Protecting Your Identity With Good Cyber Hygiene

Contributed by the South Carolina Department of Administration’s Division of Information Security

Did you know that you expose your online identity each time you log on to a website, make an online payment, send an email, use a social network, post online or send a text? What can you do to help protect yourself and your information?

 Types of Threats – Identity Theft and Doxing

First let’s identify some of the more common threats. Identity theft is when a person or entity uses your information — name, contact information, financial accounts, Social Security number, etc. — without permission or with malicious intent. Scammers can use this information to change your billing address, steal government benefits, open a bank account, apply for loans or lines of credit, use your money to make purchases or even commit crimes. Doxing is the act of revealing someone’s personal information online to bully, harass or to otherwise cause harm.

 Now, let’s learn some tips and best practices designed to help us from becoming a victim.

 Social Media Profiles

Keep social media profiles private. Under privacy settings, disable location tracking for applications installed on your device and consider the use of a virtual private network (VPN) to hide your IP address.

 Online Shopping

When shopping online, look for the padlock icon in the address bar and avoid those sites that do not. The padlock indicates the site uses encryption and verification to protect data. When shopping, visit only legitimate websites and use secure online payment options and digital wallets.

 Public Wi-Fi Guidelines

  • Use VPN to encrypt data whenever possible.
  • Never access personal or financial information from public Wi-Fi networks.
  • Never shop online from public Wi-Fi networks.
  • Do not stay permanently signed into accounts.
  • Do not leave devices unattended in public places.

 Good Cyber Hygiene Practices

  • Keep software/hardware up to date with the latest operating systems and security patches.
  • Create strong passwords by using uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
  • Do not use the same password or form of password on multiple accounts.
  • Update passwords every few months.
  • Make security questions challenging and known only to you.
  • Consider the use of multi-factor authentication to add an extra layer of protection.
  • Deactivate/delete old shopping, social media and email accounts.
  • Unsubscribe from mailing lists that are no longer of interest.

 Protect your identity by maintaining security awareness and good cyber hygiene.

The SC Department of Administration's Division of Information Security is responsible for a variety of statewide policies, standards, programs and services related to cybersecurity and information systems, including the statewide coordination of critical infrastructure information provides. It provides tips and information via County COMPASS monthly.