Cyber Security and The Bling Ring

by on July 5, 2013

in Money, Technology

If you haven’t had your eyes turned toward the silver screen these past few weeks, then you might’ve missed the latest high profile installment of Hollywood docudrama, The Bling Ring. The movie, which features Harry Potter starlet Emma Watson and comedy heartthrob Leslie Mann, retells the true story of a thieving gaggle of teenagers who get their jollies by stealing jewelry, clothing and several other pricey items from a multitude of L.A. Country celebrities such as Orlando Bloom and Paris Hilton.

While the movie holds its weight in drama, humor and surprise, there’s much more to be gleaned from the story than simply a few eadge-of-the-seat moments and muted jabs toward the vapidity and brainlessness of Hollywood stars.

The Bling Ring teaches us all a few good lessons about what we can do to keep a tighter grasp on our possessions, our online identification and most importantly, our peace of mind.

The Impact of Social Media

In response to the movie’s debut, Paris Hilton gave CNN a perhaps-surprisingly level-headed response by saying, “This could not have happened five, 10 years ago. There wasn’t a Twitter or Facebook or any of those things, so nowadays people know exactly where you are. I’ve been more careful with that.”

While Paris’ assertion that she’s learned from her mistakes is all but a sure bet, her quote is grounded in truth, and if removed from the context of the speaker, can be contorted into advice for the public. In short: social media, if misemployed, can be more of an encumbrance than a boon.

In the film, director Sofia Coppola shows how the teen bandits get their start by tracking the movements of target celebrities according to their social media occupancy. Tweets, Facebook posts and their amalgamation from gossip sites like TMZ give the young burglars a sterling opportunity to deduce when their victims will be out of the house, and when they should swoop in. Of course, the ramifications for being overtly public with their personal lives come back to bite the celebrities, as the teenagers manage to make off with millions of dollars of their clothing and merchandise.

The lesson seems simple: be careful what you post to the web. But that’s just a small summation of what you can actually do to fasten your cyber security.

Crafting a Safer Web Presence

Every social media user should operate under a few assumptions:
1. Your words will be seen.
2. Your words are meaningful.
3. Your words are permanent.

People like to make excuses and conditionals that pardon them from acting responsibly on Facebook or Twitter (e.g. “It shouldn’t matter as long as it’s a joke” or “It’s just a stupid website after all”). While these standpoints may jive with your inward opinions, they’re not necessarily the opinions of society as a whole. And, like or not, we have to play by the rules of society.
By sticking to the three aforementioned assumptions, you won’t have to worry about exposing yourself or ruffling any feathers. Simply remember that words, whether typed or spoken, are remembered, rehashed and occasionally exploited. Ask yourself whether or not you think it’s a good idea to send out that last tweet, and what the worst case scenario would be if it was read by the wrong set of eyes.

Additionally, think about the subject matter you cover. Particularly attentive thieves know to look for sensitive information according to personal preferences – if you love dogs, and you post a lot about dogs, try not to make your password “ilovedogs.”

The good thing is, you’re probably not Paris Hilton. Most people probably aren’t looking to rob your house according to your newsfeed. But it’s not unreasonable to think someone, somewhere could look at your Twitter or Facebook in order to find out how you behave – be it for a job interview, a Craigslist find or anything else. If you want to keep your reputation squeaky clean, make sure you pay close attention to how you portray yourself on the Internet.

Karen Clark is a freelance writer and blogger at She’s passionate about online hygiene, and making the web a better place to be.

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