Location based services online and your privacy

Privacy eh?  Its spoken about in the media how we should be careful what we share online, but it seems the general public, whether they are casual or regular dabblers in social media, including those who use IT at work, put their fingers in their ears and just say “La-la la la!”

Something that concerns me is Facebook now have this new feature where you can report where your current location.  This could be quite useful if you find a friend is actually only a few blocks away in a pub somewhere.

iPhone users have been doing this sometime now, with strange apps like Foursquare and Gowalla.  The rest of non-mobile web can see their Facebook/Twitter feeds filled up by spam posted with annoying things like “I just bcame mayor of XYZ pizzas & co.”  or “I am in my mansion”   The first one sounds like some kind of board game, with the user with portable device in the outside world, being a counter on a board like monopoly.  Putting links to a google maps of your house and when you are out of your house really isn’t very smart.

Teenagers make up a large proportion in Facebook of course and now I have seen a couple of young people do the same with posting maps of their homes.

Us IT people are quite likely to be targets given that the chances are we own a lot more technology in our homes, already there have been incidences of burglaries, where Facebook was used to scope out someone and when they were not in their house, we are talking not hackers, but any average thug who can use a browser who could have an anonymous Facebook profile, add you and make you his next target.

Long before social networking, about 7 years ago, a friend of mine with is own IT business he runs from home was the victim of a serious armed robbery in which was taken by two masked individuals in his own car, he had a sharp object put against his neck, maybe a knife but might of only been a screwdrivers, but had a lot of IT equipment taken from his house.   They drove him in his own car to a cashpoint and made him take money, and left him out in his own street, gone with car, IT stuff and cash.   I don’t know where they found out his address, but the chances of this kind of thing happening again I fear could be more frequent.

I use my Gmail profile to share pinpoints of locations both the UK and Israel.   You can have several sets of groups, the UK ones I used to share locations of the hospitals buildings I worked in Southampton, these were not available publicly only to some of rest of the team I worked with, this was not their IT dept’s official policy, its just something I used to make working easier especially as I was not familiar with Southampton and it meant finding and driving to sites easier.   The ones I have here in Israel I also keep private, just ocassionally share with friends when they want to come round and need to find my house.

I am all for sharing experiences of where I have been to and hearing from friends trips, but isn’t it time just to get sensible with how much we share?

July 2010 and IT work in Jerusalem

At work I have been setting up a back up system for all three of our offices as the current system wasn’t working well or flexible for our needs, so I have deployed Cobian (which I really like as its free, open source and easy to configure with support for compression and encryption and reporting) and its crucially important as an IT administrator to be well rehearsed for a worse case scenario.   I am also thinking my job has some different slants, in terms of do IT people prepare for possible war.   One example is if our staff have to go into a bomb shelter (most houses, businesses and public places have one)   how we get announcements of what is happening.   I don’t think mobile phones work in heavy concrete shelters, and neither do laptops or smart phones using wireless internet either.   I have been told the government uses radio announcements for this kind of scenario, but then again I am not sure if they have these repeated in Hebrew, Arabic, English and Russian languages, all widely used here.   I thought one theory would be to put a wireless router (in a locked enclosure, so no unauthorised person can plug in a network cable or tamper with it)  in the shelter in one office, but then again that particular office has a shelter shared between 3 other businesses, so it doesn’t belong to us nor is it possible to drill holes or wire cables through a wall.

This week, there are announcements that significant numbers of Israelis have had details hacked by Turkish hackers see this news story.   Seems to be more common people deface web sites or illegally get personal information as a political statement.   I think I need to think about making sure all our servers and critical systems are fully patched.  Last year I saw a public presentation by the IDF who had an IBM Thinkpad laptop still with XP SP1 (I can tell as Service Pack 2 and later no longer shows the words ‘home’ or ‘professional’ upon booting up.) Microsoft stopped supporting XP without service pack 3 sometime ago now and the update isn’t that difficult, and apart from needing new wireless drivers for sometime laptops there is little possibility for this update to cause a problem, testing would need to be done with specialised apps but I have not seen any real issues.   I merged Service Pack 3 with our CD of our volume licence version of XP (do a google search for ‘slipstreaming’ if you want to learn to do this) so this is done transparently when I do rebuilds of PCs at work, saving me a lot of time.   I don’t think complacent in IT security is any worse here in Israel, as many of my previous employers were years behind on installing service packs, using an outdated web browser or had cut corners on inadequate antivirus apps that were not upto scratch.

If you have done IT administration or know articles for places where people may face danger, do feel free to comment.   I am not interested in anything political, just ideals for sensible practical plans for technology to keep people safe and work in times of uncertainty.

I have tidied up my blog and should get my original domain name back soon, I have removed some people from the links on the side, hope no one is offended, but I got rid of some dead links and blogs that had not been updated in a while.