Keep Out! I’m Still Home!

Harry and Marv, Professional Burglars

Harry and Marv, Professional Burglars

(This column is courtesy of SSP Blue.)

We are all very good at using our common sense when we go on vacation, to prevent criminals, like those in the movie Home Alone, from deciding to burglarize our homes while we are gone. We ask neighbors to take in our garbage, collect our mail and turn on our lights periodically so it looks like our house is still occupied. And yet, we go online and throw caution to the wind. Holiday photographs, airport check-ins and status updates about destination hotspots occur frequently on our profiles. With 78 percent of convicted burglars in a recent UK survey identifying the use of social media profiles as a means for targeting burglary victims, Internet users must show more caution when displaying vacation information.

According to the industry organization Airlines for America, U.S. airline carriers expect to transport nearly 24 million passengers during the 12-day Thanksgiving travel period. As these travelers share photographs, check-in at destinations and provide status updates and tweets related to vacation plans, they also increase their vulnerability to home theft by unintentionally enticing potential thieves online.

Social media users share extensive details about their lives on profiles. Users post everything from the mundane – dinner reservations and favorite shopping locations – to the most important details of their lives. It stands to reason that posts of family photographs and vacation updates occur commonly during the holiday season. Unfortunately, the risks associated with these types of posts are simple. By betraying your location away from home, thieves recognize the opportunity to invade your property unhindered.

Posted and tagged photographs also represent a security risk for all social media users. Cameras on smart phones assign GPS data to photographs. When posted, these photographs provide interested parties with your physical location. Consequently, prospective thieves may use this information to isolate your physical address or to ensure you are away from home. The content within photographs also becomes appealing to criminals. Images of valuable assets within your home or on your person may attract unwanted attention from thieves.

Although disclosing vacation information online increases risks to your property, users may reduce these hazards by following these basic security procedures:

  • Turn off location services on mobile devices and associated Internet destinations offering location tracking capabilities
  • Request that visitors and friends disable location identification in your home or when they share information about you online
  • Avoid making general posts about your location on profiles and refrain from broadcasting vacation details or specific travel plans
  • Perform ongoing profile maintenance to remove photographs with embedded GPS data
  • Only use status updates and checking-in capabilities when leaving a destination for home
  • Maintain stringent security settings on all social media accounts and only allow friendship requests from known individuals
  • Speak to relatives or trusted friends about your absence and implement home protection strategies
  • Wait until you arrive back home from your holiday before you post pictures

Holidays represent a source of temptation for vacationers and thieves alike. It may seem tempting to share all of your trip details in real-time, but this information may also entice thieves. Protecting your property from potential burglars means following the same safety rules online as you apply to face-to-face conversations – use caution as your guide.

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Author:

Hemu Nigam

Hemanshu (Hemu) Nigam is the founder of SSP Blue, the leading advisory firm for online safety, security, and privacy challenges facing corporations and governments. A veteran of online security, he brings over 20 years of experience in private industry, government, and law enforcement. He has been called upon by institutions from the United Nations to The White House to provide counsel on the world’s most critical online protection challenges and has been a featured expert by BBC, BusinessWeek, CNN, Financial Times, Fox News, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. You can get more security tips at his website, Twitter, and Facebook.

Comments

  1. Paula Lynn says:

    This message badly needs to be supported by major media, not to mention embedded warnings with usage. How about dings on one’s electronic devise when location is showing ? (Right) So many people, dare I say older boomers – not the ones who participate in reading these posts – have no idea what you are talking about.

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