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10 Steps To Erasing Your Digital Footprint (Part II/II)

footprint2

(Continued from Part I/II)

6. Have an alternate email account

Almost all services online require you to submit an email address to register with them and before use. Creating an alternate email account for these sites can help keep your digital footprint to a minimum.

If you need to send an untraceable email, use Guerrilla Mail for temporary, disposable email addresses.  You can set the time period for which the email address will be active.  You can also avoid disposable email blocks and generate untrackable email from your own domain.  Our job is not to question our readers motives as we all know that everyone has the need for anonymity or untraceability at some point in our digital lives.

7. Opt for the ‘right to be forgotten’

The ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling  recently enforced in Europe  means that search engines can be made to remove links to publicly available news items from their search results. While Google has appealed the ruling, many links have been removed — although this has resulted in the creation of lists to de-indexed pages in its stead — due to the belief that irrelevant and inaccurate information gives a data subject the right to request removal from a search engine data controller.

8. Delete unused e-commerce and retail accounts

Delete unused/inactive retail accounts, such as eBay and Amazon and any others that may contain your financial data. Given the massive uptick in cyberattacks on major retailers and services, and if you no longer use your account, there’s no need to keep sensitive data stored on company servers.

9.  Stay below the radar

For the average home/small business user, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer InPrivate Browsing, Chrome’s Incognito mode, and Firefox’s Private Window can limit trackable data — such as cookies — being collected by services as you browse.

10. Start fresh

Although extreme, if you have the need, wiping all of the aforementioned services and deleting your email inbox can be the best way to remove your footprint. Very little is ever truly forgotten, but falsifying social media account names, locking up security settings tightly, deleting email inboxes and e-commerce accounts will help wipe your presence from the Web.

Just remember that there is only so much you can do and that online information is reposited somewhere in the cloud and there will never be a thorough scrubbing of your digital footprint.  At best, your online presence can be minimized or modified in such a manner as to render search results fairly useless.  But, of course, the best was to control your digital footprint is to post as minimally as possible.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

In Memoriam; Dr. Tina Edler Flanagan

Tina

10.14.1971 – 07.19.2015

With a very heavy heart…

I am saddened by the passing yesterday morning (Sunday, July 19, 2015) of my niece, Dr. Tina Edler-Flanagan,. Tina graduated med school at an age when most were graduating college, fast-tracking her desire to help people. She was an ER physician – a career path she selected; enabling her to be on the front lines of saving lives. Unfortunately, her own life could not be saved yesterday.

“I recently had to take my 2 yr. old to the ER because she had been vomiting for 2 days.  Dr. Flanagan and the ER nurse, Cate Tillman, were wonderful!  They took excellent care of my girl!  She ended up having to be admitted.  The entire nursing staff and the CNA’s on the 4th floor took excellent care of us!”

– Samantha    (from the Colquitt (Georgia) Regional Hospital ER site.)

More importantly – especially to her – she is the mother of two young, brilliant and good-hearted children, Katherine Rose and Michael, and a loving wife to her considerate and caring husband, Ruben Flanagan. She also leaves behind her mother, my sister, Lucia Edler and her father, my brother-in-law, Hugh Edler, and a large extended family – all of whom are shocked and grieved by Tina’s passing.

tina family

Tina holding Rosie and Michael (and a little family friend on the left).

Tina Marie is now by God’s side, surely continuing her good works through the powers that be. Rest in peace, my beautiful niece. I do not know why this happened and may the purpose be revealed in time but know that you are loved. So very, very loved.

(I apologize to family members and Tina’s friends – all over the world – whom we were unable to get a hold of… which is why we decided to post this farewell…)

Finally, and with the deepest gratitude to Tina, she is the one who propelled me – through our mutual experiences in life that prompted my career change to investigations – to push forward with Beacon Network Investigations (BNI) and believed in what we do, particularly work (if one can call it that) with voices that might otherwise be silenced – not only by her words but by her actions too; she directed situations to BNI that she believed required our help.  Let it be known to all that I am reaffirming that we will continue with Tina’s wishes on certain ongoing matters.

The words to fully describe Tina’s beautiful soul have not yet been invented so this written commemoration will end now although her memory will live on forever.

