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Uncovering the Bullies: Monitoring Your Child’s Cell Phone

It is rare that we release information that can be used in a negative manner but our concern over the sharp rise of child suicides – often due to bullying –  has caused us to take this unusual step to inform those who need to know: how to monitor their child’s cell phone.  (For those who choose to use this information for nefarious purposes – don’t be a jackass. That you need to rely on this article to spy on someone proves that you are clueless. You will be caught – your spying activity on others, without their express permission, is illegal.)

mSpy (Spy App for iPhone)

mSpy is very easy to use. All you have to do is install the mSpy app on the target phone and then activate it using your license code. Once that’s done, you’ll be able to monitor the phone’s activity remotely through the mSpy online portal.

Once mSpy is activated, you can log in to the online portal to access information collected from the target phone such as messages (texts, WhatsApp and other messaging apps), phone calls, browsing history, and GPS location. mSpy is easy to use but also has many advanced features including social media monitoring, keylogger, no-jailbreak version, parental controls and more.

  • Social Media Monitoring: mSpy tracks your child’s activity on Facebook, Snapchat, Hangouts, WhatsApp, and Skype.
  • Keylogger: It records every keystroke made by the user. If your child uses an instant messaging app that mSpy can’t track directly, you can still see every keystroke typed.
  • No Jailbreak Solution: The mSpy iPhone spy software allows you to spy on your child’s iPhone without jailbreaking it. This technique works by pulling data from iCloud backups. You will need to know your child’s Apple ID and password.
  • Parental Controls: mSpy can be used as a parental control software for mobile phone. It allows parents to block inappropriate websites and incoming calls. In addition, you can control which apps can be used and when on your child’s phone.
  • Price: mSpy Basic costs $29.99 per month; mSpy Premium costs $69.99 per month or $199.99 per year.

 

Highster Mobile (Spy App for Android)

Highster Mobile is also simple to install and use.  Just download and install it onto the target phone, enter your license key, and you are good to go.  There are no settings or options to configure. After installation, you can log into your account and start tracking.

While Highster doesn’t have as many features as mSpy, but it’s a great app for those who want to spy on an Android phone without rooting or unlocking the phone. It has most of the features you’ll likely need.

  • Real-time GPS Tracking: Know where they are at all times and know where they are going. Track their cell phone location history & current location. Locations are displayed on a map on the company’s website.
  • Text Message Monitoring: Read their text messages, even those that have been deleted. Keeps a running record of all text messages sent and received.
  • View Call Logs: View the phone’s call history, including calls made, calls received, calls missed, phone numbers, and the date, time, and duration of the calls.
  • View Photos: All of the photos on their phone will be uploaded to your account.
  • View Browsing History: Track which websites they’ve visited and what they’ve searched for.
  • View Contacts, Calendar & Apps: View their contacts, calendar entries and installed apps.
  • Social Media Monitoring: Monitor different social media apps they use and who they talk to, including Facebook, WhatsApp, and even Snapchat messages. This feature, however, is only available on rooted devices. (If you do not know what this means (rooting or jailbreaking), or the consequences, don’t even think about it.)
  • Price: It only costs a one-time fee of $69.99 – making it one of the cheapest spy apps on the market today.

There are more high-end cell phone spy apps that have many more features: such as recording phone calls and even surroundings but we suggest training wheels at first.  This is your child, not an international, deep-cover spy.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Facebook Quizzes, Cute And A Perfect Tool For Identity Thieves.

Just about everyone on Facebook has been drawn to taking one of those “Share with your friends” quizzes – the last widely spread lure being “What Is Your Elf On A Shelf Name?”.  Full disclosure: I was halfway through that one myself when I realized what I do for a living. <facepalm>  In my defense, who doesn’t love a good quiz?  Aside from my Elf name, I was curious to know which Disney princess I am and what food matches my personality. Not smart.

Quite a few police departments have issued a Facebook quiz scam alert, warning that those “harmless” quizzes may not actually be all that harmless after all.

Think about the security questions we have to answer to just about every one of our online accounts – banking, credit reporting agencies, even Expedia, etc.   Who was your first-grade teacher? What was your favorite pet’s name? What’s the first name of your childhood best friend?  By providing this information in a social media quiz, you may be handing hackers the keys to your identity.  Hackers then build a profile of you through several different data sources.

