Your online identity is unique. It is made out of your IP address, phone number, email address, photo, browsing history, credit card data, and any other personal details.
Some people prefer to remain anonymous on the web, thus employing fake names and phone numbers, stock photos, and an unimportant email address used for receiving spam messages.
However, most people continue to add real information to their Internet ID, unwillingly exposing themselves to the dangers of the Internet. All of us risk getting our IDs stolen.
As such, we wanted to dedicate this article to users interested in maximizing their security to protect their online identity and prevent ID thefts in fifteen ways.
Check out the list of topics below to see what we are talking about (click to jump).
- Secure your email to protect sensitive data
- Do not keep all confidential info in a single place
- Reduce Google search results related to your online identity
- Make your Facebook, Instagram and other social media accounts private
- Install an anti-malware service that can protect your online identity
- Keep track of your credit score and freeze your credit accounts
- Be careful where you shop online to prevent identity theft
- Set up foolproof passwords and use a password manager
- Turn on two-factor authentication everywhere you can
- Turn on alerts for all your accounts in case of identity theft
- Remember to sign out as soon as you are done
- Restrict access to your device to prevent online identity theft
- Take measures to avoid online tracking
- Join the Tor network to protect your anonymity
- Use a VPN service to secure all Internet connections
1. Secure your email to protect sensitive data
Your email address is the place where you exchange messages with your boss, co-workers, and clients. But it is also the place where you receive your monthly bank statements and notifications about important apps, websites, and services.
Suffice it to say, your email address holds valuable information that you cannot risk losing in the hands of cyber-criminals. Therefore, it is paramount to secure your email and protect sensitive data.
There are several things you can do to improve your email security. For instance, you can set up unbreakable passwords for all accounts and change them from time to time. You can also enable two-factor authentication mode and switch to a secure email service that supports end-to-end-encryption.
2. Do not keep all confidential info in a single place
For example, Android and Google users, in general, have a Google account. They use to log into their device, check their email, and so on. Although it is an incredibly convenient service that has tons of security features, it comes with risks.
If someone manages to log into your Google account, they will have access to everything: Gmail, payment details, login credentials for all sites you visit, Calendar with secret events, Google Keep if you use it to store important notes, and anything else linked to your Google account.
Instead, consider spreading this information across multiple accounts that cannot be linked to each other. This way, if one of your accounts gets hacked, the others remain safe, at least until you find out that you were hacked.
3. Reduce Google search results related to your online identity
Let’s face it: the first time you meet someone, your instinct says that you should look up that person on the Internet to see how many details you can find. It is actually an approach that almost all companies take nowadays when you apply for a job.
In fact, you can run a Google search about you right now to see what you can find related to your true name, primary email address, and phone number. Now imagine that anything you can find is also visible to other people.
And this information could be used by someone interested and clever enough to steal your online identity. Some entry-level hackers do this for practice alone.
Therefore, you should try reducing your footprint on websites indexed by Google. Fortunately, there are solutions for this. Firstly, you can contact the websites to request removing your personal information from their page.
Secondly, if the previous plan fails, you can get in touch with Google and kindly request the company to remove search results that include details about your online identity. Check out this page to see what kind of information can be removed from Google search results.
4. Make your Facebook, Instagram and other social media accounts private
Facebook, Instagram, and other social media accounts are the perfect place for hackers and burglars to gather their info on unsuspecting victims.
If you were not already aware of this, burglars follow you on Facebook. This way, you unintentionally let the burglars know when you leave the city so that they can break in and steal your valuables.
It is definitely more frightening than losing your online identity to hackers. But cyber-criminals can use the same approach to build a personal profile about you. Then, you could break into your email accounts using this information.
If you created your email address a long time ago, we would like to remind you that you answered a couple of email recovery questions while setting up the account. For a long time, this was the only security method in case you forgot your password.
However, those answers are still associated with the questions. And, if you posted on Facebook the name of your first pet or the city where your parents met, this info can be used to sign into your accounts legitimately. With enough time, the hacker can make so many changes to your account that you will not be able to log in anymore.
The moral of the story is that your social media accounts should be private. But a better idea is to refrain yourself from posting too much personal information, in general. You never know when a so-called friend or actual Internet stranger could decide to use your personal data against you.
5. Install an anti-malware service that can protect your online identity
Most online identity thefts start with some form of malware. And, unfortunately, your operating system does not have an integrated feature that can help counteract identity threat attempts on the Internet.
Therefore, you should resort to a reliable anti-malware application that can not only find and remove malware from your PC, but also keep you safe from ID theft.
For example, Bitdefender Total Security supports an anti-theft module for all your devices. It can prevent hackers from exploiting your system’s vulnerabilities, as well as to detect and block brute-force attempts.
The anti-theft tool can also protect your device from botnet attacks and keep your sensitive data safe by preventing it from being sent in non-encrypted forms.
Whatever anti-malware solution you pick, make sure to keep it up to date by downloading and installing the latest virus definitions. This way, the program can guard you against the newest threats, including zero-day attacks.
6. Keep track of your credit score and freeze your credit accounts
To make sure that you have not fallen prey to financial theft without even realizing it, you can monitor your credit score. If you do not recognize your financial activity, then you will know it is time to freeze your credit accounts and review your financial data.
For example, US residents have the legal right to three free credit reports every year (from Equifax, Experian, and Transunion). You can immediately get and print your credit report.
Even if you are not the victim of identity theft, you should consider freezing your credit accounts if you do not plan to use them in the near future. Instead, use debit accounts to make online payments since they are a safer option.
7. Be careful where you shop online to prevent identity theft
There are many phishing websites out there that impersonate legitimate banks or popular online shopping services. As such, you should be careful where you enter your credit card info when making payments.
