Cloud Security Authors: John Katrick, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Rostyslav Demush, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: Cloud Security

Cloud Security: Blog Feed Post

Stripping EXIF from Images as a Security Measure

And you thought FourSquare was a security risk…

Mobile phones with great cameras are an awesome tool. Many of these end up on Facebook, visible to friends, family and, well, friends of friends and maybe even the public. They get shared around so much, you can’t really be sure where they might eventually wind up.

According to Justin Mitchell, an engineer for Facebook Photos, answering a Quora question on the subject last year, Facebook has “over 200 million photos uploaded per day, or around 6 billion per month.  There are currently almost 90 billion photos total on Facebook.  This means we are, by far, the largest photos site on the Internet.”



As most of these are uploaded via modern cameras – whether on mobile phones or digital cameras – which are almost universally enabled with GPS technology, they almost all certainly include some data that you might not want others to find: the exact location the picture was taken.

Pshaw! Many may think. After all, “checking in” via FourSquare and adding location to Facebook and Twitter posts is something many do regularly. But this data can be very dangerous, and not just for soliders who have been warned against geotagging photos uploaded to facebook, as cited by a recent Gizmodo article, “US Soldiers Are Giving Away Their Positions with Geotagged Photos”:

The Army has issued a warning to its soldiers to stop geotagging their photos on Facebook and other social media outlets. Because it's putting soldiers in danger, and has been for years.

Now you might not be worried about giving away the location of helicopters inside a compound that leads to the enemy able to “conduct a mortar attack, destroying four of the AH-64 Apaches” there, but the risks to everyone exists. Those who share photos of their home or things in their home (can’t resist showing off your latest collectible addition to friends, can you?) are opening themselves up to theft, especially if they also like to broadcast their latest travel schedules via a host of other socially connected tools. Even if you aren’t actively sharing your address, all a potential thief needs to do is grab a photo of your fat loot and extract the GPS coordinates hidden in the EXIF data to find his target and then move in, right after you made sure everyone know you were out of town by broadcasting your latest flight information (ATL –> ORD –> SEA).

“But I’ve locked down my photos using Facebook’s privacy features!” you say. You might have done so, but do you really know everyone on your list of “friends”? Are they really who they claim to be? And did any of them share your photo with their friends, and their friends? Facebook privacy doesn’t prevent the old standby of “save as” and “upload”, and a quick tag of your name and a Twitter search and bam! You’ve shared data with people you wouldn’t have, if only you had known.

mediated exif strippingWhile perhaps requiring a bit more paranoia than the average user (and an inherent distrust in humanity), there are very real security implications for a wide variety of folks to embedding Geotags in photos via EXIF, though perhaps those in service to their country more than others.

There is a simple and more automated mitigation for this risk. In addition to turning off Geolocation tags on your camera or phone or manually eradicating the EXIF info from photos, a mediating application delivery service can, on-demand, strip this data from images.


With the right application delivery tier implementation, mediated EXIF stripping is as simple as other content scrubbing exercises. Requests are received as normal for an image object. When the image is retrieved from the origin server, a service in the application delivery tier is invoked that strips EXIF data from the image before it is returned to the end-user or deposited in a caching solution. Subsequent requests for that same image, then, though served out of cache are also clear of potentially dangerous GPS information – without modifying the original.*

That’s important, as for some folks having that information available to them may be necessary or desirable, but serving it up to the public may simply incur too much risk.

Given the velocity with which we click and share photos today, we may be underestimating the associated risk. Others may think that’s just far too paranoid and desire to keep EXIF data in their images. This is another opportunity to monetize a service for providers. The right application delivery tier, capable of interpreting context as well as being instructed by external infrastructure (including applications), could be configured such that only image-containing responses with specific HTTP headers are subject to EXIF stripping. The more security-minded users may desire such a service – and be willing to pay for it – while others could simply continue on as they were, EXIF and all.

And even if you aren’t concerned with potential security risks associated with EXIF, you might want to consider that stripping out that extraneous data from images like thumbnails and product shots can reduce the overall size of the image, which is a boon if you’re trying to improve overall performance – particularly on network and resource constrained devices like mobile phones.

