Your digital footprint in cyberspace

Having working in data privacy and internet security for a number of years, I’ve obviously been lucky to meet some very clever internet savvy people. Often our conversations centered around how the internet would evolve as well as where people felt the internet was today. Sadly we are still chatting about it… which does show you how uncertain people are about what we are doing as well as the direction of the internet.

One particular word you hear more and more in the media and from some expert internet commentators is the word “cyberspace”. What is this word? What does it mean? What affect will it have on our everyday lives? Should we be worred about our “digital identity”? I’ll go some way to answering this… so please read on….

What does cyberspace mean?

Cyberspace means just what it says: it is “space” on the “internet”. The “space” is filled with “websites”. The websites are delivered on a platform – this platform is called a “search engine”. Without a search engine it would be very diificult to find a web site – near impossible. How else could you find a web site? Today we see a number of search engines used by internet users, with Google being the most popular.

With every posting on a social community website or blog you will leave your “digital footprint” in cyberspace. Even if the website goes offline – your details, images and more are still in cyberspace – foreever as long as cyberspace exists. Every word/page is scanned and compiled by “robots” (small programs that are used to scan a website so that that website is listed on a search engine) as well as stored on vast servers (these are boxes that communicate with the internet) which cache (store your historical details as well as every website).

Every time you add some text to your blog or social community profile all this information is scanned and stored adding yet more information to cyberspace. A website may offer you the opportunity to remove your “profile”. Well, let me remind you, it could still be accessed – stored on a server somewhere or even copied by someone onto their computer prior to you removing your profile.

Your digital footprint

Everyone has a digital footprint. Even me! If you have used the internet in any way i.e. visit a website, leave some details, buy something online or even send an email – you would have left a footprint.

Depending on where you leave your details would depend on how big your digital footprint is. Think long and hard about how many places you have left your personal details – remember businesses make money by selling your personal data – you are a big big value to them. The more information that is gathered about you, the higher the value. Most companies have marketing strategies that involve selling or renting their data – they make a lot of money doing this. But there is a more pressing worry we should be aware of called “cyberwarriors”.


This is my name for “hackers” or “crackers” – people or gangs who want to extract your personal details by whatever means possible for mainly financial gain. Firstly they started by dropping viruses on our machines but then we developed anti-virus and firewall technology which kind of reduced that – then came phishing emails and people still fall for the ‘big money gain’ and then we had fake websites, called “pharming” – where people had no way of telling whether a website was genuine or not. So what is the 21st century method? Well to be honest it’s much easier to visit a social community website where everyone tells everyone everything and then use other very low cost services to fill in the gaps. Put simply all you would need is 10 days or so and you could have credit in someone else’s name! Additionally it would not take long for you to have established revenue streams from the credit card limits, overdrafts and loans to name a few. It’s bloody easy to do and you would not just do this with one persons’ name – you would also go for a partner, their children and grandparents- if they had any. Moving swiftly along… something people don’t think about is their emails…

Using webmail in cyberspace

Think about this: you use webmail to send and retrieve your emails. How secure are your emails in cyberspace? In fact, did you know anyone can read them!! When you send an email they are stored on a server, this server sends you the email when you want to retrieve it. It also makes a copy of it and stores it for a period of time. The “period of time” is something that is a very big talking point. It’s not for discussion here but maybe in my next blog. Also the emails on the server can be read by anyone with access to the server because they are not centrally encypted (locked away from prying eyes). Would you be happy with someone being able to read your emails? Something tells me NO!

So where does that leave us?

Sadly very few of us actually worry about what and where our information is held. We tend to only be proactive when something happens. At ID Theft Protect we are championing consumer rights to have ‘proactive’ solutions and not be reactive. It is very much about education and awareness – and really nothing more. Have this in place means you will always be safe. If not, you run the risk of losing your digital identity in cyberspace. Can you afford the risk?

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