Americans Waking Up to Social Media Privacy

There have been thousands of privacy related news reports over the past year depicting social networks, Google, marketers and advertisers as evil privacy violators who are slowly sucking dry whatever privacy we have left. Facebook has been raked over the coals by advocates and watchdogs who say their tactics violate their own policies. In response, numerous lawsuits have been filed and government agencies have put the pressure on everyone involved to come up with a serious solution.

It is evident that without some type of government oversight that the “self policing” done by all those who stand to gain financially by selling our data will continue to spin out of control to the point where privacy will be something of the past.

My stance as a security professional has always been on the “privacy is dead, get over it” side of the fence. I’ve always been of the belief that the data out there is as a result of the public’s own doing and if they don’t want the world to know their private thoughts they shouldn’t post it.  As they say, “the cat is out of the bag”.

However, my concern is not that the self exposed private data is out for the world to see is a violation of a person’s privacy, but what can be done with the data to affect ones security position.

Now as a result of all this attention to privacy, in a recent study published in the Wall Street Journal, about 36% of American adults said they were “very concerned” about their privacy on social-networking sites in 2010, compared with 30% who felt that way last year. The shift was particularly noticeable among people over age 44; 50% of people age 54 to 64 described themselves as “very concerned,” compared with 32% who said that in 2009.

In response, the WSJ further reports The Obama administration is preparing a stepped-up approach to policing Internet privacy that calls for new laws and the creation of a new position to oversee the effort, according to people familiar with the situation.

This is definitely a good thing as the US significantly lags behind Canada and Europe among others in regards to privacy.

Certainly I care about privacy and wish there was more. But the fact remains that the fundamental issue that affects ones well being is security. Too much information leaked may damage ones social standing in some ways and if you don’t want it out there then don’t put it out there. And considering marketers and advertisers have taken it up a notch, they definitely need to be watched by the watchdogs. But in the end, what’s most important is how that data can be used to hurt or harm you.

Home Security Source

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing Facebook Apps leaking data on Fox News.

18 Year Old Enters “Dumb Criminal Hall of Fame”

There’s dumb criminals and then there is this kid.

A family was away from their home and had someone take care of some items around the house. Apparently the caretaker was doing some work on the exterior of the home and opened some shutters around a window and saw someone inside who wasn’t supposed to be there.

As soon as he realized it wasn’t a family member he called the police. And somehow the burglar was able to get out of the home and flee before law enforcement arrived.

When they entered the home to secure it they found a backpack, discarded food wrappers, a bag of pot, and soda cans. There was an open window adjacent to all the stuff where they determined that’s where he may have entered and exited.

So what does an 18 year old spend a lot of time doing (other than breaking into homes) he spends time on MySpace. And this kid logged onto the family’s home PC to his MySpace page. When he realized he was seen in the home he fled, forgetting to LOG OUT!!!!!!!!!

When the police looked at the computer they saw his stupid face above his dumb name (which happens to be “Robert”). With a current photo of him they were able to inform other officers on patrol and quickly saw him walking down a street equipped with burglary tools. He was arrested.

No offense to the homeowner, but they were no smarter leaving their home vulnerable to thieves with open windows, no alarm and a computer that didn’t have a password with administrative login requirements. At least lock all your windows, get a home security system and lock down your PC so it can’t be accessed.

Oh, and read this “Log Out, Log Out, I repeat, LOG OUT”.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing home security and identity theft on TBS Movie and a Makeover.

What Security Issues Should You Worry About?

First thing I tell my seminar attendees is “The chances of anything bad ever happening to you is very slim. So don’t worry about. However you should still put these systems in place.”

Are you a helicopter parent? An “alarmist”? Or Chicken Little: The sky is falling, the sky is falling! I heard somewhere along the line that 90% of what we worry about never happens. It might be even closer to 99%. But there is still that one percent that concerns.

Deciding what to worry about may be a conscious or unconscious (or sub-conscious) decision.

Often what we worry about comes from what we see and are fed in the media. It is well known that the nightly news is built on the premise “If it bleeds it leads”. Blood and guts is what sells airtime and newspapers.

These worries when confronted are often dumbed down by statisticians, researchers, some security professionals, social psychologists and are called “baseless paranoid fears”. Books written in this regard are designed to give perspective. My feeling is they are written simply to sell a contrarian idea to stimulate conversation (and sell books) and in reality the author is no less of a “worrier” than anyone else.

