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SoftwareMedia Blog | July 29, 2014

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Social Media And Home Security: Risks While You Are On Holiday

Social Media And Home Security: Risks While You Are On Holiday

It’s now a common occurrence, although it was unheard of just a few short years ago.

You join a group of friends for a lovely dinner; eat, drink, laugh, and then make your way home quite a few hours later.

Like so many of us do, we check Facebook before turning in for the night, and then discover that we were “checked in” at the restaurant earlier in the evening, and a number of photos have already been posted online- your casual evening with friends had already been documented and archived long before it was over.

So now all of your Facebook friends know exactly where you were, what time you were there, and who you were with, and indeed, if you’ve neglected to activate the highest level of privacy settings on your Facebook account, then everyone with a Facebook profile knows as well.

While this hardly counts as a betrayal or a breach of privacy, it can be somewhat unsettling to see your movements tracked in an online medium. This is classed as being something “fun” and yet there’s potentially a dark side to it.

We have to consider: does excessive social media pose a security threat?

Not Everyone is Actually Your Friend

The term “friend,” as used by Facebook is rather misleading.

Certainly, a number of Facebook friends are your actual real life friends; people you call and meet outside of an online environment. But an increasing number are friends of friends, very casual acquaintances that you might not even recall meeting, and sometimes, a “friend request” can come through from a total stranger.

Be very cautious about who you actually approve as a Facebook friend, as these people can see everything you post on your wall. It’s possible to add selected friends to a “restricted list” so they can’t actually see what is posted on your wall, and this isn’t so much related to personal security, but it’s important should you add your co-workers and boss.

You might not want them to see all your photos and status updates.

Profile Privacy is Very Important

Facebook and comparable social media websites are constantly updating their privacy controls, so when you get a notice via email or when you log in, it’s very important to actually read it, rather than scrolling straight to the bottom and clicking the “I accept” button.

You need to avoid what is known as an open profile, where anyone who happens to be a member of the same site can see what you’ve posted. You might not think that it’s important, but consider software programs such as the now defunct Openbook and the still operating Please Rob Me. These frightening programs search open profiles for selected keywords (“away,” “vacation”) and returns a geographical list of Facebook users who are likely to “away” on “vacation.”

A small amount of further research can lead a thief to the exact address, an address that now stands empty and is an exceptionally easy target.

Thieves Are Using These Programs!

The town of Nashua in New Hampshire broke up a ring of thieves who were monitoring open Facebook accounts in order to determine when a homeowner was away on vacation. Over a four week period, there were more than 50 home robberies in the town, and Nashua Police were able to charge the Facebook gang with 18 of these.

There was also the case of Boris McCubbin from Knoxville, Tennessee, who posted constantly about his vacation, while the vacation was still taking place. Mr McCubbin returned home to find that his home had been trashed, and many valuable possessions were gone. Police suspect that one of Mr McCubbin’s 887 Facebook friends was responsible.

And let’s face it; it’s unlikely that he knew all of those 887 people in the real world.

It’s understandable to want to share your experiences with your social media friends, even if many of them aren’t really your friends in the traditional sense of the word. But we need to exercise a certain amount of caution: perhaps only update your status and upload all those vacation photos after you’ve safely returned home, and your home is once again occupied.

This is a guest post by freelance writer Claire Wilson who is also a passionate traveler. Whenever she’s away she knows keeps an eye on her home and belongings.

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