We’ve been taught about the average burglar. He follows definite patterns, has been profiled thousands of times and influences many of the security decisions we make. But recently a new breed of burglar has surfaced. Sure, there aren’t many around yet but in the light of recent successes, there’ll be a rash of them before long. We’re talking about the rise of the techno-burglar. Not so average anymore.
1. Theft by Google
Hey, have you been to Google Earth lately? Pretty amazing, isn’t it? Google Earth lets you “fly anywhere on Earth to view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings, from galaxies in outer space to the canyons of the ocean.” (from Google themselves) And that same technology is available on your mobile.
Techno-burglars don’t have to scrutinize rooftop access and perimeters. They don’t even have to stake out your home to check out its significant features. Using Google Earth, they can zoom in close enough to see skylights, roof vents, second-floor windows, doors and balconies from all angles.
Technology like Google Earth – has made life easier for all of us – the good guys and the bad guys. If it’s good enough for International Intelligence agencies to use the technology for surveillance, it’s good enough for your above average, tech-savvy criminal. All they have to do is check how recent the images are and work from that.
2. Internet Theft by GPS
Yeah, you read that right. Cameras and cell phones store GPS (Global Satellite Positioning) encoded in the metadata of the photos they take. The “GPS data enabled” setting on modern mobile phones is also the default setting. Most people don’t even know about this and have been unwittingly, posting pictures still containing the exact GPS location of where they were taken. By using your smart phone, the precise latitude and longitude of where each picture was taken is ”geo-tagged”
For an example, you take photos of your kids’ birthday party. The interior of your home is clearly visible with photos of the presents. You share them online, giving away the GPS coordinates for your house, along with a good view of your possessions plus your homes layout. Techno-burglars or stalkers can extract the GPS data, getting a street view or address within minutes, by entering this data from your images into Google Earth.
But what about all the other pictures, not just your home, but every place you’ve taken photos. By analyzing this information, techno-burglars can draw a profile of your habits more precisely than if you had been followed every day for weeks. ”Not only are you telling me where you are, you’re telling me where you’re not,” says one cyber safety consultant and former police officer.
Some platforms automatically remove these geo tags before posting pictures but not all do and there isn’t a guarantee that the service will continue. GPS tags and dates remain in photos uploaded through apps like Twitpic and on pictures sent in SMSs or emails, posted on blogs and other social media platforms.
3. Theft by Facebook, etc.
Law enforcement agencies confirm that urban thieves are progressively more technology orientated and social media is a major area where the techno-burglar can operate in relative anonymity.
Posting about your holiday to Spain on Facebook doesn’t seem all that dangerous. The same goes for the running commentary, complete with photos, about the weather, the food, the drinks and all those other exotic features of a great vacation, upfront on Facebook.
But modern burglars and stalkers trawl the internet for just such details. By publicizing your vacation plans on social media, you make your home and family vulnerable, as agreed by cyber security experts.
Recent research from insurance industries, shows that one out of every five people “share” when they’re away. Another thirty percent post pictures while they’re on holiday. Announcing to the world they’re not at home and giving them the exact location of their house is a severe risk to home and possessions. If you do any of the above, I hope for your sake, your home security’s in place.