Perspective is good. Too much “worry” can have ill health affects and significantly detract from quality of life.

My gripe with the “Don’t worry, it’s a 1 in 10 million chance” mentality is that it fosters the “It can’t happen to me” syndrome which prevents people from taking responsibility for their security in the first place.

If you knew the statistical probability of the chances of your kid being shot at school or your child being kidnapped or even being struck by lightning and all were “slim”, would you take any less precaution to protect yourself or your family?

Would you stand next to a metal pole in a lightning storm? Would you drive without a seatbelt? Would you allow your 7 year old who is perfectly capable of navigating their way to school go by themselves even though the chance of them being kidnapped is extremely slim?

For many of the issues we worry about the chances of them happening might be 1 in a 100,000 or 1 in 10 million. Your chances of something bad happening may equate to the same statistics as winning the lottery, which is very slim, but you still might play the number.

Does it really matter what the odds are?

Every day someone somewhere wins the lottery. Every day someone somewhere is a victim of a heinous crime.

Knowing what I know I’m concerned about it all and I take the necessary steps to prevent what’s in my control. Do I worry?  Well, a part of my life’s energy goes into putting measures in place to prevent “bad”. If being proactive and taking responsibility is “worry” then yes. And I feel safe, secure and grounded without any nagging “paranoid” angst that detracts from the quality of life.

What’s so wrong with that?

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing home security and identity theft on TBS Movie and a Makeover.

Crime Is On The Decline. I Didn’t Notice

According to the figures released by the FBI, the estimated number of violent crimes in the Nation declined in 2009 for the third consecutive year. Property crimes also declined in 2009, marking the seventh straight year that the collective estimates for these offenses dropped below the previous year’s total.

What has always bugged me about these reports is the sense of relief some get, but in reality how little crime actually declines. Generally it’s anywhere from 5 percent to 6 percent for either category. So maybe there were 22,000 murders gone down from 25,000 murders. That’s still lots of grieving families.

Much of the decline in crime can be attributed to better police work and support from various federal agencies. Over the years law enforcement has gone from whistles and Billy clubs to sophisticated programs based on community involvement coupled with innovation and technology.

In addition to better police work I believe the public has a higher degree of security intelligence. Over the past 10 years our collective consciousness in regards to protecting ourselves, has increased. The tragedy of 9/11 raised awareness that we must take some degree of responsibility for our personal security.

While might have dropped a tick and we are more aware, we still have lots and lots of work to do. Remember, there always has been, is now and always will be criminals seeking their next target.

For example a study in Connecticut showed that 12 percent of burglaries occurred through an UNLOCKED door and that in 41 percent of alarmed homes that were burglarized; the security system was not turned on.

These kind of stats just makes me mental. Even though property crimes have declined, there are still over 2 million burglaries.

Here are some tips from a police department

Be proactive with the help of wireless home security. New interactive smart home solutions go beyond traditional home security to provide a new level of control, accessibility and connection.

Wireless home security provides with anywhere, anytime access to your home via smart phones or personal computers, including iPhone application to:

• Arm and disarm their home security system.

• Get notified of alarms and selected events via email and text messages as well as video clips.

• View their home through cameras and watch secure real-time video or stored video clips of events from monitored areas of the home.

• Access lights and appliances or set schedules to automate them.
Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing Home Security on NBC Boston.

Google Assembles “Best Of” Family Safety Center

Teaching kids internet safety and security is an evolving and complex issue. The goal is to achieve a level of trust with your kids while providing a long enough leash to foster growth and responsibility. Google’s Family Safety Center is a new site compiling the best of resources for advice, guidance, direction and action items to provide parents with the necessary tools to help kids navigate the wild wild web.

Google Family Safety Center works alongside many organizations in the US to promote action and awareness around Internet safety. They offer resources and advice on cyber bullying, child protection and online education both for parents and children.”

A few of the resources include:

ConnectSafely is the leading interactive resource on the Web for parents, teens, educators – everyone engaged and interested in youth safety on the fixed and mobile social Web. In addition to safety tips, advice, and youth-tech news, ConnectSafely provides a discussion forum for all stakeholders on safe, active engagement in participatory media and culture.

Common Sense Media is a favorite of mine and is an independent nonprofit organization committed to providing kids and families with the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.

