Category Archives: Mikko Hypponen

PleaseRobMe: too much information…

[I’ve been told that the PleaseRobMe site includes some dubious affiliation links and is in any case not being updated. I haven’t checked it myself, and the information comes from an organization that flags ‘problem’ links and suggests links to its own resources irrespective of relevance, so I suggest that you take it with the usual pinch of salt. However, I’ve disabled the link anyway: it is, after all, a very old story.  I did consider just removing the article, but it has some historical interest, and I’ve tweaked it slightly to bring it up to date. DH, 2018.]

Sometimes I think I should just stop killing myself multi-blogging and retweet Graham Cluley’s blog URLs. Like this one.

The web site he talks about (PleaseRobMe, not the Sophos blog) “…mashes together content from Foursquare and Twitter, providing an easy way for potential burglars and stalkers to find out where you are supping your cappuccino, and when you may have left your home empty…”

In fact, what the site has been doing  is auto-grabbing publicly available data from such sites and putting it all in one place, with the intention of highlighting the risk of giving away information that burglars and stalkers would find useful about your movements. Sadly, this makes it more of a miscreant-friendly resource than one useful to potential victims, since those victims-in-waiting are not very likely to come across the site.

Graham comments that it will be interesting to see if FourSquare and Twitter try to stop PleaseRobMe snarfing the data from them. We already have part of the answer to that: Mikko Hypponen reported about three hours ago that Twitter had suspended the @pleaserobme account.

There’s been a series of infomercials on UK TV recently in which “members of the public” try to interest thieves and burglars in robbing them, and a while ago there was a “reality” show in which an ex-burglar broke into people’s homes (with permission) and then lectured them on what they should have done to prevent it.

There’s would be a certain felicitous and felonious irony if PleaseRobMe were to get accused of having stolen part of their idea from these sources. 😉 In fact, though, the site is Dutch, according to the BBC, so probably not. The Beeb does cite some good advice from Charity Crimestoppers.

“Details posted online are available for the world to see; you wouldn’t hang a sign on your door saying you’re out, so why would you post it online?”

David Harley