In the digital age, your online presence is more important than ever before. The things that you post online can have a big impact on your life. Whether it’s looking for a job, applying to college, getting a date, or any other circumstance that might require an in-depth look at who you are and what you stand for.
Your digital footprint is essential to the way that people see you and can have real implications for your future success. Unfortunately, many people use their online presence unwisely or leave themselves open to cyber-attacks by not taking proper security precautions. Here are five easy steps to cleaning up your digital footprint and protecting yourself online:
Review your social media presence
Keeping your social media presence in good order is the first step to protecting your digital footprint. You might not think that much about what you’re posting, but your posts are often used to paint a picture of who you are. That may or may not be a good thing, depending on what you’re sharing. Start by taking a look at your social media profiles.
Are they public or private? If they’re public, are they accurate? Are they polite? Do they include pictures and posts that paint an appropriate picture of you? Or are there posts or pictures that you’d rather remove? If so, learn how to do a social media background check on yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to report you.
Change your passwords and enable two-factor authentication
Passwords are essentially the key to your online life. If someone gets their hands on your password, they’ll have access to your accounts. That’s why it’s important to have strong passwords and store them safely. When it comes to creating passwords, longer is always better.
Make sure your passwords are at least 12 characters long, that they’re not a phrase you’d find in the dictionary, and that they include a combination of lower and upper case letters, numbers, and symbols. You should also change your password regularly.
Most experts recommend changing your passwords at least once a quarter. Be sure to do it on a regular basis, so you don’t forget. When it comes to storing your passwords, there are a few options. You can keep them in a written list, a digital document, a computer file, or a password manager. Whatever method you choose, make sure it’s secure.
Enable site security and block known threats
There are a number of websites that can help you clean up your digital footprint. Some of the most effective include:
- Social media – The biggest digital footprint threat is your social media presence. Make sure to review your social media accounts for any information that could be harmful to your digital footprint and remove it if necessary.
- Email – Make sure to check your email accounts for unwanted messages and spam. If you see anything that looks suspicious, report it to the provider as soon as possible.
- Browser add-ons – Install browser add-ons that can help you protect yourself from unwanted ads and potential threats.
- Password managers – Make sure to use a password manager that keeps your information secure.
- VPNs – A virtual private network can help you keep your information private while you’re online.
Don’t trust free VPNs or ad-blockers
As we noted above, VPNs can be extremely helpful. Unfortunately, there are some companies that will trick you into using their service, which may leave you exposed. Check the provider carefully before signing up for their service.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you use an ad-blocker, be careful. Some ad-blockers will block legitimate websites or even federal websites. Be careful to use an ad-blocker that isn’t overly aggressive.
Your digital footprint is an important part of your life. But it’s also something that you can control. Take the time to clean up your digital footprint, and you’ll be better prepared to face the future. From finding a job to applying to college, having a clean digital footprint can make a big difference in your life. Follow the five steps above to clean up your digital footprint and protect yourself online.