What's Your Online Reputation

No, we're not talking about how many Twitter followers or Facebook friends you have. When it comes to cyber-mindfulness, your online reputation is about two things:

  1. Safe Rep: What personally identifiable information (PII) is readily available in the cybersphere that could be used against you by cyber attackers and social engineers?
  2. Smart Rep: Does the information available about you online present an image you're comfortable with?

The National Cyber Security Alliance puts all this reputational stuff in a one-minute nutshell:

Safe Rep: Anything You Digitize May Be Used Against You

Digital information about you can be captured and used by crooks to target you with social engineering scams or flat out steal from you. The Guardian's 30-minute documentary “The Power of Privacy” is a fascinating look at what hackers and scammers can quickly and easily find online and how they'll use it to their advantage. (The video also features one fellow's impressive moustache and explains the “rick-rolling” phenomenon; well worth a viewing).

Smart Rep: What You Post Can Last A Lifetime

Any bit of information we post will likely remain on the Internet forever. We're pretty sure you are not posting pictures of your bubble bath online, but if you've got young'uns in your life who might need a few reminders, here's a quick video for the kids.

SHARE WITH CARE

Some things to keep in mind when sharing online:

  • Do your research: Before posting information online, find out who can access the information, who controls and owns the information, and what is shared with third parties.
  • Keep your personal information private: Assess whether it's *really* necessary to share sensitive information such as your birthday, mailing address, phone number, e-mail, mother's maiden name, sexual orientation or Social Security number. When appropriate, make up answers only you would know or share partial information (like your birthday, but not the year you were born).
  • Be cautious about accepting requests to connect online: Connect only to people you trust who will not misuse the information or photos you post about your personal life, preferences, whereabouts.
  • Own your online presence: Set the privacy and security settings on web services and devices to your comfort level for information sharing (more on this in “Privacy Settings Palooza” below).
  • Keep travel plans off social media: Don't post when you're traveling or going out of town on vacation. Letting criminals know that you're not home is an open invitation.Similarly, don't “check in” on social media everywhere you go.
  • Get savvy about WiFi hotspots: Public wireless networks and hotspots are not secure - anyone could potentially see what you're doing on your mobile device while connected. Limit what you do on public WiFi and avoid logging in to accounts like email and financial services on these networks.
  • Disable WiFi and Bluetooth when not in use: Some stores and other locations look for devices with WiFi or Bluetooth turned on to track your movements while you are within range.
  • Think before you app: Information about you, such as the games you like to play, your contacts list, where you shop and your location, has value ‒ just like money. Be thoughtful about who gets that information and how it's collected through apps.
  • Delete when done: Many of us download apps for specific purposes, such as planning a vacation, and no longer need them afterwards, or we may have previously downloaded apps that are no longer useful or interesting to us. It's a good security practice to delete all apps you no longer use.
  • Secure your devices: Use strong passwords, passcodes or touch ID features to lock your devices. These security measures can help protect your information if your devices are lost or stolen and keep prying eyes out.
  • Be aware of what's being shared: When you share a post, picture or video online, you may also be revealing information about others. Be thoughtful when and how you share information about others.

A final note about those mobile devices: Our smartphones, laptops and tablets can pack a lot of info about us and our friends and family, like contacts, photos, videos, location and health and financial data. The eponymous organization STOP THINK CONNECT recommends the following:

STOP: make sure security measures are in place.
THINK: about the consequences of your actions and behaviors online.
CONNECT: and enjoy your devices with more peace of mind.