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Monday, September 29, 2008

Caught on the Web

Q: Which of these doors would be more appealing to someone intending harm?











Q: Which of these blogs would be more appealing to someone intending harm?
A. The Jones Family: Trying to keep up with no one!
B. Gray's Blog: Life is never black and white
C. The Steve and Holly Mountaintop Family: Loving life in Alpine, Utah

If you answered "C" to both questions, pat yourself on the back! (Go ahead. No one's watching.)

While someone intending harm could break into all three of the doors shown above, he would prefer the 3rd door since it has no deadbolt and provides the least resistance.

While someone intending harm could physically find all three of the families in the blogs above, he would choose the 3rd family since he has the first and last names of two people and the city they live in, which provides the least resistance. He has enough information to find their phone number and/or address.

Lately, I've been seeing a lot of people put personal information on public blogs. On top of their full names and locations, I've seen phone numbers, personal email addresses and even home addresses listed!

Dudes! EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING, you put on the public internet is accessible by anyone. ANYONE.

"But no one reads my blogs."
This last week, I got an average of 8 comments per blog entry. How many people do you think that means visited my blog?

My blog tracker says I got 50-100 people visiting my blog each day of the past week. That means there were 40-90 people EACH DAY who didn't let me know they visited. More people read your blog than actually comment, even if you have a blog with zero comments.

"But only people I know and trust visit my blog."
Not if you have a public blog.
My blog tracker tells me that I've been visited by someone in several cities in almost every state in the United States, plus 17 other countries. Some people passed right on through. Some stayed and read for a long time. Strangers come upon my blog all the time, a few have commented on it. I, personally, come across strangers' blogs regularly, even ones with no comments on them. *I'm* the stranger.

"I still think no one outside my family visits my blog. I never have anyone comment."
Install a tracker on your blog, and you will be surprised. Also, blogs come up on search engines, depending on what you're discussing on your blog and what a person is searching for.

Go to Google and do a search for "family blog."
In less than one second, you will pull up thousands and thousands of blogs belonging to families who think "no one will ever find our blog."

Do a search for "family blog" with your state's name on it.
Do it again but add your city name this time.
What did you find?

Choose a family from the list generated. Do you find any more identifying information about them? What are their kids' names? What schools do they go to? Do they have a dog? Is there an illness in the family? Weddings, new babies, moves, deaths? What does the blogger do for a living?

"OK. Yeah, so?"
You're a good guy. You were merely curious. A bad guy is not just curious; he is looking for the door with no deadbolt on it. Maybe he wants the nice car you just bought and blogged about. Maybe he wants your identity to buy his own car. Maybe he wants your child.

I did a search with "(my town, my state) family blog" and in half a second, I had a list of people living in my town. Some of the families had no comments on their blogs, and still, they came up. So much for "no one reads our blog." Some of the families included nice long lists of the first and last names of friends and neighbors. So, even if they have no more information I could glean, I could try their parents', sisters' or neighbors' blogs.

Here's the first favor you can do for your friends and family. When you link them on your blog, only list their first names. (For example, "Adhis" or "Adhis and Dave" or "Queen Fantastica".) If you must have their last names, list them without the first names, if you can.

Don't post your city and state on your blog. It's not terribly hard to find your phone number even if it's NOT listed in the local phone book. Also, don't list your phone number or email address on someone else's comments section. The blog author isn't the only one reading those comments. If you must leave a way for the blog author to contact you, create a free email account just for public posting and use that in her blog. To cut down on spam, write out your email address. (For example: myfakeemail (at) hotmail dotcom, or something like that, so it is not easily picked up by webcrawlers.)

Here's the second favor you can do for your friends and family. If someone posts her phone number, email address or any other identifying information on YOUR blog, contact her and let her know you got her comment but that you are going to delete it for her sake. Then, delete it.

And lastly, be mindful about what you say in your posts. Don't write about your husband being out of town. Wait until he gets back to blog about it. Don't talk about your plans to visit Yellowstone National Park next week. Blog all you want about your trip when you get back, but don't let the world know your house will be empty for a week. (For fun and security measure, once in a while, google your name, phone number or address and see what, if anything, comes up.)

I'm trying to inform you, not freak you out. Remember that ANYTHING, and I mean ANYTHING, you put on the public internet is accessible to anyone.

[Posted song: "Private Eyes" from Hall & Oates]

25 comments:

Sheree said...

Good information. I need to implement some of these.

Thanks!

Jennica said...

Thanks for this post...you are RIGHT on and I needed the reminder!

Heidi said...

Aww...just like my mommy - always looking out for me! Thanks for this post, I think we ALL need the reminder!

Sarah said...

Great tips! And, as always, love the song.

Kimmers said...

Hey Adhis!! Thanks for the post. I think that sometimes I forget that. You are such a great person and friend. Thanks!!!

Marie said...

I echo the above thank you's! (I'll be changing the names on my links.) :)

Our Family said...

Already made changes on my blog. Thanks!

Lyns said...

