Cyber stalking is a collection of information you released…
Every attacker adheres to a process of finding, choosing, stalking, closing, and ultimately attacking their victims. An attacker has to get each phase of that attack cycle correct in order to be effective, but a potential victim only has to break the cycle at any single point in the chain to thwart the attack. The more information a potential attacker has, the easier it becomes to create a situation where they have an overwhelming advantage. Today, we are discussing how much of an advantage social media can provide a potential attacker if you are not careful.
When professionals plan attacks, predicting when a target will be somewhere is the lynchpin—and criminals are no different! Geotagging is a process by which location data (EXIF data) are embedded in a photograph. These data typically show exactly when and where a photo was taken. There are some limitations based on GPS accuracy and other things, but those are fairly easy to recognize and discard in the screening process. Here is how just about anyone can create a lifestyle pattern on you in about two hours.
First, they would download every photo they can find of you on social media. Your photos, your friend’s photos, and every Twitter post you ever made. They could run those photos through an EXIF stripper and export the data to an Excel spreadsheet with three columns, including date and location. While that is processing, they could copy your Twitter posts to another spreadsheet with the same three columns plus a fourth: activity. No Twitter feed? No problem—Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, and the list goes on . . .
Once they have a list of times and locations, they can layer that into a variety of software tools that will provide date, time, location, and activity phasing. At the top of the food chain is ESRI, where the possibility to manipulate that data is virtually unlimited; however, there are a number of free tools online that will show anyone who wants to know, exactly when you usually drop your ten-year-old daughter off for school. They can track everywhere you have been and when you were there since you and your friends started posting photos.
While some social media sites are restricting the sharing of EXIF data (Facebook and Twitter), others are intentionally maintaining it (in the interest of artistic integrity). I am not sure what the long-term decision will be. Regardless of Facebook and Twitter’s decision not to currently share it, they may change that policy tomorrow. If the EXIF data exist on the photo, nearly anyone can get it. Fortunately, you have the option not to share that data!
There are a few things you can do to massively reduce the collection capability of online predators. First, there are a few ways to stop EXIF data from being recorded on your photos. You can disable the GPS (if your device allows you to do so) or you can disable the phone application from recording geodata when it takes pictures. Alternatively, there are a few applications out there (deGeo, EXIF Stripper, etc.) that will actively strip the data prior to you sending it out. More importantly, you need to ask your friends to do the same!
The next is the intent data shown on Twitter and other feeds comprised of what you are doing now. “Just dropped Ally off at gymnastics—be at the gym for an hour.” Thanks. I know where you are, where your daughter is, and how long I have. If you feel you have to share this data publicly, post after you leave, not when you arrive. That does nothing to limit my ability to pattern, but it does make the close phase of a planned attack slightly more difficult to confirm.
Regardless of how you interact with your friends on social media, public information is a treasure trove for predators of all sorts. Consider the impact on your family, your friends, and the children of your friends before you post. Keep your EXIF data to yourself, and if you have to share what you’re doing every few minutes, try to avoid locations, time frames and plans in the same post.
You don’t have to be the fastest person in the group if a bear is chasing you—you just can’t be the slowest . . . the same applies to outrunning criminal intent!
Stay safe and manage what you share!
#SocialMediasafety, #personalsafety, #attackcycle
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