Death by Google Calendar: How I Identified you to rob you

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** Please note that the content of this message was altered September 04 at 3:36 PM.

Good News. The owners of the calendar that we used in this sample emailed us today indicating that they’ve now changed their settings to “Private” on gCal. Since that is the case, we replaced any screen shots originally used in this article because I am not going to share someone’s private info.

While this current message is slightly less detailed, my hope is that it remains clear enough to get a simple point across – Anyone can see your calendar when you choose to keep it “public”. **

 

I find it very interesting utterly stupid that people display their lives online.

As a simple study, I did some digging on Google Calendar. Now, keep in mind that I am somewhat tech-savvy but I used no skills for this. Everything I found in this case was simply a result of a Google Search, an additional search on Travelocity and a 411 call. There was nothing to this at all.

*Note: This message happens to be specific to Google Calendar but it’s implications hold true to any calendaring or MySpace-type site.

–Begin Bad Guy thought process–

Let’s search for “labor day” and see what people are doing and who is not going to be home. I need some new gear.

  • Interesting there are ton’s of places to look. Some are personal calendars and some are businesses. Heck, I even see a Day care listed. Let’s randomly choose one and click preview:
  • After a few clicks, I find a personal calendar where a woman lists the itinerary of a guest they have flying into town for the weekend. In the notes she lists:

    Paul arrives 6:40pm
    United Airlines #5687

    Perfect, let’s get some flight info at Travelocity. Hey! What a coincidence – she has a visitor coming to LA. That means she lives in LA, just like me. This is shaping up nicely. If I knew when she wouldn’t be home, I could stop by and help myself to her iPod and all of the other goodies in the house.

    • Let’s go back to the calendar for some more detail. When viewing the calendar, I make special note of when this person has classes, tasks, or are otherwise not home. The screenshot below is a random illustration, however, several online calenders contain items such as, “Scrapbooking Class” each Tuesday, etc. In fact, I would be willing to bet that each of these tasks will keep her away from the house for at least an hour.

 

 

  • So at this point every reader is saying, “Great, but you have no idea where she lives.” Umm, that’s true for the next few hours. Based on the information I already know about her holiday guest, I know Paul is arriving in LA and what time he is landing. One desperate measure I could take is to just hangout by the baggage claim at LAX (just like 8,000 other random people). As bags start hitting the baggage turnstile, I could glance at luggage tags. The one that says “I belong to Paul” is the bag I am following. Surely he will lead me to this woman’s house. However, let’s dig deeper into her calendar first. Surely I can find more.
  • So who is this woman? I’d like some more detail. Let’s look at previous months to see what she’s involved in (this screenshot was removed – see note at the top and bottom of this message). Hopefully she is not a Marine or into kung-fu. Great, she names at least 3 locations and/ or events that she’s recently attended. Let’s Google each location to see if I can narrow down her location. Also, it’s nice to see that there seem to be no husband or kid activities so this schedule is seriously a NO ONE IS HOME calendar.
  • Next is to…wait a minute, what is this? Holy s@#*. I just clicked on an entry and she lists her entire name! Jackpot. Search over. With a single call to 411, an operator can easily give me a number and address after I provide the full name and specified Redlands or Hollywood vicinity. If her name was Suzy White, it would not have been that simple. However, in this case, she had a semi-odd name. Nevertheless, even had I not found her name, I still could have followed Mason from the airport.

 

 

  • Time to go scope out the house, plan a getaway if needed, plan the positioning for my getaway car, etc.

 

–End Bad Guy thought process–

I think you get the point. I am the furthest thing from a criminal but I hope this scares a few people into not being ignorant. Sure I indicated that you could get robbed but that’s just a start. If someone has something against you for some reason, how about we add stalk you, kill you, hunt you, etc.

I am not picking on this woman but I needed to show a real example. There are tons of public calendars far more revealing than this one. In literally 20 minutes, I now know the name, address, phone number and schedule of this woman. If I can do it, you can be damn sure the real bad guys can. Please be smarter about what you share online. If given a choice, choose the private setting. If you are not given a choice, either choose a new calendar or talk in some code that only you understand. I guess I just don’t understand why people set themselves up to become victims.

For Google Calendar users, mark the calendar private or share it with specific people, not Earth. If you don’t know how to privatize your Google Calendar, do this:

    • Login to Google Calendar

 

  • Click on Manage Calendars

 

 

  • Find the Calendar you want to edit from your list and click “Shared: Manage Setting”

 

 

  • See image. Choose the appropriate selection.

 

 

 

If you need other help, all of these instructions are available at Google Calendar Support.

** Please note that the content of this message was altered September 04 at 3:36 PM.

Good News. The owners of the calendar that we used in this sample emailed us today indicating that they’ve now changed their settings to “Private” on gCal. Since that is the case, we replaced any screen shots originally used in this article because I am not going to share someone’s private info.

While this current message is slightly less detailed, my hope is that it remains clear enough to get a simple point across – Anyone can see your calendar when you choose to keep it “public”. **

 

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