Location Apps Make It Easy for Thieves

By: Robert Siciliano | March 3, 2016 (Edited July 7, 2017)

If you're using the app Strava for example, your bike could get stolen, says a report on the manchestereveningnews site. Strava, like many other location apps, isn't the badguy here.

Bicyclists in Greater Manchester are being warned that Strava's tracking could lead thieves to their bikes and even homes. That's because it's already happened. One man had two bikes stolen after Strava tracked his ride and led the crooks to his garage.

It's easy to see how this happens. The users simply post their location activities, often to and from their homes and they broadcast this data via the apps and social sites.

Why do people have this app in the first place? Cyclists and runners want to share route information and compare times, says the article. The application is a social media venue for cyclists and runners.

The aforementioned man had made his bike model and home address public on his smartphone without using privacy settings. The brazen thieves broke into his garage, perhaps overnight, and took only the bikes even though there was other loot present such as valuable tools. Hmmm, it can't be coincidence. Bikes can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Strava has security settings to set privacy zones. USE THEM. The victim recommends starting your tracked route a few hundred yards from your home to throw off any potential thieves. And end the tracking a few hundred (or even more) yards from your house as well.

A spokesperson from Strava explains that the privacy settings are easy to use. How much of the user's information gets out there can be constrained. Many people don't bother with the security settings of applications and just dive into these tools without a second thought.

But assume that there's always someone else spying on the personal information that's being made public by a naïve user.

A privacy zone means that you can set up cyber barriers around your house so that thieves will not be able to see where your start and finish locations are.

As for the man whose two bicycles were stolen out of his garage, he has since purchased a new bicycle (and the stolen ones were very pricey, by the way-something that the thieves certainly knew once they saw the publically-shared model number). But don't wait for your property to get stolen before you realize the importance of any app's security settings.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

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