends of friends or the entire public. It’s worth reviewing how much of your profile is viewable by the public, as some sensitive information could be viewable by anyone on the internet.
This could contribute heavily to how your digital footprint is formed online.
For a more in-depth look at how to privatise and protect your social media pages, refer to our guide here.
Step 3: Browse undercover using incognito
Another easy step to limit your footprint is to stop websites tracking your search history and activity
For example, it’s strongly known that sites that offer flights and hotel accommodation store information about the number of times you have visited in the past. This, along with the frequency of your visits, allows the website to promote certain elements and restrict others.
How to do this? Browse incognito, also known as private mode.
This type of browsing allows you to use the internet without storing any cookies or history data after you close the browser window.
Step 4: Improve your reputation
Probably the most effective thing you can do to improve your digital footprint is to see what is already out there.
It’s obvious that the person you are right now was different from the person 5 or 10 years ago. Sadly, the internet doesn’t cleanse and refresh the data it already has.
A good rule of thumb is to use the search function on a social media site (let’s take Twitter as an example) and review your old posts:
Type in the following function but with your username and the date range you want to look at:
from:username since:yyyy-mm-dd until:yyyy-mm-dd
For this example, let’s look at what we tweeted between January 2016 and February 2016:
Using this, go back and see what questionable things you posted online. Then remove them if you feel they don’t represent you now.