How to clean up your digital footprint and secure yourself from cyber criminals

25th February 2019 453 views Uba Joseph

> Over 3.5 billion internet searches are done daily using internet search engines such as google etc. > Social media holds lots and lots of our personal information such as hobbies, images, friends etc. > Cyber security experts advise removing unnecessary data stored in the internet.

Have you been Googled? If so you could fall victim to fraudsters out to steal your personal information – and money.

Internet search engines handle more than 3.5 billion searches a day – millions of which are done by 'dark web' criminals in search of easy targets for a financial killing.

You may have been plucked out at random but once your name has been tapped into Google all kinds of personal information can be harvested.

Stuart Peck, director of cyber security strategy at computer consultancy ZeroDayLab, says hackers using an internet search engine such as Google access seemingly innocuous details that, pieced together, can enable them to steal identities and hack accounts. 

'It is surprisingly easy for the scammers to pick up details from the web such as your full name, address, date of birth, work, email address, phone number, as well as details of family and friends,' he says. 

Family connections may also be found through ancestry search services such as Genes Reunited while the website Have I Been Pwned reveals if your email address has been compromised – and whether private details and passwords may have been stolen by hackers.

Peck says: 'You must make it difficult for an attacker to piece together information about you. Use different passwords for services and even alternative usernames and email addresses if possible.'

The security expert recommends a 'clean-up of your digital footprint' to make it harder for thieves to purloin your valuable information.

This involves removing unnecessary stored data that is kept on services you no longer use to lower the risk of being hacked. Peck says the website can help do this.

Colin Tankard, a cyber security expert at Harlow-based Digital Pathways, says you should also be wary of 'cookies' on your computer. This is where websites visited have been allowed to install software that lets them monitor and record some browsing history.

He says: 'When you visit a website that has been Googled it will often ask whether you wish to accept and continue – and if so whether it has permission to use cookies. Without clicking this link you may not be able to gain access.'

Tankard says: 'But what you may not be aware of is that cookies can spy on you.'

Tankard suggests going into the 'preferences' menu of a web browser such as Firefox, Safari and Google Chrome, and then to the 'manage privacy and security settings' section to reveal the cookies on your computer. Clicking on a link to individually delete them reduces the chance of data harvesting. 


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