School is out and summer is in full swing. What are your vacation plans? Beach? Amusement park? Camping? National Park? Before you go jet off to exotic locales, understand that when you start posting pictures and status updates, checking in, and sending tweets, you’re sharing your location with a potentially large group of strangers. Why is this a bad thing?
Before you go “Countdown to paradise — Maui here we come!”
Resist the urge to announce your plans ahead of time. This is like putting a sign on your front lawn saying, “We’ll be 1,000 miles away for the next two weeks. Come on in and take what you like.” If I can easily set up a search in Tweetdeck or Mention based around the word “Vacation” within your zip code, don’t you think criminals can also?
Make sure you have geo-location turned off on your phone and tablet. Geo-location automatically attaches your GPS coordinates (your location) to photos you post. Sometimes this is called location services, but it varies by phone and tablet manufacturer.
Set up Facebook’s privacy settings to prevent people from tagging you in posts. Choose Settings->Timeline and Tagging->Review posts friends tag you in. This way you can decide whether you want the photo to appear on your timeline or not.
Don’t check in or post about your vacation. Every time you announce your flight departure from Detroit to Cozumel, you’re letting people know that your home is ready to be burgled. When you tag friends, you compromise their safety as well. You say you have your account locked down with privacy settings? This is a great first step. However, it’s not foolproof. Do you trust your friends’ computer habits?
Here are a few scenarios to consider:
- One of your friends leaves their Facebook account logged in at the library, school computer lab, or some other public computer. Someone else gets on that computer and instantly has access to your info.
- Your friend doesn’t have a passcode on their phone and is constantly leaving it lying around. It gets stolen and the bad guy opens the Facebook app and views your information.
- Your friend connects to an open Wi-Fi hotspot that is secretly controlled by a hacker. Their computer is jacked and their Facebook account is compromised.
Capture the incredible moments
Of course you’ll want to take photos and make notes about the trip, but you don’t have to post them right away. My favorite tip — bring a camera. I know you have a camera on your phone, but by using a good-old-fashioned camera you’ll capture more photos at much higher quality and you won’t be tempted to immediately post them from your phone. When you get home, add the really interesting ones to a cool collage and dump the rest.
Blog now — publish later
Creating a blog and writing about your experience is a great way to capture all the details as they happen. When you finish a post, save it as a draft. When you get home, review all the posts and publish them as a compelling, cohesive travelogue.
Pass these tips along to your fellow vacationers (friends, family and kids) so their social media behavior on vacation doesn’t put your home at risk for burglary.
Chris Sorensen has been in the IT industry for over 30 years and is currently a cyber-security specialist for a fortune 10 company. In his spare time, he enjoys helping family and friends stay safe and secure on the Internet with tips and techniques delivered in a fun, non-technical style. Readers are welcomed to send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.