The National Cyber Security Alliance’s mission is to educate and therefore empower a digital society to use the Internet safely and securely at home, work, and school, protecting the technology individuals use, the networks they connect to, and our shared digital assets. is a project of the federal government and the technology community to help you guard against Internet fraud, secure your computers, and protect your privacy. For more tips on talking to your kids about staying safe online, read Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online. This comprehensive guide for parents, also available in Spanish, covers topics ranging from social networking to file sharing.

By investing quality time with your kids learning the intricacies of online security, both child and parent will develop skills that will last a lifetime.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing sharing too much information online on Fox News.

Travel Security Tips for Turkey Day

Thanksgiving is coming quickly and it is one of the most traveled times of the year. Burglars know this. There are unfortunately many unsavory characters that are anticipating you are heading to a Thanksgiving Day football game or going to grandmas house and some of you might be helping the homeless at a soup kitchen.

To ensure an uninterrupted feasting of the fowl and a safe return home, I suggest you consider the following:

Here are a few tips to help protect the safety of your home while you are gone:

  • If you are traveling by car make sure it’s running properly, check belts and tires and oil. Have a good spare and carry an emergency kit.
  • If you are heading overnight pack your car in your garage or late at night under the cover of darkness.
  • Use timers on indoor and outdoor lights.
  • Let a trusted neighbor and the police know you are traveling.
  • Unplug garage door openers.
  • Have a neighbor park their car in your driveway.
  • If grass is still growing where you live and if you’re gone for a bit have a landscaper mow your lawn.
  • Don’t share your travel plans on social media or on a voicemail outgoing message.
  • Lock everything of significant value in a safe.
  • Invest in a home security camera system and home security alarm system.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Digital Photos Held for Sextortion

This is a little over the top and if this story was happening to one person I may not even dare to discuss. But it seems to be happening to hundreds, maybe thousands and possibly tens of thousands. And the fact that kids today are posting anything and everything, it needs to be discussed.

Right now hundreds of cyber threat victims are coming forward, arrests are being made and court dates are set because criminal hackers in the form of weird men are breaking into women’s email programs and social networking sites and scanning their media for photos that show them as they were in their birthday suit.

The depraved men are then contacting these women alerting them to their dirty deeds and giving them an opportunity to save face before the photos are posted to Facebook by paying them off in money or more photos!

This is serious stuff, now while you may not participate in stupid activity like this someone you know and care for may. The Register reports One victim, who was 17 at the time, testified that she was so humiliated that she quit her summer job and dropped out of advanced college classes. Another victim attempted suicide.

The hacks occur when:

Users have simple and easy to guess passwords and their accounts are infiltrated

Malicious software is installed on the users PCs in a number of ways

The computer has Peer to Peer (P2P) file sharing programs that allow anyone to scan the computers hard drive.

Here’s the bottom line: If you don’t want the world to ever see it, then do not do it. Because if an ex-boyfriend, ex-husband, ex-girlfriend or ex-wife has an axe to grind it may go live. Worse, a devious criminal hacker may get it and “sextort” you. Otherwise you’re next consideration (if you just need to be a shutterbug) is to put all digital media on hard drives that are not connected to the internet.

Otherwise protect yourself with anti-virus, don’t install or remove P2P file sharing software and create passwords that are difficult to crack that have numbers and letters.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing hacked email passwords on Fox News. Disclosures.

5 Tips to Help Prevent Home Invasion

Warning: This is about to get very graphic. The Boston Globe reports “A woman hacked to death with a machete and knife in her home was alive for all 32 slash and stab wounds that split open her skull, sliced through bones and pierced organs, a medical examiner testified.”

Steven Spader, 17 years old at the time formed “Disciples of Destruction” a gang, “pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and burglary and witness tampering. He was 17 when prosecutors say he plotted the home invasion and rounded up the three other young men who accompanied him.”

“During the home invasion, Kimberly Cates, 42, was killed, and her daughter was severely injured.”

Prosecution asked the medical examiner if the mother was alive during the attack and he said yes. Meaning she didn’t die upon being bludgeoned, she bled to death.

Spader has a penchant for the “pen” too. He has sent letters to fellow inmates which he calls “bedtime stories” describing the crimes in detail. He has also written songs in rhyme describing his brutal acts.

This young man is obviously an evil person who has no value for human life or remorse for his crimes. He views his crimes like a trip to a theme park, one amusing afternoon.

