Digital identity is the new frontier in cybersecurity. It is a term frequently in use now, thanks to how our online presence is expanding. The way we portray ourselves digitally has become as important as the way that we do offline. If you are one of those who are unaware of what this term means or haven’t understood it entirely, you’ve reached the right place.
Digital Identity: The Concept and Components
Digital identity refers to the digital representation of our personal identity. It is how people define themselves on the internet, and often how they are treated online. User name, email address, social media accounts, photos, passwords, location, biometrics, medicals, financials, unique online identifiers, browsing history, videos, etc form a part of our digital identity. It encompasses every piece of data about you that is available online. It mirrors your real-life identity.
To make it easier to understand, we can divide digital identity into two categories, namely digital activities and digital attributes. The former includes the tasks you carry out online, such as e-commerce purchases, app downloads and likes on social media. The latter concerns itself with your data, including your birth date, login credentials, and biometrics.
While the concept of digital identity is relatively straightforward, what makes the situation complicated is its vulnerability to exploitation and misuse. Cybercrimes have hit historical highs, and your (multiple) digital doppelgangers are likely to follow you around. As a result, your online identity is as exposed to theft as your physical one, if not more.
What Makes Your Digital Identity Important?
When we defined digital identity previously, we saw that it covered a long list of topics. That is enough to give a fair idea of just how much of our information is online. For every second that we spend on the internet, we generate upwards of 1.7 MB of data. Can you imagine just how much we would be creating in our entire lifetime?
All of the data we leave behind while carrying out different activities forms a part of our digital footprint. It is like a trail you leave behind, showing others that you were around. The trail reflects almost everything about you, from your ice cream preferences to your medical history. Since your data can reveal such intimate details, companies, businesses and governments want to constantly track you.
When you see personalised news feeds, ads tailored to what you were searching for or even saying out loud (yes, it’s possible), and discounts on products that you are interested in, it is all a result of data, thanks to your scattered digital identity. Companies process information so minutely that they know your exact behaviour; they know what you will do next.
As scary as it sounds, that is pretty much how they make money from users. You are bound to enjoy the customer experience, pay for it and share more details about yourself. And if you are not paying, then well—you’re the product itself. For example, Google search is free for everyone, but your entire search history is recorded and stored. Instead of paying Google for its services, you become a product whose data is shared with different organisations.
Losing Control of Your Digital Identity
Digital identity is one of the most critical and often overlooked aspects of cybersecurity. With new data breaches occurring every day, more people have become aware that their digital identity is vulnerable to attack. The biggest challenge lies in its management since it pans many platforms – literally every website and app you visit. On top of that, we don’t adopt good cyber hygiene and privacy practices.
A few common ways in which we lose control of our digital identities are:
Weak and Repetitive Passwords: Passwords are generally the weakest links in cybersecurity and can be breached without much effort. Except for a few accounts, we tend to not put any effort into making our passwords strong. Using the same one or its iterations across different platforms makes it very easy for hackers to access your account and steal your data. Additionally, people are still selective in using two-factor authentication (2FA), an essential step for online security.
Phishing Attacks: These kinds of cyber attacks occur when a criminal tricks an individual into sharing personal information through spam emails or malicious websites. More often than not, they will lure you in with attractive headlines such as a bumper prize or legal case. However, once you open the link, it’ll direct you to a website or link that looks legitimate. There you might fill in your account credentials as usual and have your data compromised.
Data Breaches: Sometimes, you might do everything right and still lose control of your digital identity. If you share your data with a company that is attacked, your information can be leaked. And once that happens, your data is then at the mercy of hackers who can choose to exploit it however they like.
Public WiFi: As much as we all enjoy free public WiFi, it is a boon for cybercriminals. Third parties might get access to unauthorised access to private data through unencrypted networks, session hijacking, fake connections and man-in-the-middle intercepts. All these can be extremely dangerous for your privacy and are quite hard to detect. Furthermore, once hackers get access to some personal information, they can ingress many accounts.
