Last of the Spring cleaning – reducing your digital footprint

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For financial professionals only

This is our latest article in a series putting the spotlight on Information Security. Here, Sarah Coles gives a handy checklist for protecting your privacy online.

Like traditional spring cleaning to freshen up your home before summer, this month I’m encouraging you to review your digital footprint and protect your online privacy.

Although we’re increasingly conscious of our online privacy, we were more likely in the past to share information without considering the consequences. This is seen with celebrities whose embarrassing or offensive old tweets resurface, calling their character into question.

By setting up an account online, adding a comment on social media or sharing a photo, you leave a digital footprint of where you’ve been and what you’ve done. Information may be publicly visible to others, stored on apps with questionable security or used by companies to target you with adverts.

Of course, having a digital presence can be positive. Twitter users took just five hours to reunite long-lost childhood best friends separated for over a decade after a viral internet plea [1]. However, it’s important to make sure we’re not sharing more information than we’d like to.

Protecting your privacy online

Reviewing, removing, or restricting the vast amount of information you’ve saved online over the years may feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Use this digital spring cleaning checklist to help you identify areas you’ve most likely been neglecting, and how to tackle them.

Review

  • Consider your real name, nicknames, alias, current and previous phone numbers, email addresses, social media sites and location – and google them to see the search results. If anything comes up that you don’t like, ask the site administrator to take it down.
  • Visit Have I Been Pwned to discover if any of your account information has been compromised in a data breach. The service is free, safe, and run by a cyber security expert Troy Hunt. If you find your information has been compromised, change your passwords as quickly as possible.
  • Review third party integrations where you’re able to login through connected accounts. For example, you may have enabled Spotify to connect via your Facebook login. This means multiple sites can be breached at once.
  • Check what information your device is collecting about you, including phones, fitness trackers and voice assistants. You may be surprised what you find, these popular apps are the worst offenders.
  • Review recent account activity to identify unknown devices or locations attempting to access your account, including OutlookGmailInstagram.

Remove

  • Close accounts you no longer use. Searching your inbox for phrases such as “new account”, “confirm email”, “verify email”, “activate account”, “password”, “welcome”, “sign-up”, “registration” or “account is confirmed” can help identify them.
  • Remove browser extensions you no longer need. The more extensions you have the larger the possible attack surface, as the extension can be compromised and used to view your information.
  • Uninstall applications you no longer use. As well as storing your data unnecessarily, they could have security issues leaving your device vulnerable to attacks.
  • Delete content you don’t want online, including those posted or shared by other people. Consider old social media posts that may be embarrassing if they resurfaced.

Restrict

  • Update privacy settling on social media accounts. Lots of sites will set your account to public by default, including LinkedIn and Twitter. Take control of who sees your posts and whether they’ll appear in search engines.
  • Restrict who can access your accounts by setting strong, unique passwords. and don’t share these with colleagues or friends. Password managers can generate unique passwords for you, and they’re great for keeping track of your accounts.
  • Enable multi-factor authentication. It’s simple to setup and should be turned on for your most important accounts (e.g. email, financial services) at a minimum.
  • Check out as guest where possible when completing purchases online. This avoids needing set up an account on a site you may forget.

You made it! You might not have time to complete all these steps in one go, but starting with a couple will put you on the right track. And next time you use a new service or app asking you to provide personal data, consider how you can stay in control of your digital footprint with my tips above.

[1] https://time.com/5463378/twitter-reunites-childhood-best-friends/

This article is for financial professionals only. Any information contained within is of a general nature and should not be construed as a form of personal recommendation or financial advice. Nor is the information to be considered an offer or solicitation to deal in any financial instrument or to engage in any investment service or activity. Parmenion accepts no duty of care or liability for loss arising from any person acting, or refraining from acting, as a result of any information contained within this article. All investment carries risk. The value of investments, and the income from them, can go down as well as up and investors may get back less than they put in. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future returns.  

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