Welcome!

Cloud Security Authors: Lori MacVittie, Darren Anstee, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan

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
In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Lee Atchison, Principal Cloud Architect and Advocate at New Relic, discussed cloud as a ‘better data center’ and how it adds new capacity (faster) and improves application availability (redundancy). The cloud is a ‘Dynamic Tool for Dynamic Apps’ and resource allocation is an integral part of your application architecture, so use only the resources you need and allocate /de-allocate resources on the fly.
Vidyo, Inc., has joined the Alliance for Open Media. The Alliance for Open Media is a non-profit organization working to define and develop media technologies that address the need for an open standard for video compression and delivery over the web. As a member of the Alliance, Vidyo will collaborate with industry leaders in pursuit of an open and royalty-free AOMedia Video codec, AV1. Vidyo’s contributions to the organization will bring to bear its long history of expertise in codec technolo...
There is little doubt that Big Data solutions will have an increasing role in the Enterprise IT mainstream over time. Big Data at Cloud Expo - to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA - has announced its Call for Papers is open. 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...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
An IoT product’s log files speak volumes about what’s happening with your products in the field, pinpointing current and potential issues, and enabling you to predict failures and save millions of dollars in inventory. But until recently, no one knew how to listen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dan Gettens, Chief Research Officer at OnProcess, will discuss recent research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and OnProcess Technology, where MIT created a new, breakthrough analytics model f...
Ask someone to architect an Internet of Things (IoT) solution and you are guaranteed to see a reference to the cloud. This would lead you to believe that IoT requires the cloud to exist. However, there are many IoT use cases where the cloud is not feasible or desirable. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, will discuss the strategies that exist to extend intelligence directly to IoT devices and sensors, freeing them from the constraints of ...
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform and how we integrate our thinking to solve complicated problems. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm ...
From wearable activity trackers to fantasy e-sports, data and technology are transforming the way athletes train for the game and fans engage with their teams. In his session at @ThingsExpo, will present key data findings from leading sports organizations San Francisco 49ers, Orlando Magic NBA team. By utilizing data analytics these sports orgs have recognized new revenue streams, doubled its fan base and streamlined costs at its stadiums. John Paul is the CEO and Founder of VenueNext. Prior ...
Technology vendors and analysts are eager to paint a rosy picture of how wonderful IoT is and why your deployment will be great with the use of their products and services. While it is easy to showcase successful IoT solutions, identifying IoT systems that missed the mark or failed can often provide more in the way of key lessons learned. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Peter Vanderminden, Principal Industry Analyst for IoT & Digital Supply Chain to Flatiron Strategies, will focus on how IoT de...
IoT offers a value of almost $4 trillion to the manufacturing industry through platforms that can improve margins, optimize operations & drive high performance work teams. By using IoT technologies as a foundation, manufacturing customers are integrating worker safety with manufacturing systems, driving deep collaboration and utilizing analytics to exponentially increased per-unit margins. However, as Benoit Lheureux, the VP for Research at Gartner points out, “IoT project implementers often ...
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, provided tips on how to be successful in large scale machine learning...
Information technology is an industry that has always experienced change, and the dramatic change sweeping across the industry today could not be truthfully described as the first time we've seen such widespread change impacting customer investments. However, the rate of the change, and the potential outcomes from today's digital transformation has the distinct potential to separate the industry into two camps: Organizations that see the change coming, embrace it, and successful leverage it; and...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Roundee / LinearHub will exhibit at the WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LinearHub provides Roundee Service, a smart platform for enterprise video conferencing with enhanced features such as automatic recording and transcription service. Slack users can integrate Roundee to their team via Slack’s App Directory, and '/roundee' command lets your video conference ...
Digital transformation is too big and important for our future success to not understand the rules that apply to it. The first three rules for winning in this age of hyper-digital transformation are: Advantages in speed, analytics and operational tempos must be captured by implementing an optimized information logistics system (OILS) Real-time operational tempos (IT, people and business processes) must be achieved Businesses that can "analyze data and act and with speed" will dominate those t...
The Jevons Paradox suggests that when technological advances increase efficiency of a resource, it results in an overall increase in consumption. Writing on the increased use of coal as a result of technological improvements, 19th-century economist William Stanley Jevons found that these improvements led to the development of new ways to utilize coal. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Thiele, Chief Strategy Officer for Apcera, will compare the Jevons Paradox to modern-day enterprise IT, e...
There are several IoTs: the Industrial Internet, Consumer Wearables, Wearables and Healthcare, Supply Chains, and the movement toward Smart Grids, Cities, Regions, and Nations. There are competing communications standards every step of the way, a bewildering array of sensors and devices, and an entire world of competing data analytics platforms. To some this appears to be chaos. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Bsquare has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For more than two decades, Bsquare has helped its customers extract business value from a broad array of physical assets by making them intelligent, connecting them, and using the data they generate to optimize business processes.
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...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ReadyTalk, a leading provider of online conferencing and webinar services, has been named Vendor Presentation Sponsor 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. ReadyTalk delivers audio and web conferencing services that inspire collaboration and enable the Future of Work for today’s increasingly digital and mobile workforce. By combining intuitive, innovative tec...
Fact is, enterprises have significant legacy voice infrastructure that’s costly to replace with pure IP solutions. How can we bring this analog infrastructure into our shiny new cloud applications? There are proven methods to bind both legacy voice applications and traditional PSTN audio into cloud-based applications and services at a carrier scale. Some of the most successful implementations leverage WebRTC, WebSockets, SIP and other open source technologies. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Da...