Serious Smartphone Security Risks Exposed!

Written by Felipe on February 15th, 2011

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You’re not going to believe what I have to tell you about today! My website is all about cell phone tracking applications and you all know by now that I love these apps but what I’m about to share with you today is something that I believe crosses the line and it’s something that I will not support.

The reason that I am writing about it is to let everyone know about this dangerous security loophole that can allow anyone to easily discover vital information about where you live, where you work, where your kids go to school, where you spend your vacations, and much more.

You might be asking yourself how this could possibly be true but trust me, it is very true, very real, and a serious threat to the personal safety and security of your family. What I’m referring to is a feature that is available on all smartphones that have the capability of taking photographs. This feature is called geotagging and while it probably has some useful purposes, it can be extremely dangerous.

What Exactly Is The Threat?

Let me explain a little bit more about this security threat. Every time you take a photograph with a digital camera, there is some information about that particular photo that is saved as part of the image file. This information is often referred to as metadata or EXIF data which is short for Exchangeable Image File Format.

In the world of digital photography, this information is often used to display the camera settings that were used when a particular photograph was taken. This information can be quite useful for both amateur and professional photographers who want to be able to remember the focal length, aperture, shutter speed, ISO settings and more after they have downloaded an image from the memory card to their computer. Seems pretty harmless doesn’t it?

Why Does GeoTagging Potentially Pose A Threat?

Well, actually GeoTagging isn’t harmless at all. If you own a smartphone and take photographs with it, this information can be extremely dangerous. All smartphones are equipped with GPS receivers in them which makes it possible to use cell phone tracking applications that we all know and love like foursquare, Glympse, and MobiWee. Unfortunately, what smartphones can also do is automatically record the exact GPS coordinates of the location where the photograph was taken. Most people aren’t even aware that this information is stored inside the file of a digital photograph.

Each year, millions upon millions of photographs taken from smartphones are uploaded to the Internet. People think nothing about sharing the pictures of their family vacation on their Facebook page, Myspace account, or personal blog. After all, one of the main reasons that people use social networking sites is so that they can share this kind of information with their friends and loved ones who may live in other parts of the country or even other parts of the world. Herein lies the danger!

Every time you upload digital photographs to the Internet that were taken with a smartphone, the exact GPS coordinates or geotag is also uploaded to the Internet. With some very simple software that is readily available, child predators or stalkers can extract this information and learn the exact location that the photograph was taken in a matter of only seconds!

You May Be Publicizing Very Private Information When You Upload Photo’s

Think back to the last time that you went to your children’s school and took pictures of your son or daughter performing in their school play with your smartphone. I’ll bet you were very proud of that moment and couldn’t wait to upload the photographs to Facebook or your personal blog.

Here’s where things get very scary! By doing this, you have actually given the exact address of your child’s school to everyone on the Internet who sees that photograph! If you’re like most people, you probably have taken pictures of your children at their home, at their day care, at their school, where they go to summer camp, where they go to church, at their favorite playground, and many other places that your children hang out. I’m sure you wouldn’t voluntarily post the addresses of these places on the Internet for just anyone to see and have access to intentionally. Unfortunately, if you have uploaded any photographs from your smartphone, you may have already done so.

What Can You Do Safeguard To This Information?

Preventing this information from being available to just anyone on the Internet is as simple as disabling one simple setting on your smartphone.
In your cell phone, you simply go the settings menu and select the “location settings” option from the menu. Then, you simply disable geotagging from your camera settings. After this setting has been changed, the GPS coordinates associated with the location of the photographs you take in the future will never be saved in the metadata file. It should then be safe to upload the photographs that you have taken “after” you disabled geotagging to the Internet and share them with your friends without the risk of your personal information being disclosed to the world.

What About The Photo’s That You Have Already Uploaded?

The good news is that this security loophole is something that has just recently been discovered by Internet security experts. In fact, many of these experts have only recently become aware of the threat. This means that not many predators are aware of the security threat as of yet.

  1. The first thing you should do is make sure that you have privacy settings enabled on your Facebook and other social networking websites so that not just anyone has access to your photographs.
  2. Next, you should remove the photographs that you have already uploaded from the various places on the Internet.
  3. Next, you should download some software from the Internet that allows you to remove the EXIF data from your photographs. After this information has been removed, there will no longer be a record of where the photograph was taken in the image file.
  4. Lastly, if you choose, you can upload the photographs that have had the geotag stripped from the image file to your favorite social networking sites and personal blog. Since the sensitive data has been effectively stripped from the photograph, you can rest easy knowing that you are no longer broadcasting the address of your child’s playground to every child predator who stalks the Internet.

It’s very important that we get the word out about this security threat before even one person becomes a victim. An easy way to do that is to click on the “Like” button at the top of this page.

I receive compensation as a result of endorsements, ads, or affiliate links on this website: Compensaton Disclosure