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Tuesday, 11 April 2017 00:36

Warning: social media opens up a door to burglars

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Warning: social media opens up a door to burglars Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sharing too much information on social media this Easter could lead to trouble from burglars who trawl sites like Facebook and Twitter to find easy targets, like empty houses, to rob, according to the security company ESET.

Nick FitzGerald, senior research fellow at ESET, recommends holidaymakers refrain from disclosing information that could make them a target of burglary, and he cites the situation in the US where a “whopping” 78% of burglars check Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare for potential target locations.

According to FitzGerald, the much-publicised 2016 jewellery robbery of Kim Kardashian in Paris is a prime example of how “oversharing on social media” can lead to dangerous and life-threatening situations.

He says the alleged ringleader of the robbery admitted to police that he had obtained information about Kardashian’s whereabouts, and even the value of her jewellery, from her social media accounts.

“As hard as it may be to resist, preventing yourself from falling victim to a social media burglary is simple. Oversharing may seem safe under the illusion that you are only sharing with ‘friends’”, FitzGerald said.

“However there might be friends of friends and even strangers with ill-intentions following your posts. In short, don’t share information on social media that you wouldn’t share with a stranger.

“Above all, never disclose information that could be used to find out where you live, expose personal and travel details, or announce when you are going away for an extended period of time.”

Here’s a list of top tips from ESET on how to avoid becoming a victim of social media burglary this Easter holidays:

Whilst at home:

  • Secure your profile: Check the privacy settings of your social media accounts and only add people who are actually friends.
  • Turn off location services: Most apps include location-sharing features with GPS trackers. Make sure your location services are not set to ‘automatic’, particularly for apps with lower security settings so posts cannot be tracked to a specific location, especially your home.
  • Remove EXIF data: Many pictures uploaded to the Internet include information on when and where the photo was taken and on what kind of device. This information is known as EXIF data, and whilst some social media sites, including Facebook, strip this data automatically once an image is uploaded, many do not. Any tech-savvy burglar will be able to find out where the image was uploaded through this data. Visit here for steps on how to remove EXIF data.
  • Think before you share: Is it really necessary to have your full date of birth on your social media accounts? Or to tag the location of your house or nearby landmarks? If you wouldn’t tell a stranger certain information, then don’t upload it to social media.
    Don’t post expensive household items: Revealing expensive household items on social media, such as new TV’s, cash, art or jewellery just increases your chances of becoming a target for burglars.

Whilst on holiday:

  • Don’t announce your holiday plans: Announcing you are going away for an extended period of time, and specifying exact dates, makes you a prime target for burglars. Also, whilst checking-in to your airport or hotel may be tempting, criminals only need to look back at previous posts with location tags or find a rough idea of where you live from a quick Google search to start piecing together where you live.
  • Don’t post in real-time: Even with EXIF data expunged, that photo with the Eiffel Tower in the background might be a bit of a giveaway that you are away for several days. Although it’s hard, try to resist posting your holiday snaps until you’ve returned home. That way, you can still share them with friends and family, however it eliminates the threat of burglars targeting your home.
  • If you just can’t wait to share your snaps, alternatively you can create a private album that only close family and friends have access to. The same goes for posting snaps of your plane ticket, as criminals can easily use the information on the ticket to phish for personal details, including your address.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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