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Pixelated traces: Is your digital footprint putting you at risk of a scam?

If a box pops up on a new website asking you to accept cookies, do not click ‘accept’ without thinking.

The new law will safeguard journalists' sources and their content published online
The new law will safeguard journalists' sources and their content published online - Copyright AFP/File Roslan RAHMAN
The new law will safeguard journalists' sources and their content published online - Copyright AFP/File Roslan RAHMAN

During Spring many people tidy up and deep clean their houses. Yet it’s not only the physical world where you need to tidy up; the virtual realm is full of cybercriminals and would-be scammers waiting to steal data and money, and a messy digital footprint could be all the opening they need.

When we go online, we inevitably leave a data trail behind us. This includes information about the websites we have visited, the emails we’ve sent, and our social media activity. This trail of information can reveal our individual preferences, professional networks, habits, and even where you live – none of which you want to fall into a scammer’s hands.

Some useful advice has been sent to Digital Journal via the firmIncreditools.

Cookies

If a box pops up on a new website asking you to accept cookies, do not click ‘accept’ without thinking. If you do, you will be freely giving away your data, which may then be sold on. Your personal information is invaluable to businesses for targeted advertising.

To protect yourself, click ‘reject all’ or ‘manage’, and refuse as many cookies as you can.

Data theft

Cybercriminals want you to reveal sensitive information so they can steal your identity and obtain credit in your name, or log into your bank account and steal your money. Some also try to get you to download malware so they can control your computer and ransom money from you to get control back.

Update

To start to digitally spring clean, begin by reviewing and updating online accounts, deleting or deactivating any that you no longer use. Update your privacy and security settings on Google, making them as secure as possible, and then do the same across the social media platforms you use, making sure your personal information will only be shared with those you trust.

The importance of regularly changing your passwords and using a random password generator to make sure your password is uncrackable. Storing all your passwords in a password manager will let you have super-secure accounts without having to remember hundreds of strings of random letters and numbers.

Exercise an extreme amount of caution with any email or message that requests personal information or urges immediate action.

Furthermore, you should also update your software and applications regularly with the newest patches, as many of these updates are designed to defend you against malware and hacking attempts. Always choose to activate two-factor authentication if you can, and research reputable cybersecurity tools, such as antivirus software and secure browsers.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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