As bloggers it's easy to forget just how much of our lives we put on-line for anyone to see. But it's important to remember when to pull back and share less. Today we look at things to keep in mind to stay safe on-line
When I was assigned to write an article about being safe online, I wasn’t particularly excited. I mean, I know that it’s an important topic but what could I tell you that you don’t already know?
So, I did what any self-respecting Castle fan writer would do. I decided to try being a cyber criminal.
My plan was simple. I would start with the most popular piece of Internet safety advice there is for adults: don’t tell the world when you’re on vacation.
I started my mission on Twitter, searching for the hashtag #vacation. Within seconds I had found my target - a young woman who tweeted about how she couldn’t wait to stay at a certain hotel in France*. BINGO.
In another tweet, she shared an Instagram photo of a restaurant in France, which confirmed that she was already on her vacation.
I was happy to see that she has an Instagram account, since it’s easier to scan through images than tweets. Sadly, she didn’t have any photos of big-ticket purchases on her social media account. That would have helped me plan what to take during my (virtual) visit.
There were several photos of children on her public Instagram account though. (I’m seriously hoping she has disabled location services on her phone camera, otherwise it would be easy to find those kids.)
Anyhow, this particular woman uses her entire name on Twitter, so I knew my search for data on her would be simple. After browsing her Instagram account, I headed over to Facebook where she would likely have the same profile photo (she did). From there I gleaned information like the city and state that she lives in, as well as what bar she likes to frequent.
I didn’t need to know about the bar though. My make-believe cyber criminal character wasn’t interested in abducting her. NO. My fabricated villain isn't like that (but people like that exist). This was strictly a research-for-robbery scenario.
So, using the power of Google, I searched her full name, city and state and found a staggering amount of data on this lady.
Without opening a single one of the search results, I found out where she went to school, what degree she has, and what her interests are. It’s amazing to see the amount of information that shows up on search summaries!
But none of this was useful for my plan. What I needed was her address, which I found using the online white pages. The website was so helpful, that it not only gave me her address, age, and a map to her house but also a list of who her neighbours are (WHY IS THIS EVEN A THING?!?)
In less than 3 minutes, using nothing more than social media sites and Google, I learned more information about this woman than I know about my best friend’s brother.
Imagine what a real bad guy can learn about you (or your kids) by using the right software.
If my little investigation doesn’t convince you to keep your personal details private, then you could try watching this short video entitled “The Internet Knows Where Your Cat Lives and You Should Be Worried.”
Seriously though, it’s something to consider. Telling people that you’re going to be away gives the bad guys time to plan. The same goes for live tweeting during your vacation. You’re basically screaming to the world “I’m not at home right now, go check out my house!”
For those of you who might think that I’m being paranoid consider this: do you put your mail/newspaper on hold when you go on vacation?
Many people do this so that it’s not obvious that they are away from home. Other people put their lights on timers or have someone “house sit” for them while they are away. These are pretty common precautions that people take when they go on vacation, so why do so many people forget to take these precautions online as well?
So the next time you’ve got a trip coming up, call your best friend to tell her how excited you are to go. Then ask her to house sit so you can enjoy your vacation in peace!
Then you can sit back on the beach, sipping a Mai Tai, snapping photos at your leisure without spending those precious movements composing tweets. When you get back to reality, you’ll have all kinds of material to share on you social media accounts. That sounds like a good plan to me!
The information in this article is factual, however, I have changed the location of her vacation in order to protect her identity. I have no intention of using any of the information on this individual for nefarious purposes – my social media/Google search was purely for the purpose of this article.
My 3 Minutes as a Cyber Criminal (kind of) was written by occasional investigative journalist, Shareba Abdul. Shareba is a food blogger and freelance writer, but most certainly not a cyber criminal. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Applied Arts in Media Studies, a Diploma in Journalism, and has a passion for writing, photography, and blogging. You can connect with her on Pinterest, Twitter and Google+.