An example of how quiz scamming works:

This quiz uses the first letter of your first name and your birth month to determine your “Elf” name. So, when you post your response, online hackers can figure out your birth month and then click through to your profile page to get more information.

facebook quiz scam alert

A nugget of information in isolation may not seem like a big deal, but combining that with other data that may be out there can result in a greater threat,” says Rachel Rothman, Chief Technologist for the Good Housekeeping Institute. “Be mindful of photos or posts that could give away information about your location or self (like your birthday) and consider if you are posting something that could be used to locate you offline or make it easier for someone to figure out any of your passwords.”

While the person posting and sharing these quizzes usually has innocent intentions, your response puts the information out there for all to see. That can be scammers or, as the Better Business Bureau points out, data mining companies who sell your information to other businesses.

With Valentine’s Day coming up this week, please resist the urge to respond to “What Does Your Valentine’s Day Cookie Say?” or “What Will Happen To You This Valentine’s Day”.  I can answer those two questions for you right now: 1. “If all you got for Valentine’s Day was this lousy cookie, consider dating someone else.” and “A lot or nothing.” There you go: informed, safe and sound.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

 

Why Lawyers Should Be Paranoid About Client Confidentiality

From Clio, January, 2017:

In April 2016, a lawsuit was filed claiming one Chicago-based law firm had failed to protect confidential client information.

The suit didn’t accuse lawyers at the firm of inadvertently sharing client information. In fact, according to The American Lawyer, “[t]he complaint makes no claim that data was stolen or used against clients.” The claim solely focuses on the fact that lax data security could have put client information at risk.

Talk about an eye-opener, for lawyers and others (such as private investigators) who retain confidential information during the normal course of business.  And, it could be inadvertent actions – usually online – that can cause these security breaches.

Client confidentiality in the age of social media:

Consider the amount of information that gets shared on social media:

  • Facebook users send 31.25 million messages per minute
  • Twitter users send nearly 350,000 tweets per minute
  • Instagram users post almost 50,000 photos each minute

If you’re a lawyer, you need to take extra care when using social media. There are plenty of ways your tweets or posts could inadvertently breach client confidentiality.

For example, if you use Swarm to check in at Starbucks during a client meeting, you could inadvertently disclose your client’s location as well. This may be an issue if your client wishes to remain anonymous, or if they don’t want it to be known that they have legal representation.

Photos can also be a problem. You should be more aware than lawyer and politician Kris Kobach, who accidentally revealed notes on proposed immigration policy in a photo with Donald Trump. You should always be extremely aware of what might be in the eye of a camera lens. Your son could take an impromptu photo while you’re catching up on some work at the dining room table; if there’s any sensitive information is visible in the image,  you need to make sure that photo doesn’t get posted online (and does get deleted from his device).

Steps lawyers need to take on social media

Does this mean you need to stop using social media? No. But you do need to reconcile the practice of sharing information online with the need to keep client information confidential.

Here are a few things you can do to ensure you’re protecting client information:

  • Go private on Facebook. This is a simple step for all lawyers (and for anyone using Facebook, for that matter). Go to “Settings,”, then “Privacy,” and set all of the visibility options so that only “Friends” can see your profile. If you want to market your law firm on Facebook, set up a separate Facebook page—and be extra mindful of the information you’re sharing on it.
  • Use two-factor authentication. Using two-factor authentication to protect your online accounts is one of the most effective steps you can take to protect client information.
  • Don’t use live mic technology. Someone’s always listening. Amazon hasn’t given up user data in this now-infamous murder case from late 2016 (so far), but that doesn’t mean you should put client information at risk by keeping an Echo or an equivalent device inside your office.  And definitely ensure that no one in your office is walking around with a live mic device.

In short, you want to do everything you can to prevent unauthorized access to client information. In 2017, that means a lot more than just shutting the door each time you meet with your clients.

BNI Operatives; situationally aware.

As always, be safe.

