With a world full of smart devices, personal privacy is under sieges with every keystroke, pictures on comment on social media presenting a new security threat. While users are busy protecting their Credit card numbers and their maiden names, cybercriminals are busy connecting digital footprints left behind.
Proverbially, a picture is worth a thousand words but rarely do we stop a second to think about the 900 plus other words sent alongside a single snap uploaded on social media. In a privacy conference held last week, researchers revealed that smartphones users could unknowingly send compromising information such as their real time GPS coordinates and device types through a single upload on social media.
To illustrate just how highly sensitive information is floating on the internet, researcher Kelvin Ashton, broadcasted addresses of cat owners within a few mile radius from where the conference was taking place. The cat owners probably uploaded pictures without know they were giving the locations of their pets as well. “If you post an image online, you post the data as well,” said Ashton.
More worrisome, is the huge chuck of personal information customers leave on unsecured databases. “We’re all constantly being asked by a lot of organizations to provide a lot of personal data,” said Adam Levin, founder and chairman of IDT911, a Scottsdale Security company that hosted the privacy conference. “Some of it is for purposes that are clear; some of it is for purposes that are mysteries.”
Every time you make a careless upload, shop online, sign up for Apps or enter your personal data on a website, your are a leaving a photographic footprint or a digital trail that could be used against you in the future. While you may be busy protecting your credit number or your mother’s maiden name on Facebook, cybercriminals are busy following your digital footprint and preparing an attack.
Apparently, we live in world where everyone is monitored, if the sales of geological devices and digital cameras is anything to go by. Last year alone, device makers sold over 1 billion digital cameras, including those embedded on smartphones and over 1 billion geolocation devices, adding to the over 1 million private drones owned and operated by Americans individuals. Ashton postulates that these devices could be widely used for personal spying a trend expected to worsen in the future.
Although most of the information broadcasted by these devices may be harmless, the problem arises as to who is collecting the information and for what purpose. With the advent of Big Data computer analysis, your keystrokes, pictures and comments on Facebook could be used build your online profile based on your browsing habits. This data is then sold to marketing companies or listed on illegal dark web marketplaces on a highest bidder basis.
In past, large companies have found themselves in the middle of huge scandals for collecting and analyzing data on customers’ online habits for the purpose of targeting ads. Recently, Verizon wireless was in the middle of a privacy quagmire for using a secretly inserted Unique Identifiers Header (UIH) to spy on users. Facebook has also had its share of the misery while Target was on a receiving end after sending a pregnancy –tailed coupon to school girl in marketing campaign that went sour.
Security experts at the privacy conference also warned of an imminent threat of identity theft which is more severe than a financial loss. While financial losses are covered by insurers and credit card companies’ victims of Identity thefts take more than a year to recover from the shock, said Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center, adding that 6% of the victims commit succeed.
According to Velasquez many people are under the illusion they are talking to friends on social networks unware the person on the other end is collecting sensitive information that could be used in an identity theft. “If you wouldn’t want to put up a statement on a billboard next to your house, don’t put (the same message) on Facebook,” she said
The evolution computers, smartphones, smartwatches, IP cameras, drones, facially and voice recognition technology is making increasingly difficult to secure our privacy. More importantly internet users should avoid sharing unnecessary information by turning off incriminating applications and features on our devices. Like Velasquez said, if you can’t put your next status on a Bill Board don’t put it on social media.
Top/Featured Image: By Sean MacEntee / Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/smemon/4592915995/)