On December 28th, McAfee Labs unveiled their 2011 Threat Predictions Report, and they’ve listed Geolocation Services as one of the top targets for cybercriminal activity in 2011. Geolocation services particularly include services involving check-in activities which publish your location. Geolocation services include Facebook now, as well as Twitter, Foursquare and Gowalla.
From my perspective, McAfee’s inclusion of geolocation services is unsurprising and perhaps even overdue.
I wrote back in 2007 how geolocation technology is core to click-fraud detection, as well as for credit card sales, banking, and user profile verification.
Just a couple of common risks involving geolocation services involve criminals being able to use your current location information in order to victimize you. Obviously, if a criminal knows where your home is, and you’re involved in a geolocation service which is showing that you’re located in another city or across town, they could rob your home.
Yet another way your location could be used against you would be if a criminal has gotten ahold of one of your credit cards’ information. For instance, if your credit card company sees that you made a purchase in your home town a few hours ago, but there are abruptly some purchases originating from a city a few states away or even in another country, they could freeze the account until you confirm or deny that you are still using the card. There are various means by which online criminals can spoof location, but they’d have to know where you normally would be before this is useful to them.
I’m certain there are many more exploits possible based upon geolocation.
If you want to improve your personal identity security, you probably should avoid participating with geolocation services, or use an alias, or only use such services that allow you to limit the people who access your information to those who you’ve chosen to connect with.
Most people do not know how to properly limit their personal info on the social media sites like Facebook where they publish stuff, so, it could still be a good idea to not disclose location on public sites. For instance, I can do searches via Openbook which shows the location of a great many people who might not be aware that anyone can see their information.