* Image optimization techniques are always best-effort and sometimes cannot be applied to an image given other factors. Also, if a positive caching models is used, the original image is served the first time it is requested, but not cached.

More Stories By Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
Cloud-enabled transformation has evolved from cost saving measure to business innovation strategy -- one that combines the cloud with cognitive capabilities to drive market disruption. Learn how you can achieve the insight and agility you need to gain a competitive advantage. Industry-acclaimed CTO and cloud expert, Shankar Kalyana presents. Only the most exceptional IBMers are appointed with the rare distinction of IBM Fellow, the highest technical honor in the company. Shankar has also receive...
Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities - ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups.
The standardization of container runtimes and images has sparked the creation of an almost overwhelming number of new open source projects that build on and otherwise work with these specifications. Of course, there's Kubernetes, which orchestrates and manages collections of containers. It was one of the first and best-known examples of projects that make containers truly useful for production use. However, more recently, the container ecosystem has truly exploded. A service mesh like Istio addr...
Predicting the future has never been more challenging - not because of the lack of data but because of the flood of ungoverned and risk laden information. Microsoft states that 2.5 exabytes of data are created every day. Expectations and reliance on data are being pushed to the limits, as demands around hybrid options continue to grow.
Poor data quality and analytics drive down business value. In fact, Gartner estimated that the average financial impact of poor data quality on organizations is $9.7 million per year. But bad data is much more than a cost center. By eroding trust in information, analytics and the business decisions based on these, it is a serious impediment to digital transformation.
Business professionals no longer wonder if they'll migrate to the cloud; it's now a matter of when. The cloud environment has proved to be a major force in transitioning to an agile business model that enables quick decisions and fast implementation that solidify customer relationships. And when the cloud is combined with the power of cognitive computing, it drives innovation and transformation that achieves astounding competitive advantage.
Digital Transformation: Preparing Cloud & IoT Security for the Age of Artificial Intelligence. As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) power solution development and delivery, many businesses need to build backend cloud capabilities. Well-poised organizations, marketing smart devices with AI and BlockChain capabilities prepare to refine compliance and regulatory capabilities in 2018. Volumes of health, financial, technical and privacy data, along with tightening compliance requirements by...
As IoT continues to increase momentum, so does the associated risk. Secure Device Lifecycle Management (DLM) is ranked as one of the most important technology areas of IoT. Driving this trend is the realization that secure support for IoT devices provides companies the ability to deliver high-quality, reliable, secure offerings faster, create new revenue streams, and reduce support costs, all while building a competitive advantage in their markets. In this session, we will use customer use cases...
Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settlement products to hedge funds and investment banks. After, he co-founded a revenue cycle management company where he learned about Bitcoin and eventually Ethereal. Andrew's role at ConsenSys Enterprise is a mul...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that "Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO" has announced that its Call for Papers is now open. The two-day event will present 20 top Blockchain experts. All speaking inquiries which covers the following information can be submitted by email to [email protected] Financial enterprises in New York City, London, Singapore, and other world financial capitals are embracing a new generation of smart, automated FinTech that eliminates many cumbersome, slow, and expe...
DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
The best way to leverage your Cloud Expo presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at Cloud Expo. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audiences.
DevOpsSummit New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DXWorldEXPO within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of bus...
With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors! In this blog post, we provide 7 tips on how, as part of our world-class faculty, you can deliver one of the most popular sessions at our events. But before reading...
Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo have announced the conference tracks for Cloud Expo 2018. Cloud Expo will be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, and November 6-8, 2018, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DX Expo within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive ov...
DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City and will bring together Cloud Computing, FinTech and Blockchain, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, AI, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICOHOLDER named "Media Sponsor" of Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO. ICOHOLDER give you detailed information and help the community to invest in the trusty projects. Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO has opened its Call for Papers. The two-day event will present 20 top Blockchain experts. All speaking inquiries which covers the following information can be submitted by email to [email protected] Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO also offers s...
With tough new regulations coming to Europe on data privacy in May 2018, Calligo will explain why in reality the effect is global and transforms how you consider critical data. EU GDPR fundamentally rewrites the rules for cloud, Big Data and IoT. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Adam Ryan, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Calligo, examined the regulations and provided insight on how it affects technology, challenges the established rules and will usher in new levels of diligence arou...