Love you strongly, always… Aunt Lina

10 Steps To Erasing Your Digital Footprint (Part I/II)

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We all have something to hide.  Usually, it’s benign family or photobombed pics and then,  in some cases, a miserable and dirty divorce battle bitterly played out online. Time is the objective archivist of that which we’ve shared online; perception and therefore judgment, however, resides with the reviewer of our public personas.

The vast majority of people have been online now for several years at the very least; interacting on such social media sites as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.   Some of us have fairly large, embedded digital footprints and others cast light personal shadows on the internet landscape but we are all there, in some detectable form.

Whether you are going for your first real job, seeking a post-divorce relationship or just realized that your kids can conduct an FBI-quality thorough background check on their parents, you’ve decided it’s time to clean up your online presence.  Although the task may at first appear overwhelming, the job itself doesn’t have to be – and, some things that are out there you are going to simply have to learn to live with.  So, let’s begin.  (To make this effort manageable in light of our busy lives, we are presenting this information is two parts – a week apart – to allow our readers time to complete the suggested tasks.)

footprint

1. Search yourself.

First things first, pull up your public profile.   It is now common practice among prospective employers to perform searches online when vetting job applicants. The information pulled up by search engines such as Google can be seen not only by you, but future bosses — and so if there is anything unprofessional out there, this will be the first glimpse they see of you. Run a search on your name (including maiden names) and see what appears.  Also, conduct image searches, as they can link to websites or accounts you’ve long forgotten about. Understanding your basic digital footprint is the first step in taking control of it.  By the numbers, run your self through:

Google

Bing

Yahoo

YouTube

InstantCheckmate

Spokeo

(For the curious, while you can certainly look up friends, relatives and co-workers with the latter two personal data-collection services, if you wish them to remain as such, we suggest you just check your own info.  Also, often the data on these sites and others like it can, and most often is, dated and limited.  For your own review however, it serves the stated purposes in this article.)

2. Deactivate old social media accounts and check privacy settings.

MySpace (Yes, this dinosaur social site is still here, haunting us to eternity or the end of the Net – which ever comes first.), Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ are social media websites that can be mined by potential employers for personal information. If privacy settings are not at their highest, this could mean viewers can access pictures, posts and status updates best kept within your private life.

One thing to remember is that the Web often forgets about context — and so Tweets can be misconstrued, events from years ago can end up hampering your prospects, and your profile may not show you to be the type of person a company would want to hire.

In relation to accounts you actively use, check your privacy settings.

For Facebook, click on account Settings through the top-right button, and then select Privacy from the menu on the left. You can then decide who can see what information is posted — and whether you can be looked up based on your email address, phone number or search engines. You can also use another handy tool from your profile page to see what others view, by selecting the ‘…’ button and choosing ‘View as..’.

Twitter users, click your profile avatar in the top right of the Twitter.com screen, and select ‘Settings.’ From this menu, you can make your profile private or change a range of basic account options.

If you want to be completely hidden on social media, use a different surname.

3. Hide others, or add false information

Honesty may not be the best policy if old social media accounts hold information you’d prefer to keep low-key.   In addition, some services do not allow you to delete accounts — instead, they allow only for accounts to be “deactivated.” In these cases, consider changing your name, email address and uploading an innocuous profile picture — as well as deleting as much information as possible — before deactivation.

E.g., If you’ve conducted the above suggested Google, Bing, etc.  search and found pictures linked to old accounts you’d rather not have displayed, hiding your accounts may help in eventual refreshes. It will take time for search engines to stop pulling up these images, but the sooner you tweak old accounts, the better.

4. Contact webmasters

If websites have posted public information about you, contacting webmasters may be the only option to remove this information. Send them an email or give them a call, and explain what, and why, you need something removed.  If you are a member of the law enforcement community, most of these sites are very accommodating in removing identifying materials.  If you have field a police report in any criminal matter, likewise, with a short, concise letter attached to the report, most web masters are very helpful and willing to err on the side of safety in removing or modifying your public data.

5. Unsubscribe from mailing lists

Mailing lists are an integral part of the digital trail leading back to you, and unsubscribing can help break these connections — as well as uncluttering your inbox.

