How often do you do this?
You take a cool photo and you immediately share it on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. You apply a filter, write some text, add a hashtag or two – and then you add your location. This is added automatically on some networks (unless you turn it off) – or you can manually add it when posting the update.
This everyday action is something you probably wouldn’t even think twice about doing, but it can actually be a cyber security risk.
It can even be a personal security risk, as Kim Kardashian found out when she was tied up and robbed at gunpoint by criminals who’d tracked her movements on social media.
Geotagging Social Media Posts: A Business Risk
Adding a location to social posts is known as “geotagging”. This is a legitimate concern for businesses, as cyber crime becomes a more practised art. Victims are being increasingly cherry picked through targeted attacks, rather than being caught out by mass, generic attacks.
Cyber criminals are actively selecting specific businesses, and they’re doing research before they strike. With social media, it’s easy for anyone to find out who the bosses in an organisation are, or who works in the accounts department.
If you’re the managing director of a business that a cyber criminal wants to hit, the criminals will almost definitely monitor your movements online as they prepare to strike.
It’s Not Harmless for Cyber Criminals to Know Your Movements
One type of fraud that’s on the rise is CEO Phishing where hackers send spoofed emails, posing as the company CEO, to employees with the ability to transfer funds. This is far more effective if the email is sent when the CEO is out of the office. Social media sites are therefore useful to the criminals as a means of monitoring their targets’ movements. This can be mitigated by ensuring social media profiles are private, but you’re only completely safe if your friends haven’t had their accounts compromised and you’re sure your “friends” are really your friends. It’s becoming commonplace for cyber criminals to try to connect with their targets on social media by posing as other people on the target’s friends list.
Besides the business risks, do you really want all of the people you’re connected to (let’s be honest, they’re not all actually our friends) – and in some cases the general public – to know where you are, where you live, when you’re at the airport and when you’re on holiday?
How to Ensure You’re Not Geotagging
The only network where this happens automatically is Twitter. On Twitter, geotags appear on posts as a little map marker icon on the corner of a tweet. It usually defaults to the town that Twitter detects you are posting from. This might not seem dangerous, but if a cyber criminal sees you tweeting from downtown Manhattan when your business is in London, they’ll know you’re away.
To turn it off, go here: Settings > Security & Privacy and untick “Tweet location – Add a location to my Tweets”.
You can also delete all location information attached to old Tweets by clicking “Delete location information” which is on the same page.
Instagram does not automatically geotag your posts, it is a manual feature. However, the app does seem to almost encourage you to add your location by placing the feature front and centre when posting a new snap. You’re then able to then view all your posts on a map, and it seems to be “the done thing” on the network.
If you don’t manually add locations to your posts on Instagram, however, then you don’t need to worry about turning it off in any settings. Unfortunately, if you have geotagged posts in the past and you now want to remove your location from those posts, there’s no quick and easy way to remove location from all posts. You have to go back and edit each post individually.
On Facebook, if you’ve ever “checked in” somewhere, you have added a geotag to each “checking in” post. Like Instagram, whenever you add a new picture or status, you have a clear option to add a location to that picture or comment.
Once you’ve checked in or added a location from one place, however, you’ll automatically geotag all future posts from that same location. To prevent this, you must click or tap on the small “x” on the location that appears when you’re composing your post. Like Instagram, you can’t easily remove all locations from older posts. Facebook doesn’t have a setting to automatically disable all future geotags either, but they will only be added automatically if you’ve manually geotagged a post from that location before. Just keep an eye on it when you’re writing future posts.
Geotagging – Not Always Bad
Geotagging posts is not bad, necessarily – as long as you’re aware of when you’re doing it, when’s an appropriate time to do it, and when isn’t.
For example, if you’re at an industry event, it might be a good idea to geotag a social media post from your company page. If you’re about to leave your house unoccupied for two weeks, it might not be a great idea to post anything about it at all online – especially if old posts are geotagged from your home address!