 

Working Around Invisible or Partially Available Social Media Profiles

As part of our due diligence during a subject’s comprehensive background check, we generally begin with a review of social media.  Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are primary and initial stops in the identification verification aspect of a background check. (For the purpose of this week’s article, we will concentrate on business connection site, LinkedIn.)
Searching for your subject through Linkedin may return an invisible profile if you’re not in your subject’s connections network. Your Linkedin network consists of your 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections and your group members. The more connections, the more full profiles available to you. You can also see attachments such as resumes.

Once you have your subject’s Linkedin profile, Google the name or search for it through bing.com to get the profile URL.

Linkedin Profile at Bing

Paste that URL into a private viewing web browser.

Private Linkedin Profile

This result is what we want to view and download.

See Resume

If the Linkedin resume is stored at their slideshare.net account, you can find it via a quick Google search- while in an incognito browser session:

Slideshare Resume Search

Select the top entry link and you will be taken to the full resume.  Download.

Slideshare resume download

Mission accomplished! The above method is a viable workaround to the limitations placed on profile sharing by social media.  Where there’s a will…

BNI Operatives; Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Tips & Apps For Contacting Loved Ones During An Emergency

emergency

(The regularly scheduled Beacon Bulletin was bumped today for this piece.  Our hearts go out to our brothers and sisters in Orlando who were brutally cut down by a self-radicalized Islamic extremist yesterday.  This is not a political commentary, just reality.)

In case of an emergency, our first instinct is to contact our loved ones.  We’re either trying to locate them or let them we are okay or both.  Should an event that separates you from your loved ones occur, below are suggestions for establishing contact.  (We’re not going to repeat the obvious suggestions such as limit non-emergency calls,  keeping your cell charged and tuning to broadcast news for alert updates.)

  1. For non-emergency calls, try text messaging, also known as short messaging service (SMS) when using your wireless phone. In many cases text messages will go through when your call may not. It will also help free up more “space” for emergency communications on the telephone network;
  2. If possible try a variety of communications services if you are unsuccessful in getting through with one. For example, if you are unsuccessful in getting through on your wireless phone, try a messaging capability like text messaging or email. Alternatively, try a landline phone if one is available. This will help spread the communications demand over multiple networks and should reduce overall congestion;
  3. Wait 10 seconds before redialing a call. On many wireless handsets, to re-dial a number, you simply push “send” after you’ve ended a call to redial the previous number. If you do this too quickly, the data from the handset to the cell sites do not have enough time to clear before you’ve resent the same data. This contributes to a clogged network;
  4. If in your vehicle, try to place calls while your vehicle is stationary;
  5. Have a family communications plan in place. Designate someone out of the area as a central contact, and make certain all family members know who to contact if they become separated;
  6. If you have Call Forwarding on your home number, forward your home number to your wireless number in the event of an evacuation. That way you will get incoming calls from your landline phone;
  7. After an event such as a storm has passed, if you lose power in your home, try using your car to charge cell phones or listen to news alerts on the car radio. But be careful – don’t try to reach your car if it is not safe to do so, and remain vigilant about carbon monoxide emissions from your car if it is a closed space, such as a garage.

If you are able to connect, below are two emergency contact apps (one for personal sue; the other, corporate) that hold the best record of success thus far during emergencies and at work (lone worker, travel security) and at school (active shooter):

For Personal Situations:  (From Facebook)  Safety Check

Just hours after coordinated attacks in Paris left at least 127 people dead and injured more than 350, Facebook activated its Safety Check tool. The tool, which automatically sends users in the affected area a prompt asking if they’re safe, notifies Facebook friends when a user clicks “Yes, let my friends know.”

Since its official launch in October 2014, Safety Check has been activated only a handful of times, including after the recent earthquakes in Afghanistan, Chile and Nepal. More than 4 million people used the tool to mark themselves safe following the Paris attacks. This was the first time the program was used outside of a natural disaster.

How It Works:   When a user clicks “Yes, let my friends know,” the tool then notifies their Facebook friends.

Facebook is letting users in Paris post safety status messages after officials said more than 100 people were killed during a series of attacks Friday.Facebook; screenshot by CNET

Facebook determines location based on what users have listed in their profile, the city where they’re using the Internet, and, if they’re using the social network’s Nearby Friends feature, their most recent location. If Safety Check has gotten the location wrong, users can mark that they’re somewhere else.

