Thursday, January 1, 2015

How to Create Secure Online Usernames that Protect Your Personal Information


Guest Post 

by Shaun Murphy
CEO & Founder, PrivateGiant

Most Internet users are aware you need to be hyper-vigilant to keep passwords and personal information protected. You've all heard the recommendations to use a password not related to your name, address or pet’s name while being sure to include symbols, numbers and random capital letters. But that's simply not enough.
The reality is these usernames created for email accounts, social media and other online services could be delivering all essential private details into the hands of cyber criminals – no password needed. While it might seem harmless to include a first name and the numbers from your street address in a username, cyber criminals can harvest those details to search for other private information that you may not know is publicly available online. 

How Cyber Thieves Operate
Cyber criminals use a technique called Doxing, essentially combing the web for snippets of information about a person, to build a full profile they can use to execute crimes like identity theft, scams or other targeted attacks. People don't realize if they do something as benign as posting a comment on a public page with a username like CrazyShaunOrlando those two pieces of information are enough detail for a criminal to exploit. Within minutes they can find your home address, how much you purchased your home for, what high school you attended, where your kids go to school, the list goes on.

5 Common Mistakes to Avoid

The following five common mistakes should be avoided when creating a username, and if you are currently accessing accounts with a username that is guilty of one of these errors you will want to change it as soon as possible.

Recycling One Username Across Accounts – just like recycling a password is a bad idea you should avoid using the same username to log into different online accounts as well. Having one common username across accounts just makes it easier for criminals to search for and find details about your life. 

Including All or Part of Your Actual Name – business professionals and students often use a variation of their full name as an email address, on social media and other online forums. While people might be able to easily search for and follow or friend you, you are also making it easier for criminals to do the same.

Revealing Details About Your Location – whether it is the city you reside in now or where you were born including a meaningful location in your username is never a good idea. Not only is it one more tool criminals can use to narrow their search for your personal details, it is also a common password security question. 

Using Your Birthday or Other Meaningful Numbers – While a string of four to eight numbers might seem random a criminal will be able to use a birthday or street address to verify if the information they are accumulating is all for the same person. 

Sharing a Username with an Email Address – linking a username with an email address can simplify a criminal’s search for your personal information. Using trial and error a criminal can add common email providers to your username, run a search and pull up your social media accounts and any other sites where you have used that email address to create a profile. Some email providers including Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo allow users to alter their email address into infinite number of disposable addresses. 

For example if your email address is and you want to sign up for a new deal website, you can later your email address just for that site by adding an identifier to it such as This keeps your actual email address private and can help stop criminals from being able to track your online history simply by searching for one of your email addresses.

Shaun Murphy, Image from PrivateGiant
About the Author
Shaun Murphy, a former Department of Defense communication systems and security expert, is CEO and founder of a new company called PrivateGiant launching in Q1 2015. PrivateGiant, a tech firm dedicated to restoring privacy to online communications for people and enterprises, believes privacy is a necessity for families, friends, and businesses and is a right that doesn't need to be surrendered when you use the Internet.

FTC Disclosure:  Shaun Murphy provided the content for this story. However, no payment or other compensation was exchanged in connection with this post. See complete FTC Disclosure information that appears at the bottom of MommyBlogExpert's home page and at the bottom of every individual post on this blog, including this one.

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