What Is Digital Identity?
Your digital identity is a collection of personally identifiable information assigned to you and the digital traces you leave behind as you live your life. It includes your login IDs, your search history, your purchase history, your social media history, and your payment history. If you haven’t aggressively worked to prevent it, it includes your location history as tracked by your cell phone and apps. For example, apps may track your location so they can serve up location-based ads. That’s separate from apps that track your location as a matter of course like apps telling you how many miles you walked today and giving you directions while driving to your destination.
What Can Individuals do to Protect Their Digital Identity?
Safeguard your Social Security Number. Resist requests to give it out unless it is actually necessary such as when you’re applying for government services.
Protect your data on your devices. Encrypt data on your computer and outgoing emails. Keep your antivirus software up to date and scan your devices regularly. Don’t use unprotected Wi-Fi networks.
If in doubt, don’t. Don’t use an iffy website to order a suspiciously cheap version of the product you want. Don’t download the free pirated ebook you were reluctant to spend five dollars on. Know that the jail-break software may include backdoors on your device for hackers.
Save your data locally such as an external drive you control instead of saving it to the cloud. This prevents your data from lost along with fifty million other people’s data when the cloud server is hacked or intercepted on its way to the cloud by hackers.
Know that apps are a weak point when it comes to IT security. Don’t install free and cheap apps that slurp up your data. (Tiktok and WeChat have been described as malware masquerading as social media services.)
Use a variety of email addresses, user IDs, and passwords. If you use the same ones across the board, someone who steals one can access almost all of your accounts.
Only use websites and apps that protect your personal information.
How Can Businesses Protect Their Customer Data?
Business owners, you must protect your customer’s digital identities. But how can you do this?
Use AI-powered tools that verify someone’s identity. For example, require the customer to pass a “liveness” check by sending a two-second video of them looking into the camera. This proves that the person asking for a loan or buying restricted items online is real, and you can compare that short video clip to the scanned ID. While this may not prevent a close relative from stealing someone’s ID, it will stop more than 95% of scammers from simply using someone’s login credentials and a scanned copy of their driver’s license.
Keep your IT security measures up to date. Keep the OS on your web server and anti-virus tools up to date. Monitor for suspicious activity on the server. If you’ve outsourced your web hosting, make sure the web host has up-to-date security measures.
If you hire someone to develop an app, verify that it follows standard IT security practices like encrypting password data.