Social Media Security: Some Things Are Better Left Unshared
Social Media: Some Things Are Better Left Unshared
By snooping around social media, burglars can find their windows of opportunity.
To keep pace with the Information Age, some criminals have added monitors and mobile apps to the traditional burglary toolkit of gloves, crowbars and ski masks.
Law enforcement officials and home security experts frequently warn social media users about sharing information that an opportunistic burglar could exploit. The chorus of admonishing voices also includes PleaseRobMe.com, a humorously named website with a serious message: “Raising awareness about oversharing.”
The advocates may differ in style, but they agree on many of the same guidelines. To minimize your risk while using social media, burglar-friendly information should be kept to yourself:
- Your address. If you’ve shared your address in a public profile, a burglar may find that information pretty useful.
- Your vacation plans. A Tweet or status update along the lines of “Three more days until my two-week vacation starts” could supply a burglar with critical information: when you leave town and how long you’ll be away.
- Your social calendar. Just like travel plans, a public RSVP to an event can help a would-be intruder figure out a window of opportunity.
- Your current location. Regular online check-ins at Locations X, Y and Z can make it easy for a criminal to track your whereabouts. Watch out for settings that automatically share your location every time you update your status, upload a photo, etc.
Burglars target the famous and the anonymous
You may have heard about the strategy used by the “Bling Ring” burglars who targeted celebrities through their social media profiles. However, don’t assume that this new breed of burglars will limit themselves to high-profile victims. Real-life examples suggest that an ordinary Facebooker could be just as vulnerable as Paris Hilton.
In 2010, police in New Hampshire arrested three men who allegedly scouted more than 50 burglary targets by looking at Facebook status updates about travel plans and other occasions when their intended victims would be away from home. The investigation led to the recovery of more than $100,000 in property. Burglars in Alabama used a similar tactic, targeting Facebook friends or friends of friends who posted information about their whereabouts.
It can happen anywhere, from Hollywood to your hometown.
Who are the friends of your friends?
A 2012 study by the Pew Center’s Internet and American Life Project estimated the average number of Facebook friends per user at 245. Based on that estimate, the information shared by the typical Facebook user is potentially visible to tens of thousands of people on the site.
The problem is that very few Facebookers probably stop to wonder how much they know about the friends of their friends, or if they know anything at all. In some cases, like those burglary sprees in New Hampshire and Alabama, social media users may be only two degrees of separation away from trouble.
Keep criminals in the dark and out of your home
Although a home security system can provide significant protection against burglary, never underestimate the importance of your own diligence in these matters.
If knowledge is power, then an uninformed criminal will have less power to use against you. Make sure the odds stay in your favor by being selective about what you share on social media.