A suggestion for future subscriptions: add an identifier middle initial to your subscriptions so that you can quickly determine subscription categories: e.g., Lina N. Maini = news subs such as WSJ, NYT, etc.   This has seriously helped me identify, review and delete subscriptions in the past, rather than scour through each provider name and have to pop an email open to determine content.  (The Washington Post is obviously a news source – ok, keep the dissent to a minimum – but Birchbox?  I had completely forgotten that these are the wonderful folks who deliver my samples box – home products, beauty supplies, new foods on the market – each month.  I’ve loved everything they’ve sent thus far. ).

Next week, we bring you the next and final five steps in repairing, if necessary, and managing your very public online profile.

(For those looking for professional reputation repair and management services – in which we delve into archival materials deeply buried but ultimately findable by dedicated, prying eyes – we do provide unique, tailored packages that are maintained in the strictest of confidentiality – as is all of our work.)
BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Can Someone Hack Your Passport? RFID Wallets and More.

scanner
As of now, most credit cards and debit cards issued within the past decade have RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) technology embedded in them. All US passports issued since August, 2007 and later have RFID chips that track your data and photo. RFID chips are a convenient way to store and read data – instead of having to swipe your card through a reader, you can simply wave your card in front of an RFID scanner without even taking it out of your wallet.  Such comfort!

Unfortunately, RFID technology used to track sensitive data in many of today’s portable identifiers (e.g. cards) can be easily scanned without you ever knowing.

How can RFID-hacking occur and how to protect your RFID-chipped documents when traveling:

What is RFID technology?

RFID stands for Radio-Frequency IDentification. The acronym refers to small electronic devices that consist of a small chip and an antenna. 

The RFID device serves the same purpose as a bar code or a magnetic strip on the back of a credit card or ATM card; it provides a unique identifier for that object. And, just as a bar code or magnetic strip must be scanned to get the information, the RFID device must be scanned to retrieve the identifying information.

RFID Works Better Than Barcodes

A significant advantage of RFID over barcodes is that the RFID device does not need to be positioned precisely relative to the scanner. We’re all familiar with the difficulty that store checkout clerks sometimes have in ensuring that a barcode can be read. And obviously, credit cards and ATM cards must be swiped through a special reader.

In contrast, RFID devices will work within a few feet (up to 20 feet for high-frequency devices) of the scanner. For example, you could just put all of your groceries or purchases in a bag, and set the bag on the scanner. It would be able to query all of the RFID devices and total your purchase immediately.

 

It’s a scary thought to entertain and if it bothers you, keep reading to find out what you can do about it.

How can you stay safe against hacked RFID chips?

Unfortunately, the danger is that someone could build a counterfeit reader – which wouldn’t be too difficult for anyone who is experienced in that field – and pick up your RFID information without your consent or even knowledge. Counterfeit card readers existed before RFID, but you were required to physically swipe your card through a slot; counterfeit RFID readers can pull or delete data without so much as you walking by.

On the market now are RFID-blocking sleeves, pouches, wallets and other such personal item carriers. A proper RFID blocker will utilize something called a “Faraday cage” (a grounded metal screen surrounding a piece of equipment to exclude electrostatic and electromagnetic influences) and the specification you want to look for is “electromagnetically opaque”. These RFID blockers will prevent illegitimate reading of your RFID-embedded objects.

Not all RFID-blocking wallets are made equal; some are more effective than others. In addition, even the most effective RFID-blocking wallets can fail, whether due to wear and tear or user error. These products will help keep you safe, nonetheless, exercise caution and common sense when traveling.

 

At Corporate Travel Safety, you can purchase RFID-reader blocking items such as wallets, full-sized/mini document holders, ladies’ clutches and handbags, neck holders, inside front pocket sleeves, etc.  We’ve bought and used several of their products and have for years with no negative incidents to date.

neck pouch

BNI Operatives: Situationally Aware.

As always, stay safe.

Wishing Our Readers A Happy And Proud Fourth Of July!



happy fourth

Happy Independence Day!

Be strong and safe and stand proud, America!

 

 

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