Is Your Digital Footprint Enabling Cyber-crime, Dis-reputation? 

A digital footprint is the data trail you leave behind while on the internet. This includes your search history, downloads, likes, comments and virtually everything you do while browsing the internet. Deleting your internet browsing history, does not delete your digital footprint! It is therefore, important that you pay attention to your internet browsing behavior as this can have far reaching implications.

In 2022, former Kenyan CNN journalist Idris Muktar Ibrahim was fired from his CNN job for a tweet he posted in 2014! A digital foot-print check, is now part of the background checks undertaken by employers in the hiring process. Your digital footprint may give insight on your likes, dislikes, values and even political inclination and should therefore not be taken lightly.

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Through Artificial Intelligence, big-data generated from digital foot-prints can be analyzed to offer insight into shopping habits, likes and dislikes, political intonations etc. of citizens! Big-data is the “new oil” of the digital economy but this also means that it can be risky if not handled appropriately!

According to a 2023 security report by Bit-defender, “most internet users are not concerned about the amount of information available about them online, and most do not take steps to limit that information”. 

At present, approximately 60% of the global population is online which has created opportunities for the lucrative cyber-crime market. Hackers monitor user’s online behavior through their digital trail and also install malware on devices of unsuspecting online users to collect this information and use it against them. 

Other devious measures employed by hackers to manipulate unsuspecting online users include social engineering and deepfakes amongst others. In all these approaches, hackers leverage upon the readily available digital footprint left behind by internet users.

Therefore, every organization needs a Digital Risk and Intelligence (DR&I) Strategy plus Threat Intelligence Monitoring Software to alert users on potential threats. At the national level, Uganda has the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) operated by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC). The national CERT, issues timely alerts to all government Ministries, Departments and Agencies on digital risks they need to manage. 

At the international level, the United Nations developed guidelines for digital safety that can be adopted by all UN member states. These can be accessed through the links below.

At individual level, every citizen is responsible for managing their digital footprint and reputation. The guidelines below can be adopted by everyone to protect their digital footprint and reputation.

Additionally, a localized national training initiative on areas of digital literacy, managing digital footprints, digital reputation and cyber-crime awareness is needed to equip citizens with the requisite knowledge and skills for secure and responsible use of digital and internet services.

By: Mugabi Samuel 

The writer is a digital literacy enthusiast and Director ICT, Makerere University 

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