Be Careful When Posting your Location on Facebook

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We have all seen the posts of people who need to share their current location.  They talk about the trip to Europe they will enjoy for the next two weeks,  the concert they are attending, or the restaurant where they will eat tonight.  They are sharing information with their friends.  Of course, we have talked before about controlling your security levels so you really only share with friends.  But, I suspect most people do not think of it a great deal.  So, I want to share a story.

There is a young woman in Chicago who works for Groupon, teaches rowing at one of the city’s finest Catholic high schools, and coaches a rowing team.  A few years ago she started an organization called Recovery on Water (ROW) for survivors of breast cancer.  Her mission is to provide them an opportunity to exercise because research suggests that regular exercise drops the likelihood of another tumor by half.  It seems like a good cause with a regular membership that exercises together and supports one another in their challenge.

This summer the founder decided she would row the perimeter of Lake Michigan to raise money for her cause in an effort she called Row4ROW.   As I understand it, she planned to row the entire perimeter alone and sleep on her boat.  Along the way she shared information about her cause and, of course, blogged about her experience, including her location.  All went well until last week when she was sexually assaulted while she slept on her boat (you can read the Sun Times story).   On July 12, her blog (written by a friend) read:

Jenn was set to row to Beaver Island on Sunday morning but was attacked and sexually assaulted by a man in the early morning hours. The attack occurred in an area south of Gulliver along Lake Michigan in Mueller Township, Schoolcraft County, Mich. Investigators have reason to believe the assailant traveled a significant distance to commit the assault.

The bold print on the last sentence is mine.  It appears from reading her blog that they have not yet caught the assailant.    However, it is interesting to note that they believe that he knew where to find this young woman simply by following her blog.  It is anyone’s guess how he knew to find her blog — it might have been random, or he knew of the effort, or someone posted it on Facebook (frankly, that is how I learned about Row4ROW).  But the point is that the young woman, traveling alone, sleeping on the water simply broadcast her location to the world.  And, she has paid for that mistake.

Many people suffer home burglaries or other crimes because someone knows they are not home because of broadcasts on social networking sites.  Even if all you do is to post a photo from your phone, a technologically sophisticated person can check the photo for information about your location (and, depending on your phone, might know exactly where you were and when you were there).

The young woman is now taking better precautions.  For a couple of days she rode a bike (with others)  until she could find safe locations for sleeping.  She is now back on the water finishing her adventure and raising more money and more awareness of her cause.  And, raising more awareness of the problems of social networking sites.

I do not know this woman, and I do not know anyone participating in the program.  However, I was moved enough by her determination to continue that I did contribute.  If you are so motivated, you can make a donation online.

 

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Malware — DNS Change

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You may have heard the reports that something called DNSChanger is expected to hit on July 9, but not known what it was or what to do.

First, what is a “DNS” and why do you care if it gets changed?  First, DNS stands for Domain Name System and it is the directory system that allows computers to locate one another.  Your computer has no understanding of a web address such as  https://internetuseforseniors.wordpress.com.  So, after you type that into your web browser, the computer goes to the DNS and asks for the URL to be translated into something it understands.  That something is called an IP address.  Like your home address, an IP address is made up on multiple parts.  Your home address has a street number, a street, a city, state, country (perhaps) and some code, such as a zipcode.  Similarly, the IP address has a series of components that identify a specific computer uniquely.  These addresses are of the form 134.124.25.18, where the first number indicates your domain and the last number identifies a specific computer in the domain;  the intermediary numbers are further demarcations of the location.

Without a DNS server, we would all need to type in the specific IP address.  Clearly that is not practical. So, if the malware has infected your computer, then on Monday you will no longer be able to type in a URL and have your computer understand how to direct the browser.

How did that malware get put on people’s machines?  Like most malware, it infected people’s machines when they clicked on some advertising link that downloaded software to computers without the user knowing about it.  Since the software was not causing any problems, people do not know that it is on their machine — until July 9.  (Of course, with regular malware checks, this would probably have been detected.)

To avoid a problem, check your system now.  Some services, such as Comcast, has notified the users whose machines seem to be infected.  Similarly, Google and Facebook may be posting a warning if they detect your computer is infected.  To check, go to http://www.dcwg.org and follow the directions for checking and repairing your machine if necessary.  Do it today so you don’t have a problem on Monday!

Facebook and Email

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Last week Facebook decided to replace everyone’s default email address with a Facebook email address for everyone.  For example, they changed my email address to vicki.sauter@facebook.com.  I never saw an explanation for why they made this change, but I heard a lot of the discussion of the problems that it caused.

First, this change impacted how people could search for friends.    We all know you can search by putting a name in the box at the top of the screen labeled “search for people, places, and things.”  However you can also put in an email address there.  Suppose, for example, you were looking for John Smith.  There are a large number of John Smiths from which to choose and maybe your friend doesn’t have a photo, or is using a photo of his children, dog, or an interesting plane as a profile photo.  It may be impossible to know which John Smith is actually your friend.  However, if you search for his email address, let’s say jlsmith1234@yahoo.com, you will find him directly.  Once Facebook changed everyone’s email addresses, they hid real email addresses, so that this kind of search was no longer possible, thereby making searching difficult.

Second, there is no facebook.com email agent.  Yes, you can check messages by clicking on the globe icon on the left top of your facebook screen.  Not all messages sent via email seem to have been put there, however.  You also need to look in your “other messages” file;  I’ll bet you didn’t know there was an “other messages” file!  To get to these messages, click on the word “messages” on the left hand menu when looking at your newsfeed.  This click should show a another file called “other messages.”  I have not yet discovered how Facebook decides to deliver messages between your message folder and your other message folder.  However, you should check both.

Third, many people have smart phones and other smart devices that try to keep all of your contacts from different programs consistent.  If you have one of these, you should check your contacts and their email addresses.  Some devices replaced known email addresses with the facebook.com email address for all contacts.  This meant that you lost the real email address, which might cause problems for you if you need to actually email them.

Other devices decided that the contacts with these new email addresses at facebook.com were new contacts and therefore created a new profile for them in the contact/phone book list.  If you have a lot of connections between the your Facebook and phone book list, this can cause a lot of confusion.

What can you do?  Go to your “home” page (not your newsfeed) and click on “info.”  Scroll down to “contact” information and see if the accounts you want to be active are active. If you still have an email address at facebook.com, you can change it here.  (If you instead have the Timeline, click on “about” and edit your contact information.)