 

At Work or School: Guardly

Whether you’re traveling overseas on business, working remotely, in a parking garage with poor cellular coverage or sitting at your desk, Guardly Mobile alerts and connects you with your organization’s security operations instantly.

emergency reporting


emergency alert indoors

Simply launching Guardly Mobile activates its location detection capabilities — making it the first button you should press.

With its proprietary indoor positioning and GPS locating capabilities, emergency alerts from Guardly Mobile ensure that security operators can locate you indoors within seconds — without the need to speak or type one additional word.

We end this week’s Bulletin with a heavy heart and hope you never need to use these apps but if you do, remember that help and information is just a call or click away.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

 

Technology And The Narcissist: How He Uses It To Control You.

cyberstalk

Especially in the legal field- whether as a lawyer, private investigator or cop – we tend to run into quite a few narcissists. My personal theory for this above average exposure to narcissists is because we deal with people in raw moments, e.g., after an injurious accident, a horrendous crime, acrimonious divorce or other victimization.  Often, somewhere down the line in these incidents, someone with a powerful, controlling nature set into motion things that result unexpectedly and traumatically.  Those in the legal field today would be wise to investigate the newer forms of communication and location technology to determine how the victim is being controlled by their narcissist.

Narcissists are notorious control freaks. Their control tactics may be obvious or more subtle in nature.  The need for control arises from a feeling of being out of control in their own lives, therefore, the project this lack onto others.   They present as confident, charming, prideful of their appearance and move about with an air of superiority.  They project financial stability even as they file for bankruptcy.  Lying to them is as natural as telling the truth is to the rest of us and they simply must control others.

5 Ways Narcissists Try To Control People Through Technology: 

Via Your Cell Phone.  Technology is the narcissist’s best friend.   Narcissists view cell phones as a 24/7 tether to the subjects of their focus, whether a mate, partner, best friend, etc.   They want to talk to you when they want to, regardless of reasonableness and will call you. Repeatedly, until you answer, if necessary.   If calling fails, expect the texting to begin.   By the time a narcissist is texting you,  he is already angry that you weren’t there when he wanted to talk to you.  The texts will start off nicely enough and devolve very quickly to baseless accusations and hostility.  Conversely, a narcissist will use these same techniques against you to gain the upper hand – by not taking your calls, not responding to texts or answering in one word or equally terse responses.   They control you by instilling doubt – by making you worry about them and what they are doing or what you could have done wrong to warrant their silence.

Photoshop Used In Gaslighting.  From Wikipedia: Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.  Instances may range simply from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. is a type of psychological abuse that denies the victim’s reality.

In our work, we’ve seen narcissists Photoshop evidence so convincingly that their victims believed the faked bank transactions, credit card charges, etc.   even when they knew that they hadn’t purchased a certain item.

WebCams.  By the time you realize how much of a control freak your narcissist is, your life will have been lived out in front of a webcam.  One  of the most used tools in a narcissist’s wheelhouse is your device’s camera.  What may first start out as a happy exchange of morning rituals (having virtual coffee together) to routine face to face “check-ins”, will evolve very quickly into your life being monitored every waking moment by this type person. And make no mistake – he will have made endless recordings of these visuals and play them over and over to obtain clues with which to manipulate you.  First you might get small hints about not being “made up” in the mornings. So, you change your behavior and appear picture perfect now for your morning check in.  Soon you will be afraid to look less than perfect for each video meet up.  Your clothing will be analyzed, every item on your desk, etc.  Creates low self-esteem and anxiety.

GPS:  When dealing with a narcissist, be prepared to have your GPS constantly reviewed.   Conversely, you may notice that there is never a location history after the narcissist uses the device.  He knows you might be curious, as anyone would be, and wants you to believe he is up to something. Creates self-doubt.

Tracking Apps:

Connect (This one is particularly a boon for the narcissist as it does not require the other person to have it installed or to accept an invitation from the app.)

From MarketWatch:  This app for iPhone or iPad can follow your husband, wife, children and even your friends on sites like Facebook Twitter , Instagram, Google Contacts and LinkedIn.  Most social contacts are jumbled and split up across multiple devices, platforms and apps, but this app collects them in one place, says Ryan Allis, chairman and co-founder of the app. “Your Connect map has hundreds of your friends on it the first time you use the app,” Allis says. Unlike similar apps like Foursquare, it doesn’t use virtual check-ins, which can prompt users to activate their location settings (many people don’t realize that when they turn on location settings on their phone, location information can be embedded in shared photographs and status updates too).

