Geotagging: What Is It and What Are Its Security Risks?

August 25, 2023

Introduction

Have you ever gone to post on your favorite social media platform, only for it to suggest that you add where you are logging in from?

Whether you’re checking in to someplace on Facebook, or browsing posts made from a specific location on TikTok or Instagram, you’ve probably come across geotags before—maybe you’ve even used a few!

It may shock you to hear this, then: Geotagging can pose cybersecurity and privacy risks if not properly managed!

How Does Geotagging Risk Your Data Privacy?

Geotagging involves embedding geographical location information (such as latitude and longitude coordinates) into digital media files. These can be photos, videos and even social media posts!

This information reveals where the media was created, which could lead to some unintended consequences. If they can find out more about that “metadata,” malicious actors would be able to track your movements or identify your habits, potentially posing physical dangers and making it easier to spear-phish you with the perfect scam. They might send you tailored messages referencing your recent locations or activities, making their phishing attempts more convincing. You don’t want to give out too much information about your daily routines and whereabouts online!

At work, there’s the additional risk of exposing the location of sensitive business activities to competitors and adversaries. Even other people in the organization may not have the clearance level necessary to possess that knowledge. That’s why it’s important to beware what metadata you’re putting out into the world by accident, and who exactly can see that information—if they know where to look.

Mitigating The Risks Posed by Geotags

  1. Review Settings: Check the settings on your devices and apps to determine if geotagging is enabled. You may want to automatically disable geotagging for photos and videos!
  2. Disable Individual Geotags: For sensitive media or posts, turn off geotagging before sharing. Most smartphones and cameras allow you to toggle geotagging on or off for each photo or video.
  3. Review and Remove Metadata: Before sharing media online, review and remove any geotagging or other metadata that could reveal sensitive information.
  4. Limit Public Sharing: Be cautious about sharing geotagged content publicly on social media. Consider sharing such content only with a close circle of trusted friends or family.
  5. Education and Awareness: Educate yourself and others about the risks of geotagging and how to manage location information on digital media.

Remember: Geotagging itself isn’t inherently a cybersecurity risk, but the information it reveals can be exploited by malicious actors. Just like any sensitive data, it needs stringent protection and continuous monitoring to ensure the safety of your networks and databases.

Stay aware of geotagging settings and practice good digital hygiene, to better protect your privacy and security every single day…and every single post, too!

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