The first sign of trouble is an HTTP page instead of HTTPS. It means that your connection to the site is unencrypted, so anyone who might be monitoring your connection can see what you are doing.
Instead, opt for reputable websites when buying an online product or service. If you are not familiar with a new site, run a quick research about it. You can also check for reviews or history of any scams.
8. Set up foolproof passwords and use a password manager
One of the steps you should take toward securing your online identity is running a security checkup and evaluating your passwords. Avoid using simple passwords that can be easily remembered and just as quickly guessed.
Set up foolproof passwords made from many characters, including lowercase and uppercase letters, digits, and symbols. Never use the same password twice and never for two or more accounts.
But it can become challenging to keep track of all your keys, so it is better to turn to a dependable password manager like LastPass. All you have to do is remember the master password for unlocking LastPass itself.
Plus, the tool has a random password generator available online, which you can use to instantly create unbreakable keys for all your digital accounts. This way, you will not have to worry about losing your online identity to hackers anymore.
9. Turn on two-factor authentication everywhere you can
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security measure that requires you to fulfill two conditions. Before receiving access to your account, you must enter your password and confirm it with your smartphone.
For the second part, you usually need to tap a number on the screen (like Google Alerts) or verify the code you receive in an SMS (like Mastercard’s SecureCode).
Not only email accounts feature two-factor authentication, but also other online services like Steam (it requires the Steam Guard Code). But 2FA is never enabled by default. So, you must check for this setting or consult your bank and turn it on.
With 2FA enabled, cyber-criminals will have a significantly more difficult time taking over your online identity because they need to steal your smartphone, too.
10. Turn on alerts for all your accounts in case of identity theft
Email providers, bank services and others give you the possibility to turn on alerts for all activities. For example, if someone logs into your Gmail account from a new device, Google sends an email notification to the recovery email address.
Similarly, some bank services send you text messages whenever there has been activity on your account. Subsequently, you will immediately find out if someone is tampering with your accounts. Then you can take action, like freezing your bank account.
11. Remember to sign out as soon as you are done
If you are not using your own computer to log into Facebook, check your email or consult your bank statement, always remember to log out as soon as you finish. Otherwise, the next person that will be using the PC will receive access to your confidential data.
A better solution for protecting your online identity is to use a private or incognito browsing session. It does not record your browsing history, nor offer to remember your passwords. And the browser logs out of your accounts automatically as soon as you close all private browsing windows.
12. Restrict access to your device to prevent online identity theft
It should stand to reason that you must protect your device to make sure that no one else can gain access and retrieve information related to your online identity.
For example, if you are working at the office, lock the PC when you are stepping away for a few moments. But turn it off when you go home at the end of the day.
As far as your smartphone is concerned, find and activate all security settings, such as PIN, fingerprinting and voice match, depending on the capabilities of your device and OS.
Also, you should get ready to erase all device contents in case it gets stolen. This means that you should back up all data to the cloud to make sure you will not lose everything.
13. Take measures to avoid online tracking
There are multiple methods that you can apply to avoid online trackers and shield your identity. For example, you can enable the Do-Not-Track feature in your web browser as well as regularly clear your browser cookies.
Any relevant information about your web browser that can be collected and used to determine your online identity creates your browser fingerprint. As such, you must minimize personal browser data and become one with the crowd to make it more difficult for trackers to discover you across the Internet.
14. Join the Tor network to protect your anonymity
If you wish to maximize your online privacy and security, you can join the Tor anonymous network. It works different from a VPN because a VPN encrypts your data traffic once. Meanwhile, Tor applies multiple rounds of encryption. It relays your data traffic through multiple servers until it reaches its intended destination.
Moreover, Tor has special servers called bridges that behave like censorship circumvention tools. If you are living or traveling to a country whose government imposes harsh Internet policies, you can connect to Tor bridges to protect your online identity. Bridges are also useful in countries that blocked Tor, such as China, Iran, Iraq, Belarus, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Russia, and Venezuela.
But if you are wondering whether it is better to use Tor or a VPN service to maximize your security, you do not have to make that choice. Many VPNs are compatible with Tor, which means that you can connect to a VPN server and then join the Tor network so that you can use Tor and VPN together. Although it takes a toll on your connection speed, it is the best way to ensure your online anonymity.
15. Use a VPN service to secure all Internet connections
One of the best ways to protect your online identity is by turning to a trustworthy VPN service. It isolates your data traffic from the public Internet by creating a secure tunnel. Thus, it shields your private content from hackers, such as login credentials and credit card info.
Using a virtual private network tool is especially recommended when you connect to public, unprotected Wi-Fi networks. It adds an extra layer of security that an open hotspot cannot possible compensate.
Besides, a VPN comes with many other benefits, like unlocking the US Netflix library if you are not a US resident, bypassing firewalls and overcoming government censorship, as well as helping you find better details when it comes to flights and hotel booking.
But it is not easy to choose the right VPN service. There are many products out there, and it is important to compare the pros and cons before making a decision. However, you can trust your advice since we have evaluated, reviewed and ranked over 50 products to find the best VPN services.
As such, we think that ExpressVPN is your best choice when it comes to protecting your online identity. It supports up to five simultaneous connections but can be installed on routers to share the VPN connection with more than five devices at a time.
Plus, you can connect to an ExpressVPN server and then join the Tor network if you want to maximize your online privacy. If you want to learn more about this tool, you can get started with a premium subscription plan here.
To sum up, there are plenty of steps you must review if you wish to improve the security of your online identity and prevent hackers from getting hold of it. But we would love to hear more ideas. So, please do not hesitate to leave us a comment in the section below.