Finally, as more and more people turn to online dating to find a mate, they are listening less to their instincts and seeking instant relationships.  Life isn’t quick like that naturally.  Communication and location technology provides massive advancement for society – all members of society, not just the good ones.

Verify by eye.  Yours.

BNI Operatives; Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

 

Your Online Pics Are Broadcasting Your Location; GeoTags.

geotag

When you post your pics online, you could be sharing more than you know.  Most pics taken via our cell phones contain embedded location info that is easily readable by would-be criminals who can then use that data to track you.

How Do Your Pics Get GeoTagged?

When you take a picture with your smartphone or digital camera, it’s typically saved as a JPEG to your device. That image file gets embedded with Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF) data, which includes the time, date, and GPS location where your photo was taken. That photo’s GPS location is called a geotag.

The Dangers of GeoTagging

Once a geotagged photo in uploaded online, or attached to an email, the geotag becomes available to anyone with access to your online pics or email messages.

How can this place you in danger from a stalker or other would-be criminal? Envision the below scenarios:

1. You are selling an item online.

You want to sell your TV so you take a picture with your iPhone 6 and upload it to your Craigslist posting.  A potential buyer contacts you and in the email exchange, in an effort to show more of the item, perhaps you even send along additional pics. If your pics were geotagged, the interested buyer can now identify the location from which you took the photo – usually your home.   The “buyer” may ask if you have additional home appliances, electronic devices, etc. to sell.  He could be digitally casing your home – with your active cooperation.

2. You are dating online.

1 out of every 4 marriages now originates from online dating sites such as Match, Our Time, Christian Singles, JDate, etc.   In your initial posts, to err on the side of safety, you hide your full name, contact information, and where you live. But all of these sites request a personal pic.  You take a selfie and post away.  Now, whether you like it or not, you have given a potential stalker your exact location.

Young Blonde Woman Takes Selfie On Vacation

3. You’re traveling.

It’s almost impossible to not upload and post those envy-evoking beautiful vacay pics of the Bahamas.   While you are Instagramming away your gorgeous sunset shots, bear in mind that you have just alerted one of your wacky followers that you are thousands of miles from home.

4.  Your valuables.

It’s natural to want to post pics of your new car, shiny Rolex and other bling.  Why not post a complete itemized list of your valuables since the criminal already have the address from your geo-tagged brag pics? Trolling social media for just such pics is the new work-from-home gig for today’s thieves.

Although Facebook strips geotags from your uploaded photos, it does show a map of photos you tag. (Just look under “Places” on your profile.)  Even the dumbest criminal can figure out that the 35 pics of your bling are probably taken from the same location and, you may even inadvertently let them know where you stash your family jewels.

5. You have a stalker.

If your online profiles are public, any stranger can figure out your routine. We are creatures of habit – a definite advantage for the online stalker who can track when and where you post, whether you are at work, where you live, where you hang out, and when you’re not home.  Imagine a stalker (or sex offender)  tracking your family pics of your kids in your backyard, at school, at a nearby park, etc.

How To Remove Geotags From New Photos

Now that you realize the very real danger of allowing geotags to remain in your pics, here’s how you remove the geotags before you take the photos:

For an iPhone 5 or 6:

  1. From your iPhone’s home screen, tap the “Settings” icon.
  2. Scroll down until you see the “Privacy” tab, and tap “Location Services.”
  3. Look for the “Camera” tab. Open it, and you’ll see ALLOW LOCATION ACCESS. Click “Never.”

For an iPhone 4:

  1. Hit the “Settings” icon from the home screen.
  2. Find the “Privacy” tab, and tap “Location Services.”
  3. After tapping the “Camera” setting, switch the tab from “ON” to “OFF.”

For an Android:

  1. Find the camera app.
  2. Tap the “Settings” icon on in the app.
  3. Find the Location or GPS tag, and turn it off.

How To Remove Geotags From Photos You’ve Already Taken

If you’ve never disabled location services on your phone’s camera, you have photos in your library that are still geotagged.

