Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Privacy: It's More Than Closing Your Blinds

I was looking at Facebook today. I look at it a couple times a week. I saw a picture from the adult daughter of one of our dear, old friends. She took a picture of her little boy on his first day of pre-K.
He stood on the porch steps of their home holding a sign that had his first name, his grade, etc. I looked at the pic thinking as I do about security. I know our friend’s daughter and we are “friends” on Facebook. I mentioned to my wife that the picture gave away too much. Beside this cute little boy was a big address number. I now knew the boy’s first name, his address number, and from his Mom’s page, the boy’s last name. And of course, what he looks like. I said this just in passing to my wife. She texted our friend and mentioned this fact to the boy’s Grandmother. Our friend texted this to her daughter (who lives in another state). The daughter blew it off as just something you don’t need to worry about.
She said it’s because we’re friends on Facebook that we can see so much. We then asked our daughter who is not friends with the boy’s Mom on Facebook, to see what info she could find. Our daughter found out what state they lived in, and through other pictures on the Mom’s page, found out what town they lived in, and more important, a phone number. With that phone number she was able to get a complete address. With a little more searching she found out that there are only 3 pre-K schools in that town. She looked through the Facebook page of the Mom and found several “Likes” on a particular school. She looked through the Facebook page of that school and found teachers pictures. Comparing pictures of the boy going into school with his teacher, and the schools Facebook page pictures, my daughter determined what school the boy went to, and the hours of that school. So between Google and Facebook my daughter, who is not friends with any of this family, found the boy’s full address, the number of kids living in that address, where the boy goes to school, his teachers name, and when the school gets out. She even found out the Mom’s husbands name, and where he works. All in a matter of 30 to 40 minutes. All this information came cold from what could have been a random Facebook page.
My friends, being na├»ve about security doesn’t make your family safe. Is anything bad going to happen to this family? Probably not. The odds are with them. The problem comes when we become the small percentage that crime happens to. Random crime and terrorist activity can come to any of us but what are the chances? In 2010 your percentage of being involved in violent crime was 1%. So your chances were 3.09 in 309 million that it would be you. Those are good odds. This is why we don’t think about security because we’ll take those odds. I would rather not take any odds or at least change them by being security minded and doing some simple things. Privacy online is one of those things. What my daughter did to find out some personal information was called data mining. It’s really quite interesting that the things that we should safeguard are just little things, until they are put together with other little things. PII is personal identifying information consists of many bits of info. Here are some examples:
• Full name (if not common)
• Home address
• Email address (if private from an association/club membership, etc.)
• National identification number (used by the governments of many countries as a means of tracking their citizens, permanent residents, and temporary residents for the purposes of work, taxation, government benefits, health care, and other governmentally-related functions)
• IP address (in some cases)
• Vehicle registration plate number (license plate)
• Driver's license number
• Face, fingerprints, or handwriting
• Credit card numbers
• Digital identity
• Date of birth
• Birthplace
• Genetic information
• Telephone number
• Login name, screen name, nickname, or handle
The following are less often used to distinguish individual identity, because they are traits shared by many people. However, they are potentially PII, because they may be combined with other personal information to identify an individual.
• First or last name, if common
• Country, state, or city of residence
• Age, especially if non-specific
• Gender or race
• Name of the school they attend or workplace
• Grades, salary, or job position
• Criminal record
All of this in information that on the outset seem innocent enough. By themselves they may be innocent, but put together with 3 or 4 additional items there is much that can be known about you and your family. I am not a criminal and neither is my daughter. But if we were, we would have some info that we may be able to exploit for criminal activity. This could hurt this family financially or even physically. Privacy is a thing of the past. It used to be that what I bought, where I went, and what I did was not such a public record. Besides everyone carrying a camera and video recorder, the internet, cashless transactions, and security cameras everywhere have taken from us a privacy that will probably never be returned. You can take steps to minimize this in your life. Safeguarding the above information and being careful who you share your life activities with, is a start in the right direction.
I think getting in a car accident is a higher percentage than violent crime happening to each of us yet we wear seatbelts and want airbags. You have more chance having a fire in your home than a home invasion yet we have smoke alarms and fire extinguishers. If we thought about our security like safety we would close down out Twitter, Google, and Facebook accounts. Be smart and protect your privacy.
Semper Paratus
Check 6