Hey. Thanks for the post. Just wanted to add something. You can actually make your settings so your blog does not come up on any searches. I did it with mine and it doesn't come up on a search. Thanks for the tips!

Englishfam said...

I have a feeling my blog inspired this post!! :) I haven't read it today and just got back and saw the phone number put on by a friend of mine. Yikes! Then I read your post and had to laugh. You may notice I changed my name on my comment responses. Aren't you so proud?

Kristen said...

I dunno, I still see loopholes. Even if I write just a first name on their link, the first thing strangers see at the blog itself is "The ___ Family." Or I can list the last name, but on the blog it tells the kids names' in the posts. Etc etc etc. Quite honestly, I'm freaked out for everyone that's not private.

I'm even somewhat careful of what I put on mine while it's private. Who knows if one of my friends might go psycho on me someday. =o)

Adhis said...

Lyns, thanks for adding that.

Kristen, yeah, if someone REALLY wants to get your info, they will. But unless someone has a vendetta against you, they'll choose someone else with an easier blog to pick.

Joyful Mother of Children said...

Kristen, I hope you're not talking about me. I'm not crazy! I wish people would stop telling me I am! Just because I followed someone around 8 hours a day, every day for 2 years does not make me crazy! I don't "stalk", I just watch, yeah, that's it, I watch. Heee hee hee, haaa haaa haaaaa, hooo hoo, hee heeeee. I'm okay, really.

TheOrttFamily said...

Thanks for all the helpful info..because I am totally a stalker that reads but never post..I just hop from one to another and then I never know where I might end up...hehe

Aubrey said...

Ok, that thoroughly freaked me out!! So I made some necessary changes on my blog....Thanks for the eye opener!!

Sara Lynes said...

ok I was freaked out before the third paragraph! Sorry, my blog is locked again!

Adhis said...

I didn't mean to freak anyone out; I just wanted each of us to be more aware about what we're saying on the public canvas that is the internet.

No need to hole ourselves up. Let's just be careful out there, people! :)

Keri said...

Umm..I think I need to do some blog revising! thanks for the reminder.

KC said...
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KC said...
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Kristen said...

I really need to start marking the box that sends me follow-up comments, because I'm just now reading things that people wrote in response to ME over three weeks ago. Oops.

I don't remember calling anyone crazy. Hmmm.

But I came across something along this subject that you will LOVE, Adhis: http://dreamroll.com/PL2ndWard

Katie said...

I don't have my kids' names, my husband's name, or our last name on my blog. But I've wondered. . . has there ever actually been a case where information from a person's blog has been used to target them? Worst case would be a child abduction. I have never heard of a single instance on the news where they mentioned the family's blog as playing a part. Of course that doesn't mean it can't happen, but I'd think it would be HUGE news if it did.

Katie said...

Adhis - Feel free to delete this after reading -- I don't see a private email on your profile that I can send it to. Just from reading the information on your Profile, doing one Google search, and looking in the phone book, I was able to get your address and phone number. Your team member is Utah_Dave, so I assumed that his full name is David. I googled Adhis David Utah, and immediately saw your names listed with a last name. I went to the phone book, and there's only one listing under that last name. Your name matches (though his doesn't), so I'm 99% sure it's your family. Granted, with a more-common first name, it probably wouldn't be this easy.

My point is not for you to be scared; it's just that even when we put safety measures into place, people can still find things with very little effort.

Adhis said...

Oh gosh- I can get long-winded. I apologize in advance!

I have read in the news of people using craigslist and social media to commit crimes on people they know or barely know. The first one that comes to mind is the guy who went out of town, and (I can't remember the relationship) the perpetrator listed his home address on Craigslist advertising it as a "freesale." The house was emptied of belongings and gutted down to fixtures by unknowing customers coming to partake of the good deal.

There have been instances of people using online ads and brief online chatting to choose a victim. The first one that pops into mind in that genre made it into national news. A pregnant lady, who was a puppy breeder, invited a customer to her house to check out the puppies. The "customer" instead viciously attacked the lady and removed her unborn baby to claim as her own.

I do believe people have used blogs to commit crimes, but I think only an extreme sensational story will reveal that m.o. in mainstream news.

The most likely crime A STRANGER would use a blog for is stalking/bullying, gathering personal info to gain trust with someone, and, possibly, ID theft.

Other than that, ogling someone's life and/or kids isn't a crime, although it is disconcerting.
On a non-crime setting, blogs and social media accounts are culled for information to be congregated on websites like spokeo.com. It's not a crime to compile info like that, but it sure is unnerving for people to find all of their personal information (down to their children's names and family photos) in one place.

For the main part, I believe barely-strangers (jilted acquaintances, people you encounter once in a while but have no relationship with, neighbors, past friends, etc.) can cause more havoc with blog info than a complete stranger. But I may just believe that based on personal experience. :)

Adhis said...

Katie, it's ok. I often google my name to see what's out there, so I'll leave your comment here.

Kristen said...

Not just for teens: Watch this video. Gives you a lot to think about.

http://www2.state.id.us/ag/protecteens/index.htm