Written by Emma McGowan
Published on November 2, 2023

They say everyone is likely to have a living, breathing Doppelganger. Whether you believe that or not, this is for certain: if you’ve ever used the internet to do something as simple as create an email account or social media profile—like most of us have—then voila, you do have a Doppelganger! However, instead of an identical twin made of flesh and bone that may exist in the real world, it’s actually you that thrives in the digital one. What’s more, that version of you has a digital identity, and it’s worth more than you may think.

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    Digital identity explained

    The concept of digital identity might sound complex, but it’s pretty easy to grasp. Digital identity is essentially any personal data existing online that can be traced back to the real you. For example, photos you’ve uploaded to social media, posts you’ve created or commented on, your online bank account, search engine history… and yes, if you’re a gamer, your Steam account, too.

    That said, we ourselves are largely responsible for providing the content and data that creates our online identities. What’s more, with a whopping estimation of 4.2 billion digital Doppelgangers thriving on the net—and especially when looking at it from a cybersecurity perspective—that’s just as many opportunities for exploitation to occur.

    Your online identity can make others rich

    As mentioned previously, your digital identity holds considerable value. There’s a host of outsiders that would love to get their hands on your personal data and will take various measures to do so. While the classic image of a hooded hacker clacking away on a laptop comes to mind—and it is true that cyber criminals are a threat—it might shock you to learn that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can be just as deviant.

    ISPs can sell your private browsing logs to ad companies who will pay top dollar for such information that helps refine their marketing objectives. The point is, it’s not just individuals lurking in the shadows that are hunting for our digital identities, it’s big companies with public profiles that are cashing in at our expense.

    Taking control of your digital identity

    Digital identities are here to stay. As long as your online Doppelganger exists, there will always be someone hoping to exploit it. However, there’s good news: you can take a few steps right now to quickly and easily decrease the chances of that happening.

    1. Change to a search engine that respects privacy. Secure browsers come with advanced security that's built directly into your browser, allowing you to browse, shop, and bank more safely on any website while protecting your privacy.

    2. Protect your passwords using password managers. Simply put, password managers put strong encryption on your passwords and allow you to manage them in one place. In addition to several other cool things they offer, there’s an audit feature that checks for weak, duplicate, and old passwords. 

    3. Always use a VPN. A virtual private network (VPN) is software that establishes a secure connection between you and the server. Information moving between this connection is encrypted and cannot be read by anyone—not your ISP, the government, or cyber criminals trying to snoop on your online activity.

    Emma McGowan