Your online identity doesn't stop there, either. I've developed multidecade relationships with people whom I consider true friends though I've never met them in person or talked to them on a telephone. I'm not alone in this experience. At the end of their lives, my oldest relatives all found the joy of Internet e-mail to stay in contact with family and friends. They may have been 80 or 90 years old, but they smiled like a teenager when they talked about their online relationships.
In short, I can't imagine the interruption in my virtual life, both personally and professionally, if my online identity suddenly changed or got stolen. For all of us, the importance of our digital identity is increasing with each passing day.
I guess that why I'm still amazed with how little respect many people still give to protecting their digital identities. I frequently overhear people giving log-on information on airplanes via their cell phone, as if everyone nearby can't hear them. The vast majority of companies still have very poor password policies. News flash: Six-character passwords that never expire aren't considered secure anymore. It's still not unusual to spot the CEO's log-on name and password posted on a yellow sticky next to their monitor.
[ Are your organization's passwords strong enough? | Roger shares advice on managing passwords: "Password size does matter" | "Getting a grip on better password hashes" | "Ask better password questions" ]
Log on with care
But what troubles me most is how readily people input their log-on information over an untrusted computer. I do a lot of traveling, and I'm in a new hotel each week. I'd say that nearly three-fourths of the public computers at these places have key-logging Trojan installed. I've seen airport kiosks with hardware key loggers installed. Wireless networks at conferences are often littered with malicious sniffers and computer worms. At least half my friend's computers have at least some sort of malware running on them. It's getting to the point that you can't trust anyone's PC but your own these days.
That's the fact: Given how important it is keep your digital identity safe, you should never input your log-on credentials into another PC not completely under your control.