Your digital identity, made up of your personal information and traces of your activity on the internet, is more valuable than you may believe. This is why there’s such a high risk of its being exploited by a Doppelganger. This German word translates roughly as “double.” In an internet-related context, it is a digital version of an identical twin. Digital twins are not an infrequent occurrence and running a background check on yourself can help you discover if you have one.
While sounding somewhat complicated, the concept of digital identity is not that hard to grasp. Basically, it is any personal data on the internet that someone can trace back to you. This includes your search engine history, your bank account, pictures uploaded to social media, posts you’ve shared, comments you’ve left on forums, and/or your Steam account if you’re into gaming. We make data and content available, which ends up building our digital identities.
Types of Information That Build Digital Identity
Digital activities and digital attributes make up digital identity. You can be identified using these pieces of information, either in combination or each one separately. Examples of activities include comments, likes, and shares, photos on social networks, forum posts, purchase histories, signed petitions, search queries, geotagging, use of your cell phone, and any apps you’ve downloaded. Examples of attributes are your date and place of birth, your driver’s license number, your SSN, medical history, state-issued ID documents, usernames and passwords, bank details, your email address, tokens and badges, and biometric data such as 3D face maps, eye scans, and fingerprints.
Risks of Exploitation
There are more Doppelgangers on the web than you may imagine – this source estimates them to be more than 4 billion. Exploitation opportunities are ripe for the taking if you consider the situation from a cybersecurity perspective. Security experts compare digital identities to online currency.
If it works for you, your identity allows you to create new accounts, gives you access to them, and provides credibility to communicate with others online in a reliable and trustworthy manner. Or, it can work against you. Your personal data can be hacked or stolen. It’s subject to breaches. In the first six months of 2019, 4.1 billion records were exposed. There were also 4,000 data breaches, and those were just the publicly disclosed ones. What was personal data is now public.
Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) can be just as detrimental to your data security as a cybercriminal. They sometimes sell private browsing histories to advertising businesses that will pay quite a bit of money for them for the purpose of marketing. Gaming companies have been known to do this too. Corporations are just as guilty of hunting for our digital data as hackers, if not more because they stand to gain much more from exploiting it than individuals do.
How to Protect Your Digital Identity
Digital identities are not going anywhere. There will always be ill-meant people who want to get their hands on your data as long as you have a Doppelganger on the internet. This isn’t to say you should panic because there are many things you can do to reduce the chances of that happening. These strategies are quick and simple. Here are a few of them.
Use a VPN
Virtual private networks create a secure, encrypted connection between you and the server. Your ISP cannot read the information being transferred over this connection thanks to the special software that VPNs utilize. While this doesn’t conceal the fact that you’re using this type of network, it’s a good way to hide your online activities from your ISP.
Use a Security-Enabled Browser
If your own search engine doesn’t respect your privacy, what and who will? Opt for a browser that integrates advanced security and protects your privacy, allowing you to bank, shop, or simply browse any website safely.
Use a Password Manager
You need to protect your passwords as well as possible. Hacked passwords are a leading cause of a breach. Managers equip passwords with strong and reliable encryption and make it possible to administer them all together. Password manager features check for old, duplicate, and weak passwords, among other vulnerabilities.