Are You Letting the Bad Guys Know Where You Are?
This is a guest post from McAfee
“Where are you?” It’s a simple question, but one that opens up a world of possibilities. That’s why so-called location-based services, that log and share your location as you move through the world, are growing in number and popularity. As these services grow in popularity, so does the importance of mobile security.
Applications like Foursquare and Facebook allow you to “check-in” at places using your mobile phone, and then share your location with friends or on social networks. These services also allow you to recommend the places you visit, read tips from other users, and receive rewards. The application knows where you are by tapping into your phone’s global positioning system, and lets you broadcast your location with messages such as “I’m at Mary’s Coffeehouse in San Francisco.”
But while location-based services can help you network and discover new places, sharing where you are to the world can open the door to some significant mobile security risks. For instance, you may not mind sharing your exact location with friends and family, but what about with people you don’t know? When your location is broadcast on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, potentially anyone can see it. Say you check-into a hotel while on vacation. A thief could potentially see your check-in and do an online search for your home address with plans to rob you while you’re away.
What’s more, kids and teens like to use these services to help them meet up with friends, but imagine what could happen if your child’s exact location fell into the wrong hands. That’s why parents now have to be particularly vigilant about mobile security if their children use location-based services.
Aside from these threats, privacy groups have pointed out potential privacy holes in location services, such as whether the service provider is tracking and logging your whereabouts over a long period of time. What’s to stop a cybercriminal from hacking into a database of location information to discover your patterns? They could discover more about you than you’d like—your private life, religious and political beliefs, and work connections could all be exposed, cheaply and easily.
While these mobile security dangers may seem remote, the reality is that cybercriminals are always finding new and innovative ways to steal our information and money. Smartphones and location-based services are an entirely new avenue for them with untold possibilities and opportunities. That’s why, for mobile security reasons, you should avoid using location services, if possible. If you do use them, make sure to change the settings so that only people you know can see your location.
Although many mobile users are enjoying the benefits that location services have to offer—such as free rewards, new places to explore, and a convenient way to hook up with friends—you have to ask yourself whether the benefits outweigh potential mobile security risks.