To remove geotags from stored pics: use these apps:  deGeo or ViewExif for an iPhone or iPad, Exif Eraser for an Android, or Pixelgarde for an Android or Apple device. Pixelgarde allows you to strip geotagged photos in bulk.

 

Do Social Sites Allow GeoTags?

Fortunately, no. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter,  Pinterest, eBay and IMgur automatically remove geotag data from your photos when you upload them.   Of the online dating sites, Match.com, PlentyofFish, and OKCupid also strip your pics’ location data.

However,  Tumblr, Picasa, Photobucket, Dropbox, and Google+ do not remove geotags from uploaded images. Flickr gives you the option to do it.

Craigslist doesn’t provide a definitive answer on its website. Neither does Tinder.

Do Texts And Emails Show Geotags?

Yes. When you attach a photo to an email, that photo’s EXIF data is also included. SMS messages don’t typically retain this data, but iMessages can.

How can access your geotag info?

There are several ways, and some of them are more useful and prettier than others. It all depends on the computer you’re using. Just remember that a determined stalker will take all of the time in the world to break obtain and breakdown the geotag data in his desired target’s pics. But for the rest of us, here are a few ways to get the GPS information from your photos.

On a Mac

If you’re using a Mac, you can access your GPS information by simply right clicking on the photo file you want to view and then picking “get info.”

This will bring up a box showing all of the EXIF data attached to that particular image file.

On a PC

It’s a little different on a PC, but it’s pretty much the same thing. Right click on your image, and then pick “properties.” From there, a similar window should pop up showing all the EXIF data, including the location of the picture you just took.

Bottom line: Pay attention to what you are posting and don’t leave your security – and that of your family-  in the hands of a third party.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

10 Steps To Erasing Your Digital Footprint (Part I/II)

footprint2

We all have something to hide.  Usually, it’s benign family or photobombed pics and then,  in some cases, a miserable and dirty divorce battle bitterly played out online. Time is the objective archivist of that which we’ve shared online; perception and therefore judgment, however, resides with the reviewer of our public personas.

The vast majority of people have been online now for several years at the very least; interacting on such social media sites as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.   Some of us have fairly large, embedded digital footprints and others cast light personal shadows on the internet landscape but we are all there, in some detectable form.

Whether you are going for your first real job, seeking a post-divorce relationship or just realized that your kids can conduct an FBI-quality thorough background check on their parents, you’ve decided it’s time to clean up your online presence.  Although the task may at first appear overwhelming, the job itself doesn’t have to be – and, some things that are out there you are going to simply have to learn to live with.  So, let’s begin.  (To make this effort manageable in light of our busy lives, we are presenting this information is two parts – a week apart – to allow our readers time to complete the suggested tasks.)

footprint

1. Search yourself.

First things first, pull up your public profile.   It is now common practice among prospective employers to perform searches online when vetting job applicants. The information pulled up by search engines such as Google can be seen not only by you, but future bosses — and so if there is anything unprofessional out there, this will be the first glimpse they see of you. Run a search on your name (including maiden names) and see what appears.  Also, conduct image searches, as they can link to websites or accounts you’ve long forgotten about. Understanding your basic digital footprint is the first step in taking control of it.  By the numbers, run your self through:

Google

Bing

Yahoo

YouTube

InstantCheckmate

Spokeo

(For the curious, while you can certainly look up friends, relatives and co-workers with the latter two personal data-collection services, if you wish them to remain as such, we suggest you just check your own info.  Also, often the data on these sites and others like it can, and most often is, dated and limited.  For your own review however, it serves the stated purposes in this article.)

2. Deactivate old social media accounts and check privacy settings.

MySpace (Yes, this dinosaur social site is still here, haunting us to eternity or the end of the Net – which ever comes first.), Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ are social media websites that can be mined by potential employers for personal information. If privacy settings are not at their highest, this could mean viewers can access pictures, posts and status updates best kept within your private life.

One thing to remember is that the Web often forgets about context — and so Tweets can be misconstrued, events from years ago can end up hampering your prospects, and your profile may not show you to be the type of person a company would want to hire.

In relation to accounts you actively use, check your privacy settings.

For Facebook, click on account Settings through the top-right button, and then select Privacy from the menu on the left. You can then decide who can see what information is posted — and whether you can be looked up based on your email address, phone number or search engines. You can also use another handy tool from your profile page to see what others view, by selecting the ‘…’ button and choosing ‘View as..’.

