Protect your online identity: Tips for personal safety online

Protect your online identity: Tips for personal safety online

Gain valuable knowledge on online safety and effective measures to protect your online identity through the insights shared by Claribel Chai, the Country Director for Singapore at Palo Alto Networks.

Claribel Chai, Country Director for Singapore, Palo Alto Networks

What is Social Media Day?

Social Media Day, started by Mashable in 2010, commemorates the impact of social media on our global communications. It’s hard to fathom the world we live in today without this digital force that seamlessly weaves together our interconnected lives. In Singapore, close to 85% of the population uses an average of 7.1 social media platforms, spending an average of 2 hours and 13 minutes daily on these platforms.

Thanks to social media, we have the remarkable ability to connect with people who would have otherwise been out of our reach. It’s a powerful tool that has allowed us to form relationships and share experiences with individuals from all walks of life.

Privacy and social media

However, we must acknowledge that this connectivity isn’t exclusive to those with good intentions. Sadly, some individuals exploit social media for their malicious purposes. The 2022 Annual Scams and Cybercrime Brief even outlined that social media is among the most used platforms by threat actors to scam users. It’s a harsh reality that as we share our lives online without boundaries, we unintentionally create opportunities for those with ill intentions to take advantage of.

Sometimes, even the slightest oversharing of information can lead others to the trail of your digital footprint, guiding them closer to the vault of your privacy. Little things that may seem inconsequential, like sharing a selfie or tagging a location, already contribute heavily to accumulating your information online.

The importance of this vigilance lies in the potential risks we face, including identity theft, insider threats and numerous Internet scams and frauds. Social networks are a treasure trove for cybercriminals as they embark on their initial reconnaissance steps.

Scammers thrive by creating a sense of urgency, so it’s important not to rush when asked to provide any information. Always take the time to check and validate before taking any action. You will be surprised to know that many scams and frauds originate from information found on your social media accounts, making it all the more important to protect your personal information and be wary of suspicious requests.

With World Social Media Day around the corner, here are some tips for keeping yourself safe online:

  1. Be conscious when sharing personal details online

Sharing personal details such as your full name, date of birth, home address or phone number online can put you at risk of identity theft, fraud or stalking. Therefore, it’s important to be thoughtful about what personal information you share online and to consider the potential consequences of sharing that information. You can limit your exposure by changing your account setting to private and only sharing information on a need-to-know basis.

  • Take back control of your online privacy with the help of ad blockers and privacy extensions

Websites gather data about your online activity through third-party trackers and cookies, which can then be used to create a profile of you and deliver relevant advertisements. Ad-blockers and privacy add-ons can reduce the amount of information that is gathered about you online. While privacy extensions block trackers and cookies to prevent websites from gathering information about you, ad-blockers prohibit advertisements from showing on web pages. Look for reviews and suggestions for these tools online.

Remember that some websites may not function properly if you leave these tools turned on and some may require you to do so to access particular features or material. However, privacy extensions and ad-blockers might help safeguard your online identity and reduce your digital footprint.

  • Close inactive and irrelevant accounts

Deleting old and unused accounts can be a beneficial endeavour to declutter your online presence. Start by exploring your most frequently used email and search for verification emails to identify the accounts you’ve previously created. By removing these dormant accounts, you can streamline your digital footprint and regain control over your virtual identity. This proactive step allows you to free up valuable digital space and ensure that your online presence reflects your current interests and activities.

  • Preserve the privacy and safety of your phone

Our mobile phones nowadays serve as our primary method of communication and house a plethora of our personal information. Hence, we should conduct regular device inspections, uninstalling unneeded apps and scrutinising permissions for those we keep. Each access request should be carefully considered. Toggle location tracking as needed, turn off Bluetooth when not in use, and remember that tech behemoths can utilise devious tactics to identify your device’s whereabouts. In an era of growing surveillance, take control, stay informed and fortify your digital privacy.

  • Hold back from those delicious cookies

Most websites use cookies to track user activity, preferences, and login information. Fortunately, many websites have adjustable cookie preferences, allowing you to enable or disable specific types of cookies. It is also essential to clear your browser’s cookies regularly, thus erasing recorded information about your online activities. These extensions provide granular control over cookies, allowing you to manage and delete them based on your preferences. With these safeguards, you can traverse the digital domain more confidently and enjoy a more enjoyable online experience.

  • Contact platforms for the removal of your existing data

While it may be challenging to have your digital footprint completely removed from the online system, nevertheless, there is still a glimmer of hope. You can reach out to search engines like Google and request the removal of your data from their systems. While it may require some patience, and there’s no guarantee of success, the potential rewards can be truly remarkable. It’s worth noting that several other search engines also offer this service, broadening your possibilities for regaining control over your online presence.

  • Provide special care for groups like the elderly and children

These groups may be more trusting of strangers on social media and hence be more susceptible to fraud or scams. We need to make sure that all devices that are being used by the elderly and children in our family are protected with the latest software updates and strong passwords. Proper education and transfer of practical cyber hygiene skills are also needed.

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