Digital Footprint Cleanup: News, Security, and Countering Terrorism

Terrorism is a subject of vital importance across all borders, cultures, and nationalities. As a global issue, people from around the whole world are affected by it. In the modern age, terrorists have no problems stealing your personal information and using it for nefarious purposes worldwide.   

The nexus between digital security, news, and counterterrorism

According to the US Department of Homeland Security, terrorists have adopted new techniques and technologies to steal information. In the news, here are just a few examples:

  • A French health insurance company stole data from nearly 33 million French citizens in February 2024
  • Microsoft announced that Russian hackers stole a number of documents from their leadership, announced in January 2024.
  • Hacktivists stole 3,000 documents from NATO in October 2023 in response to human rights abuses. 
  • Cybercriminals stole data of purportedly half a billion Chinese citizens in August 2023.

These are just a few of the major examples affecting governments, private citizens, and cybersecurity organizations. Virtually nobody is completely safe from cyberattacks. However, you can lower the chances of significant damages and loss if you systematically clean up your digital footprint

Deleting and managing a personal digital footprint

A personal digital footprint includes the information that exists on the internet because of what you do on various websites, apps, and other online applications. In matters of national security, your private information might seem small. However, protecting it can contribute to this national priority in a major way. 

Cybercriminals steal your information, typically in an attempt to commit financial fraud and funnel money to terrorist organizations to fund their illegal activities. These might include drug smuggling, weapons transfer, and slavery. 

When protecting your digital footprint, you can follow these tips to get started.

  • Educate yourself: Be aware of the potential risks that come with your online activity. Avoid unsecured websites and limit oversharing on social media platforms.
  • Control online purchases: Your payment data, like debit or credit cards, can be an easy way for terrorists to steal your money. Protect your online payments using services like PayPal, and be careful where you share your cards.
  • Delete old accounts: Limit the number of accounts you create on various websites. On those existing accounts, protect yourself by setting up two-factor authentication. 
  • Remove yourself from data brokers: Data brokers collect information about you and sell it to third parties which include both businesses and individuals. Review these sites for information about you and use opt-out forms to remove yourself from them. 
  • Review privacy settings: Adjust your browser’s settings to limit data tracking. Remove third-party cookies and limit location tracking services whenever possible. 

With these tips, you can better control your digital footprint and limit what personal details are easily trackable. 

The role of governments and organizations in ensuring digital security

Governments and organizations have taken various measures to protect themselves, stakeholders, and their citizens. Here are just a few examples:

The UN’s Program

In 2020, the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Programme on Cybersecurity and New Technologies began work towards training over four thousand individuals on cybersecurity. This program was made in response to the increasing risk of cybersecurity attacks around the world.


The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) offers resources and services to help organizations and individuals better manage cybersecurity issues. Using CISA’s guidelines, organizations can become better prepared in response to cyberattacks.


The UK’s form of CISA is the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). The NSCS provides a board toolkit to help organizations better manage cybersecurity threats and establish risk management procedures across institutions. 

Beyond these organizations, several cybersecurity groups have formed in response to the increasing number of cyberattacks. These private groups work alongside major organizations, establishing procedures that start with proven systems advised by CISA and the NCSC.

If we look to the future, one impact we can already see today is AI. With AI, cybercriminals can create more complex malware and impersonation schemes. For now, governments are still struggling to manage AI and there are no major laws regulating it.

Beyond AI, there’s this new idea of “digital sovereignty,” or the differing regulations across different countries. While some governments struggle with the implied need to collect data on citizens, other countries might prefer to focus on privacy. Powerful tech companies can influence these governments to shape the future in a way that benefits them rather than the general public. 

Citizens recognize this issue, which is why trust in various companies and countries has grown scarce. Since Edward Snowdenexposed the NSA’s data-gathering practices, we’ve seen a growing demand for privacy and security. Through privacy-focused initiatives like virtual private networks and the Tor Network, we see how privacy can eclipse security. 

At the end of the day, personal security comes down to proper digital hygiene. In other words, you should “clean” your data from the internet, keeping yourself safe online, without waiting for governments and big companies to protect you. 

The significance of a holistic approach to digital footprint management

A holistic approach to managing your digital footprint involves practicing good internet habits, knowing your digital hygiene, and having an awareness of the latest risks. By being mindful of the information you share online and taking steps to secure your online accounts, you can better protect your digital identity. 

Governments, in their turn, should put their citizens’ needs first and provide environments where privacy and security are of high priority. It is only by uniting the forces across public and private sectors that the best results can be achieved in fighting against cyberattacks and terrorism.