Twitter users, click your profile avatar in the top right of the Twitter.com screen, and select ‘Settings.’ From this menu, you can make your profile private or change a range of basic account options.

If you want to be completely hidden on social media, use a different surname.

3. Hide others, or add false information

Honesty may not be the best policy if old social media accounts hold information you’d prefer to keep low-key.   In addition, some services do not allow you to delete accounts — instead, they allow only for accounts to be “deactivated.” In these cases, consider changing your name, email address and uploading an innocuous profile picture — as well as deleting as much information as possible — before deactivation.

E.g., If you’ve conducted the above suggested Google, Bing, etc.  search and found pictures linked to old accounts you’d rather not have displayed, hiding your accounts may help in eventual refreshes. It will take time for search engines to stop pulling up these images, but the sooner you tweak old accounts, the better.

4. Contact webmasters

If websites have posted public information about you, contacting webmasters may be the only option to remove this information. Send them an email or give them a call, and explain what, and why, you need something removed.  If you are a member of the law enforcement community, most of these sites are very accommodating in removing identifying materials.  If you have field a police report in any criminal matter, likewise, with a short, concise letter attached to the report, most web masters are very helpful and willing to err on the side of safety in removing or modifying your public data.

5. Unsubscribe from mailing lists

Mailing lists are an integral part of the digital trail leading back to you, and unsubscribing can help break these connections — as well as uncluttering your inbox.

A suggestion for future subscriptions: add an identifier middle initial to your subscriptions so that you can quickly determine subscription categories: e.g., Lina N. Maini = news subs such as WSJ, NYT, etc.   This has seriously helped me identify, review and delete subscriptions in the past, rather than scour through each provider name and have to pop an email open to determine content.  (The Washington Post is obviously a news source – ok, keep the dissent to a minimum – but Birchbox?  I had completely forgotten that these are the wonderful folks who deliver my samples box – home products, beauty supplies, new foods on the market – each month.  I’ve loved everything they’ve sent thus far. ).

Next week, we bring you the next and final five steps in repairing, if necessary, and managing your very public online profile.

(For those looking for professional reputation repair and management services – in which we delve into archival materials deeply buried but ultimately findable by dedicated, prying eyes – we do provide unique, tailored packages that are maintained in the strictest of confidentiality – as is all of our work.)
BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

How is Your WebFace? Controlling Your Public Image.

Kicking off the new year with a new you?  Just make sure you are in control of your old you – especially online, given the access by billions to your digital information.

We’ve all experienced negative postings online.  Whether it’s that awful office party picture, a scathing review or even serious, defamatory comments.   Several ways to deal with these detrimental posts are:

1. Be upfront. Any potential employer/customer/prospective date with even a smidgen of common sense will Google you the minute they’re serious about hiring, doing business with or dating you. It’s far better to come forward with the disclosure  than wait for them to discover the negative information on their own. Let them know what’s out there, the truth and how you intend to handle it. (This may actually work as a positive for you in that it displays your awareness of online reputation and perception management.)

2. Apologize if necessary. It can be the case that you are wrong.  You made a hasty mistake; an inappropriate tweet about your boss or a co-worker, an arrogant post about what you expect from people you date, even a goofball picture that doesn’t truly represent your best characteristics. A basic tenet of crisis control is, if you have caused the situation, apologize quickly and that will usually immediately lower the temperature of the perceived slight.

3. Get it down. Many people are just now beginning to realize the permanence of the web and how it can create a major branding challenge: once negative information is out there, it’s  difficult to remove. If you’ve created the questionable content (a thoughtless tweet, a tasteless YouTube video) you can delete it and — eventually — it will be removed from the caches of Google and other search engines.  (You can hasten the process by asking Google to remove a page or site from its listings — but only once it’s been taken down). If you don’t control the content, all you can really do is ask the person who does to remove it. This could be polite (a friend who’s posted an inappropriate photo to Facebook will probably oblige you) or not-so-polite (you may need to enlist a lawyer if someone is defaming you and won’t desist).

