Behavior That Can Endanger You and Your Family.

We’re all guilty of it.  “It” being –  intentionally or not – exposing our private information in public.  Below are examples of this behavior that unnecessarily puts you and your family at risk.

1. Family graphics on a vehicle.

family car vinyl graphics

The criminal’s view of your adorable family stick-on:  If you have this family graphic on your vehicle, the burglar knows you have a baby in the family and therefore less inclined to fight back. Dad carrying a briefcase implies he’s the worker in the family, i.e., away during the day and or for work trips.  Given the number of children, perhaps Daddy’s wife is a soccer Mom (busy with errands), in and out on a routine (taking kids to school,  to play dates, practice, picking up kids…).  And if the dog is the same size as the cat, I’d put my money on the cat being the family protector.  This graphic is  way  TMI.

2. Responding with your date of birth, insurance carrier and or SSN in a pharmacy.

pharmacy

Discretely hand the pharmacist or pharmacy assistant your driver’s license or other form of valid government I.D. Ensure that you are fully blocking the view of the person behind you.  A bit of paranoia is preferred, especially if your medication is a desired prescription drug (e.g., Xanax, Valium, painkiller of any kind…).  If the employee behind the counter begins to comment, cut them off and ask them to respect your privacy.  Hey, it’s your info and these personal identifiers (especially DOBs and SSNs)  are extremely valuable to your local unauthorized pharmaceutical retailer.

3.  Posting photos of the family in front of the house, even if the address is not evident in the pic.

family ifo house

Most cameras and smartphones add location information to each picture taken, exposing the exact longitude and latitude of the image to anyone who wishes to view this geotagging data.  (On a positive note, social sites such as FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter automatically remove these geotags before posting. Common photo sharing sites such as Flickr, however, allow the embedded geographical information to remain.)  The pic taker/poster is often unaware of this invisible, embedded data.

How to locate and erase geotagging data:

a. Determine if your camera is geotagging your pictures. Any camera you use must have GPS enabled in order for geotagging to occur. This is very common in smartphones but many digital cameras have this capability as well. This data, called EXIF data, is invisible unless you know how to look for it.

b. To view EXIF data, go to Jeffrey’s EXIF Viewer (JEV), a very easy to use information locator that supports a wide variety of file types. JEV also  provides two different options for viewing geotagged images. The first allows you to view information from images already online. The second allows you to check images before they are posted online.  Follow the site directions. (For images stored on your computer, press Browse beside the Local Image File box. Choose the file in question and press View Image From File. You’ll receive the same geotagging info as you would for posted and on-camera photos.)

Now you know exactly what details you are providing to friends, family and potentially, strangers.  If you don’t want your location available, erase all EXIF data before posting or turn off GPS functionality when taking pictures with GPS enabled devices.

These starter tips can be helpful this summer in preserving your safety and that of your family but in all cases, just exercise common sense in unintentionally exposing your personal identifier information.

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.