Are you constantly taking photos with your smartphone and posting them to the Internet? If you do, then you may be posting a trail online that can lead any would-be thief or kidnapper straight to your doorstep!
Thieves can use your pictures to find you thanks to geo-tracking technology that’s a feature on most smartphones. This technology was meant to be a fun feature to help you organize your pictures. Unfortunately, bad guys in ski masks have figured out how to use this same technology for their advantage.
The danger comes from how this geo-tracking technology communicates to the world where your pictures were snapped, right down to the room you were in. This is possible because every digital picture taken with the geo-tracking feature comes with the longitude and latitude numbers that any online mapping tool and GPS can read. Any tech savvy thief can use this information to follow their GPS to your home as if they’re following a treasure map.
You won’t find this information stamped on the bottom of your picture; instead, it’s stored in a small data file that can be viewed by right-clicking the image and going to “Properties.” This file contains lots of information like, when the picture was taken, the file size, and even what model of camera was used. The geo-tracking information can also be found in the file and snatched by anyone who can view the picture, including big dudes in ski masks.
One picture posted online won’t necessarily lead to a home invasion, although, keep in mind that a picture is worth 1,000 words and is full of clues. The real danger comes from what might happen if a thief has access to several of your pictures and uses the geo-tracking numbers to piece together thousands upon thousands of word’s worth of clues.
All of the pictures you have posted online can be used by a thief to essentially map out your life. With every photo you post, your stalker can put a pin in a map and find out where you live, where you work, where your favorite places to shop are, and much more. With your favorite locations mapped, the stalker can then add dates and times to the spots and figure out what your weekly routine looks like. A thief will then know the most likely times your home will be left unattended and not be deterred by the old “leave the kitchen light on” security trick.
This situation can become dark when this technology is used by sexual predators to stalk children. If you post pictures of your kids online, a predator can then stalk your kids to find out what school they go to, what extracurricular activities they participate in, what parks they play in, and even which room is their bedroom. For most parents, revealing this kind of sensitive information to the world is not worth having a fun Facebook tag that says “Taken at Rancho Cucamonga :)”
The good news is that this risk can be easily controlled by disabling the geo-tracking feature on your smartphone’s camera. This is as easy as going to “Settings” and turning it off. The bad news is that, if you have posted dozens, or even hundreds, of personal pictures online with geo-tracking data attached, then it will take time to do damage control and remove them. Even if you delete all your pictures, there’s no guarantee your stalker hasn’t already saved them on a hard drive.
When it comes to social media, you may be surprised to learn about who can see your pictures. For example, with Facebook, you may think that only your friends can see your pictures, but you may have your privacy settings enabled so that “friends of your friends” can view them. Facebook has created this feature so that old friends trying to find you can do so easily, but this also allows a stalker to easily find you if they befriend someone you know. In some instances, this may be how the stalker finds your family and chooses them to be their next victims.
With all of your accounts on the Internet, you can adjust the settings so that only people you know and trust can view your pictures. If you would like help adjusting these settings, then give TMS a call at 1 (626) 737-2960. If you are unsure about what kind of digital footprint you’re leaving for the world to see, and you want to know what kind of risk your posting habits are exposing you and your family to, give us a call. We will be happy to talk with you, review your Internet browsing habits, and teach you secure best practices. We can also introduce you to strong security solutions that will take the worry out of Internet browsing.