What is identity management and why does it matter? — plus 7 tips
Published: April 07, 2021 2 min read
Identity management involves protecting your personal information tied to your online activities. Here’s how to make it work for you.
If you spend time shopping, banking, and connecting online, you have a digital identity. But how do you manage that identity? A crash course in identity management might help.
What is identity management? Identity management relates to how organizations and individuals manage digital identities.
For a business, identity management includes protecting the personal information of employees and controlling employee access to company systems and data.
For an individual, identity management involves protecting personal information tied to a person’s online behavior. That includes communication, shopping, and financial transactions done online.
Why does identity management matter for consumers?
It’s smart to manage your digital identity to help protect against online scams, identity theft, and other types of fraud.
You probably share a lot of personal data online, including information required to open a financial account or to sign up for a free app. You provide the information in exchange for a product or service.
A lot of your personal data already exists publicly online. Data brokers can gather and sell that information. Or, in the event of a data breach, hackers might access your sensitive information stored by a company or online retailer and sell it on the dark web.
The truth is, it’s probably impossible for you to manage all of your online data. But identity management can give you some control.
7 tips for identity management
For effective identity management, it’s smart to focus on doing things that can help protect your personal information. Here are 10 quick tips that can help.
1. Watch out for phishing scams
Without thinking, you might click on a dangerous link in a phishing email. That could put your device — and the personal information you keep on it — at risk.
Phishing emails and texts are designed to trick you into providing your personal or financial information. The message might look like it comes from a legitimate source, like your bank, and it might encourage you to click on a link.
Don’t do it. There’s a good chance the link will take you to a page that asks for personal information such as your bank log-in credentials. If you provide that information, scammers could use it to access your account and withdraw your money.
Another risk of clicking? You might download malicious software onto your smartphone or computer.
Identity-management advice: Never click on links in unsolicited messages.
2. Change your passwords
It’s a good idea to change your passwords regularly. That way, scammers will have a harder time accessing your online accounts.
A strong password should be unique and complex. It should contain a combination of 12 symbols, numbers, and letters. Or you might consider a passphrase. A passphrase consists of a long string of words that you can remember, but others would have a hard timing guessing.
Another alternative? You might consider a password manager, which acts as an encrypted vault. You’ll only have to remember one master password to access all of your unique login credentials for each online account.
Identity-management advice: Never use the same password on more than one account.
3. Sign up for two-factor authentication
When activated, two-factor authentication provides an extra layer of protection when you log in to an account.
Your bank probably offers two-factor authentication. First, you enter your username and password. Then comes the second factor: A code number is texted to your phone or sent to your email. Enter the code to complete the log-in process.
That extra factor can help protect against hackers accessing your accounts.
Identity-management advice: Consider signing up for or activating two-factor authentication whenever it’s available, especially on sensitive accounts.
4. Order your free credit reports
If someone has stolen your personal or financial information, they may be able to open credit accounts or take out loans in your name. That’s why it’s important to monitor your credit reports for suspicious activity.
Identity-management advice: It’s also a good idea to review your credit card and bank statements for things like charges you don’t recognize and withdrawals you didn’t make.
5. Consider a VPN
A virtual private network, better known as a VPN, is a great online privacy tool. It creates an encrypted tunnel between you and a remote private server operated by your VPN provider. A VPN conceals your IP address — which indicates your location — and encrypts the data you send and receive.
In short, a VPN helps protect your personal information and browsing history from snoops.
Identity-management advice: When using public Wi-Fi, log in to your VPN provider before accessing the web. This prevents anyone from intercepting your log-in credentials and other sensitive information.
6. Install security software
Trusted security software helps block viruses and malware. This can prevent cybercriminals from harming your devices or accessing your personal information.
For instance, some malware records your keystrokes and can expose your login credentials to sensitive accounts.
Identity-management advice: Keep your device operating systems and your security software updated. Updates protect against vulnerabilities, like new viruses or malware. Configure your device settings to update your OS and security software automatically.
7. Be careful what you post on social media
It’s can be tempting to post all sorts of information on your social media accounts. But keep in mind that scammers may be able to use some of that personal information to steal your identity.
That’s why it’s important to never give away personal information like your address, date of birth, and phone number. It’s smart, too, not to give up your full first and last names.
And those vacation photos you post while relaxing on a beach? A scammer might see them and decide it’s a good time to break into your house. Better to post the photos after you return home.
Identity-management advice: Social media platforms have settings to limit who sees what you post. Engage those privacy features and share narrowly.
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