This article is the second of a three-part series regarding digital footprints. This article will discuss how a digital footprint is created on the users end. The first article went over the definition of a digital footprint and Part 3 will cover how to delete a digital footprint.

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Cabling SolutionsCreation of a Digital Footprint

A digital footprint is created through the gathering of information on a user. As the user navigates the web and displays information about oneself, that information can be gathered in order to create a digital footprint. This footprint is a type of signature for the users identity and behavior. A digital footprint is divided into two primary categories: passive and active.

Passive Digital Footprint

A passive digital footprint is one that is created passively. A user’s information such as their IP address, areas of website visited, and time spent looking at a page can all be gathered by a website in order to create a log of that visitor. That information can be placed into a database and accessed the next time a site sees the same IP address login to their site. They will use that information in order to better understand what the user is looking for in terms of content, or they will display targeted ads that will have a higher chance of being clicked on by the user.

A passive footprint is inevitable, but it does not pose many dangers to security (assuming that the websites visited are not malicious).

Cabling SolutionActive Digital Footprint

An active digital footprint is the type of footprint that is entirely in the user’s control. An active digital footprint is made up of information that the user has chosen to share. If an employee logs into their social media site, signs up for a web service using their full identity, talks about them self in a forum post or discusses nuances of their work/home directly on the public side of the web (blog post, tweet, facebook status, forum post, website sign up, etc.) then their information is out there and actively being used to create a footprint.

This may sound relatively harmless. Why does it matter if a website like CNET knows that John Smith is browsing their website from such and such a company? In a lot of ways it doesn’t matter all that much, but it’s when you start associating the user (John Smith in this example) with what that user does that it can be a problem. Does John have access to protected company information on his computer? Does John work with customer files? Is there any credit card info in the data that John works with? All of these things are reasons that a user may be targeted by a malicious cyber attack. As a potential hacker/virus learns more about an individual, it will do a better job exploiting the information that person has provided.

Common Information to Never Put on the Web

What one decides to do on their personal computer/devices is entirely up to them, but what one decides to do on a company network, logged into a work account can affect the integrity of the network. Never associate your work device with the following information online:

  • Full identity
  • Social Security Number
  • Password
  • Your access to financial/personal information of your clients
  • Security flaws in your device/network (perhaps your computer is running Windows XP, or Windows Server 2003, which are both easily exploitable)

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