The Consequences of Losing Control
Our digital identities are essential to us. They tell the world who we are and what we stand for. But, with the amount of information that we have online, everything from our name and address to our credit card numbers can be easily accessed through a quick search engine query.
That’s why the outcomes of losing control are hash and hard to digest. Over time, cybercrime has flourished and resulted in many, many victims. Unfortunately, there is a good chance that you have been one too, whether you are aware of it or not.
The consequences of forfeting control over your digital identity vary significantly in intensity. If you are lucky, you might face some monetary loss or a few corrupted files. However, if you are caught on the wrong end of things, you might be looking at complete online identity theft, international crimes and large ransoms. It is hard to predict what will come your way.
Regardless of what you have to deal with, the thought of someone having access to personal documents, files, and passwords is incredibly uneasy. While many people are aware of the risks of sharing their personal information online, it’s hard to avoid them. Apart from the more measurable impacts, digital identity loss can lead to stress, anxiety, and insecurity.
Managing Your Digital Identity
The way that we answer questions like, “What is my digital identity?” or “Who am I online?” has changed. As a result, so have the ways that we manage our identities. But, whether you like it or not, there is always someone waiting to get their hands on your data. Therefore, you need to take extra precautions while being online. Here are a few tips to secure your digital identity.
Use Two-factor Authentication (2FA): This is one of the easiest yet most important ways of guaranteeing safety online. The general misconception is that if you have relatively robust and different passwords for your accounts, you don’t need anything else. Unfortunately, advanced cyberattack methods and even simple social engineering tactics can expose account credentials and data. However, by having 2FA, the additional step helps prevent account access.
Exercising Restraint Online: Most of us are guilty of revealing more than we need to. We give away our data, such as email addresses, names, and phone numbers, to strangers on the internet without thinking twice. We conveniently share sensitive information even in spaces like social media, out of peer pressure or otherwise. By exercising digital restraint, we can better control what is publicly available about us. Without that, in the long run, we will pay with our privacy, not money.
Try Using a VPN: A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts the shared information so that internet service providers cannot read it. Therefore, it ensures a secure connection between your device and the server. By using a VPN, you can surf online without worrying about information leaks. Big corporations using VPNs is a testament to their reliability.
Zero-knowledge Proofs (ZKPs): Zero-knowledge is a game-changing addition to technology where a verifier can confirm data about a user without having to access the actual data. So, if you had to prove your age at a random club, you wouldn’t need to show your driver’s licence and risk revealing additional information. When a platform uses ZKP, even its servers don’t have any idea of the contents of the stored data. All it knows is that some data is present, ensuring superior security without the threat of unwanted spying. So, if you are holding any information online, check for encryption and ZKP on the platform.
Where Cove Identity Steps In
Cove is a great tool to manage your digital identity in a straightforward, hassle-free way. It is a secure platform boasting AES 256-bit end-to-end encryption to guarantee users’ privacy at all times. Additionally, Cove is ably supported by zero-knowledge proofs. The app has five primary features.
Storage: Scan, store and share documents with ease, powered by 256-bit encryption to give you complete control.
Wallet: Organise all your physical cards in one place (from national IDs to degree certificates) with colour-coded pockets and AI-based smart OCR tagging.
Authenticator: Cove doubles up as an authenticator app and adds an extra layer of protection to your online login processes with two-factor authentication (2FA) through time and counter-based OTPs.
Drop: Bridge the gap between your phone and computer and transfer photos, documents and 2FA OTPs with ease. It’s like an encrypted USB flash drive, only better.
Chat: An end-to-end encrypted messenger that allows you to chat without insecurity. No phone numbers needed, no unnecessary screenshots, and no eavesdropping.
Therefore, the app is enough to take care of your primary digital identity needs and helps you manage them in the best way possible. Our efforts are in line with our aim to make the virtual world safer for everyone. That’s why we call Cove Identity “your safe space online”.