It is unfortunate that civilized humans must live amongst predators. But there has always been, is, and always will be human predators around us.

Many will recall the horrible home invasion that occurred in Connecticut when the Doctor lost his wife and two daughters. The first of two home invaders in that case was prosecuted and is awaiting sentence.

The chance of something like this happening is very small. But there is a chance. So you should make yourself a tougher target.

Here are 5 tips to help keep you safe and prevent a home invasion:
1. Never talk to strangers via an open or screen door. Always talk to them through a locked door.

2. NEVER let children open the doors. Always require and adult to do it.

3. Install a home burglar alarm and keep it on 24/7/365. With a home alarm system on, when someone knocks on the door, a conscious decision has to be made to turn off the alarm. Most people will keep it on.

4. Not all home invaders knock, some break in without warning.  Just another reason to have that alarm on.

5. Install a 24-hour camera surveillance system. Cameras are a great deterrent.  Have them pointed to every door and access point.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing home invasions on the Gordon Elliot Show. Disclosures

Facebook Beefs Up Your Security

It is obvious to many that Facebook has got the message and is becoming more responsible for their users security. For a few months now I have enjoyed a security feature they implemented that allows you to say in control of your logins.

Login notifications: This feature sends you an email or text telling you someone has just logged into your account.

To set up and enable notifications

1. go to “Account” upper right hand corner

2. in the drop down menu to “Account Settings”

3. in the main menu go to “Account Security”

4. click “Yes” next to “Would you like to receive notifications from new devices”

5. the same can be done with text messages if you have your mobile plugged into Facebook. But don’t have your mobile displayed on your page publically.

6. Log out then log back in and it will ask you to identify the computer.

One time passwords: This makes it safer to use public computers in places like hotels, cafes or airports. If you have any concerns about security of the computer you’re using while accessing Facebook, we can text you a one-time password to use instead of your regular password.

Simply text “otp” (that’s O T P for ‘One Time Password’) to 32665 on your mobile phone (U.S. only), and you’ll immediately receive a password that can be used only once and expires in 20 minutes. In order to access this feature, you’ll need a mobile phone number in your account.

Remote logout: the ability to sign out of Facebook remotely is now available to everyone. These session controls can be useful if you log into Facebook from a friend’s phone or computer and then forget to sign out. From your Account Settings, you can check if you’re still logged in on other devices and remotely log out.

Under the Account Security section of your Account Settings page you’ll see all of your active sessions, along with information about each session.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to ADT Home Security Source discussing social media Facebook scammers on CNN. Disclosures.

Losing Control of a Digital Life

We have heard it all before, once you post it on the Internet; it is no longer in your control.

Anything digital is rRepeatable. Re-peat’ a-ble: “To say again. To utter in duplication of another’s utterance. To tell to another. To do, experience, or produce again. Capable of being replicated.”

In very simple terms whatever kind of digital file it is; picture, video, audio file, email, IM, Office doc or text, it can be copy/pasted, reposted, emailed, forwarded, MMS’d. You name it.

In some cases this can be a good thing. For example if you are a musician and you aspire to make it big you create an MP3 or video and release it in as many places as possible and hope it goes viral all over the Internet.

Repeatable media can be used to make a point. In Korea a woman allowed her dog to go No 2 on a train and refused to clean it up. Someone on that train took a photo of her and the “2”. That photo shamed her into compliance worldwide.

In other situations this can be embarrassing for some. In 2003 a 15-year-old from Canada was filmed by classmates in an embarrassing video of him getting all “Luke Skywalker” with a golf-ball retriever like it was a light saber. The clip “Star Wars Kid,” was viewed 900 million times online by 2006. This was not the kind of attention he could handle and it had a very negative impact on his life.

Most people’s concern should revolve around repeatable media that damages ones online reputation. Photos of drinking alcohol to the point of intoxication that shine a light of irresponsibility have caused harm to many people.

And then there is the bizarre. Fox News reports a Massachusetts mother was horrified when she found her 7-month-old child’s photo on popular promotions site, Craigslist, advertising his own adoption. She said the photo was from her family’s blog.

What does this mean to you? Realize right now, “big brother” is the least of your concerns. I’d be more concerned about your little brother and his iPhone. Just know going forward that we are all living in the phish bowl. And mind your Ps and Qs.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to ADT Home Security Source discussing sharing too much information online on Fox News. Disclosures.