Welcome!

Cloud Security Authors: Elizabeth White, Peter Silva, Pat Romanski, Fouad Khalil, Dana Gardner

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.”

 

exif-house

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.

MEDIATED EXIF STRIPPING

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
Identity is in everything and customers are looking to their providers to ensure the security of their identities, transactions and data. With the increased reliance on cloud-based services, service providers must build security and trust into their offerings, adding value to customers and improving the user experience. Making identity, security and privacy easy for customers provides a unique advantage over the competition.
Smart Cities are here to stay, but for their promise to be delivered, the data they produce must not be put in new siloes. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mathias Herberts, Co-founder and CTO of Cityzen Data, will deep dive into best practices that will ensure a successful smart city journey.
SYS-CON Events announced today that 910Telecom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and ...
Almost two-thirds of companies either have or soon will have IoT as the backbone of their business in 2016. However, IoT is far more complex than most firms expected. How can you not get trapped in the pitfalls? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, a renowned visionary and thought leader, will introduce a holistic method of IoTification, which is the process of IoTifying the existing technology and business models to adopt and leverage IoT. He will drill down to the components in this fra...
Why do your mobile transformations need to happen today? Mobile is the strategy that enterprise transformation centers on to drive customer engagement. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Woods, Director, Mobile Product & Strategy – Adobe Marketing Cloud, covered key IoT and mobile trends that are forcing mobile transformation, key components of a solid mobile strategy and explored how brands are effectively driving mobile change throughout the enterprise.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - comp...
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long dev...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, will discuss the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
There is growing need for data-driven applications and the need for digital platforms to build these apps. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Muddu Sudhakar, VP and GM of Security & IoT at Splunk, will cover different PaaS solutions and Big Data platforms that are available to build applications. In addition, AI and machine learning are creating new requirements that developers need in the building of next-gen apps. The next-generation digital platforms have some of the past platform needs a...
19th Cloud Expo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterpri...
SYS-CON Events announced today Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
Pulzze Systems was happy to participate in such a premier event and thankful to be receiving the winning investment and global network support from G-Startup Worldwide. It is an exciting time for Pulzze to showcase the effectiveness of innovative technologies and enable them to make the world smarter and better. The reputable contest is held to identify promising startups around the globe that are assured to change the world through their innovative products and disruptive technologies. There w...
With so much going on in this space you could be forgiven for thinking you were always working with yesterday’s technologies. So much change, so quickly. What do you do if you have to build a solution from the ground up that is expected to live in the field for at least 5-10 years? This is the challenge we faced when we looked to refresh our existing 10-year-old custom hardware stack to measure the fullness of trash cans and compactors.
The emerging Internet of Everything creates tremendous new opportunities for customer engagement and business model innovation. However, enterprises must overcome a number of critical challenges to bring these new solutions to market. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Martin, CTO/CIO at nfrastructure, outlined these key challenges and recommended approaches for overcoming them to achieve speed and agility in the design, development and implementation of Internet of Everything solutions wi...
Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is expected in the amount of information being processed, managed, analyzed, and acted upon by enterprise IT. This amazing is not part of some distant future - it is happening today. One report shows a 650% increase in enterprise data by 2020. Other estimates are even higher....
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportuni...
I wanted to gather all of my Internet of Things (IOT) blogs into a single blog (that I could later use with my University of San Francisco (USF) Big Data “MBA” course). However as I started to pull these blogs together, I realized that my IOT discussion lacked a vision; it lacked an end point towards which an organization could drive their IOT envisioning, proof of value, app dev, data engineering and data science efforts. And I think that the IOT end point is really quite simple…
Personalization has long been the holy grail of marketing. Simply stated, communicate the most relevant offer to the right person and you will increase sales. To achieve this, you must understand the individual. Consequently, digital marketers developed many ways to gather and leverage customer information to deliver targeted experiences. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lou Casal, Founder and Principal Consultant at Practicala, discussed how the Internet of Things (IoT) has accelerated our abil...
Is the ongoing quest for agility in the data center forcing you to evaluate how to be a part of infrastructure automation efforts? As organizations evolve toward bimodal IT operations, they are embracing new service delivery models and leveraging virtualization to increase infrastructure agility. Therefore, the network must evolve in parallel to become equally agile. Read this essential piece of Gartner research for recommendations on achieving greater agility.