Is your digital identity secure?

Sheriff Jay Koon

Identity theft is real. With the growing amount of business conducted online, thieves have access to an abundance of your personal information at their fingertips. World Password Day (May 2) reminds us to take steps to keep our digital information as secure as possible.

First and foremost, create online passwords that are hard to guess—utilize numbers and symbols whenever possible. Don’t use your birthday, home address or dog’s name. If a thief can look at your social media feed and guess your password, it’s too easy. Use a different password for each account, especially critical websites like banking and health care. Try not to use a word that’s in the dictionary; hackers use these common spellings to enable brute-force attacks and gain control over your accounts.

Look to use multi-factor authentication when available. This is typically a two-step process to logging into your online account, such as an SMS code, fingerprint scanner or security questions. You can also utilize password managers to assist with logging in. These type of applications keep all of your passwords secure, encrypted—by first helping you create long, complicated strings; different for each website.

Never give out personal information in response to an unsolicited email or instant message. Official entities like the IRS and other government organizations will never ask for sensitive information through email. Be cautious when clicking on links or opening attachments in emails from unfamiliar contacts.

Avoid being an accessible target. Social media doesn’t need to know where you live or what you drive. Resist posting photos of your residence and vehicle online. The more information you give out, the easier it is for you to become a victim of identity theft. Take the time to search for yourself on the web; what kinds of articles and photos show up when searching your name. It’s always a good idea to be aware of how your digital identity is being portrayed.

No one is immune to online fraud opportunities. But, taking steps to protect your information can safeguard your identity from potential threats.