What is your Digital Footprint?

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According to a recent cybersecurity study, a staggering 91% of cyberattacks begin with an email. Considering emails store a lot of your data, this highlights the critical role they play in our digital lives and the need to be aware of your digital footprint.

Introduction

Your digital footprint is the data trail you leave when engaging online. This data might be deliberately shared, such as social media posts, or silently accumulated by sites and advertisers via tools like cookies. As digital interaction becomes a staple in your lives, the integrity of your online communications, especially emails, takes precedence.

The Digital Footprint: A Trace of Online Activity

Think of your digital footprint like footprints in the sand, but instead of sand, it’s the vast expanse of the internet. Each time you wander through websites, post your thoughts on social media, or even just click on a link, you’re leaving a mark behind. Just as footprints can tell someone if you walked or ran along a beach, your digital tracks reveal pieces of information about who you are, what you like, and even your routines.

Every click and every online comment contributes to your digital footprint, which can be categorized into:

  • Active Footprints: Actions like social media posts, emails, and video uploads.
  • Passive Footprints: Unintentional trails tracked by third parties.

Being aware of your footprint is vital, as it can dictate online perceptions and influence various aspects of life, from job prospects to social interactions.

Because of these footprints, your online world feels a bit more personalized. You get film recommendations, tailored ads, and even news articles that align with your interests. But there’s a flip side: the more we’re online, the more of ourselves you expose. It’s like leaving footprints in wet cement – they can become permanent, and anyone might stumble upon them. So, while the digital age offers unprecedented connectivity and customization, it’s essential to stay mindful, knowing each step contributes to the story we’re telling the world about ourselves.

Why are Secure Emails important?

Emails often contain sensitive personal and business data. The more of this data you have exposed, the more vulnerable you become to cyberattacks.

Cybercriminals frequently send counterfeit emails that mimic legitimate companies you may be associated with, such as Facebook, your telecom provider, or even a fabricated bill from your utility company.

So, how do these criminals know which companies you’re connected to? The answer lies in your digital footprint.

Employing secure emails with features like end-to-end encryption and two-factor authentication is not a luxury but a necessity.

These tools serve as gatekeepers for your digital identity, assuring that private discussions remain private.

The Mechanics of Email Security

Think of email security as the sturdy lock on your front door, protecting your online world. Just as burglars have different tricks, online threats range from sneaky scams like phishing to more complex ones.

If we’re not careful, these can harm your online reputation. Thankfully, by choosing strong email services and learning about these online ‘burglars’, you can better protect your digital ‘homes’.

Privacy and Digital Presence: Striking the Balance

Privacy is not anonymity. It’s about establishing an online presence without conceding personal boundaries. Meticulous email practices, complemented by informed use of privacy tools, pave the way for this equilibrium, letting you operate online without unnecessary exposure.

How to Protect Your Digital Footprint?

1. Awareness is the First Step

Before you can protect your digital footprint, you must understand it. Regularly check what’s out there about you. Google your name, see what social media profiles come up, and review your posts and images.

2. Limit the Information You Share

Always think twice before sharing personal information online. Whether it’s a social media post or an online form, the less personal data you put out there, the smaller your digital footprint.

  • Social Media: Use privacy settings to control who can see your posts, photos, and other information.
  • Online Shopping: While it’s convenient to save your billing and shipping information for later, consider not doing so. It limits potential exposure should the e-commerce site suffer a data breach.

3. Use Strong, Unique Passwords

Having different passwords for different accounts ensures that if one account is compromised, others remain safe. Using a password manager can help you maintain and organize your passwords.

4. Browse Privately

There are several ways to ensure your browsing habits remain private:

  • Incognito Mode: This prevents your browsing history and search queries from being saved. However, it doesn’t hide your activity from websites or your internet service provider.
  • VPN (Virtual Private Network): A VPN encrypts your online data, making it difficult for anyone to snoop on your activities or pinpoint your location.
  • Secure Search Engines: Instead of popular search engines, consider using ones that don’t track your search history, like DuckDuckGo, Qwant, or Ecosia.

5. Be Wary of Cookies and Trackers

Many websites track your activity using cookies. While some are essential for functionality, others are used to collect data on your behaviour:

  • Regularly Clear Cookies: This can limit the amount of data websites accumulate about you.
  • Use Browser Extensions: Tools like Privacy Badger or uBlock Origin can block trackers and ads that might be collecting your data.

6. Limit App Permissions

Only give apps the permissions they absolutely need to function. For instance, a note-taking app shouldn’t need access to your camera or contacts.

7. Be Cautious with Public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi networks are convenient but not always secure. Avoid accessing personal accounts or conducting sensitive transactions on these networks. If you must, use a VPN.

8. Opt-out of Data Collection

Many services, including search engines and marketing networks, offer ways to opt out of data collection. Although it can be time-consuming, it’s worth investigating and opting out where possible.

9. Regularly Review and Delete Old Accounts

Chances are, you’ve signed up for online services or subscriptions that you no longer use. These dormant accounts can be a security risk. Delete accounts you’re no longer using and reduce the number of potential entry points for hackers.

10. Educate Yourself

New threats and techniques emerge constantly. Stay informed about the latest in digital privacy, data breaches, and protective measures. Our email privacy and security course is a great place to start educating yourself.

Conclusion

In today’s digital world, every click, like, and share tells a story about you. It’s a bit like leaving footprints in the sand, but these marks stay long after the tide comes in. Just as you care about the impressions you leave in your day-to-day interactions, you should be mindful of the digital tracks you leave behind. After all, it’s your story, and you should have a say in how it’s told. As you become even more dependent on technology, it’s a good reminder to navigate carefully and thoughtfully in the digital landscape.

Secure your emails with Mailfence. For us, privacy is more than just a feature; it’s a fundamental right.

FAQ

What is a digital footprint?

Your digital footprint is like your tracks on the internet. It’s made up of things you share, like posts, and info that websites gather about you even if you don’t know it.

How do emails contribute to my digital footprint?

Every email sent or received becomes part of your online history. They contain personal and professional information that, if accessed by unauthorized parties, can be misused. Thus, ensuring their security is essential for maintaining a positive digital footprint.

What’s the difference between active and passive digital footprints?

Active footprints result from deliberate online actions, such as posts or emails. Passive footprints are unintentional trails, like data tracked by websites using cookies without direct user action.

How can I audit my current digital footprint?

There are tools and services that can provide an overview of your online presence, revealing what personal information might be publicly accessible. Regularly checking social media settings and using search engines to look up your name can also provide insights.

Are there reputable secure email service providers?

Yes, platforms like Mailfence, ProtonMail, and Tutanota offer robust security features to protect your emails.

Reclaim your email privacy.
Create your free and secure email today.
Patrick De Schutter

Patrick De Schutter

Patrick is the co-founder of Mailfence. He's a serial entrepreneur and startup investor since 1994 and launched several pioneering internet companies such as Allmansland, IP Netvertising or Express.be. He is a strong believer and advocate of encryption and privacy. You can follow @pdeschutter on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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