4. Control your SEO. The best and surest way to overcome negative information that’s plastered on the web? Create your own content and drive the bad stuff down in search engine rankings. No one but your worst enemy will bother to visit Page 20 on a Google search; most readers will stick to the first page or two. Creating a robust social media and online presence guarantees that the top results will be the ones you want people to see. Studies have shown that video, in particular, is prized by Google and will rank highly, so you might want to consider a video blog. Traditional blogs, because their content is updated frequently, are also search-engine-friendly. Creating profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter also helps (they’re frequently at the top of Internet searches), and it also never hurts to get quoted in the media or write articles for various publications (which benefits anyone’s personal brand).

If you stick to the principle that everything you input will be seen by a prospective contact, you should be able to eventually develop enough self filters to avoid undoing your reputation online.  (Conversely, being too close-mouthed will make others think you are insignificant or have things to hide.  Play it real and play it smart.)

Included below is a link to 50 niche search engines you should be aware of; Google isn’t the only search site people use to research your background and credentials.

Our Operatives: Street smart, web savvy.

As always, stay safe.

Related articles

Identifying and Reporting Cyber Harassment

(We’re wrapped up in several serious cyber harassment cases at the moment and are sharing several tips on how to handle these type situations that cross over into criminality.  All too frequently we feel our hands are tied in trying to protect ourselves, our businesses and families from this type of harassment but in reality, the reporting protocol for these type incidents already exists.  Below is information on how to report cyber harassment.)

Cyber harassment refers to the malicious use of technology to willfully and deliberately harass or harm another individual or entity.  Cyber harassment can qualify as a federal crime.  Undoubtedly though, it is a scary experience for the victim. If you are in fear of imminent danger to your welfare or that of  others,  call 911 immediately to report the harassment.

Instructions  

1.  Determine whether you are the victim of cyber harassment. The lines between genuine cyber harassment and general nuisance are blurry, so it can be difficult to substantiate a claim of Internet harassment. If someone is threatening you with violence and you genuinely fear for your safety and well-being, you might meet the criteria of being a victim. It is important to note that hacking, cyber spying and cyber stalking are not forms of Internet harassment. The first two are not necessarily criminal activities, depending on the nature of the offender’s behavior, and the latter is a separate crime, which should be reported and addressed differently than cyber harassment, defined by the Federal Anti-Cyber-Stalking Act.

2.  Do what you can to reduce or prevent further Internet harassment from occurring. This includes changing your email address, screen names and member names for instant messaging programs and social networking websites; applying private settings to your profiles and websites that currently are public; and ceasing all contact with the person who is harassing you. You must demonstrate that you have taken steps to stop the person from harassing you. If you communicate continuously with the individual who is harassing you, your chances of  being able to report and stop Internet harassment will drop significantly.

3.  Gather as much information as you can about the individual harassing you. This can prove to be quite difficult given the anonymous nature of the Internet, but technology allows law enforcement to track down anonymous harassers by using multiple methods. Develop a log that includes email addresses, screen names, and website and social networking profile URLs that belong to the person/people harassing you. Save and print emails and conversations, create “screen grabs” or screenshots of websites or profiles with threatening or malicious content, and keep track of the offender’s every attempt to contact you. A detailed log containing dates, times and places will help you immensely when you report cyber harassment. If possible, also try to locate and write down the offender’s Internet Protocol (IP) address.

4.  Contact your local law enforcement agency and ask to report cyber harassment. Use the police department’s non-emergency (administrative) telephone number or visit in person to make your report. Be prepared to provide information you have detailed in your log.   If you know the offender’s (even general) location, you can contact his local police department or file a report with both precincts. Be sure to get a copy of any police report you file.

5.  Contact your local FBI field office if your local police department is unable to or uninterested in pursuing your report. You can locate your local office using the FBI’s field office locator online, or ask you local police department for the information. Always attempt to make a report with your local police department before contacting the FBI, unless you have reason to believe the harassment is terroristic in nature,  (e.g., the offender is threatening to plant a bomb or commit a school shooting).

6.  Contact a cyber harassment watch group for more assistance. While your matter is under investigation, you can contact an organization such as WiredSafety for further assistance and general support. Note that this type organization is not a governmental or law enforcement agency and you should not rely on these private groups as an alternative to law enforcement authorities.

As always, stay safe.

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