SOURCE: BitDefender

August 07, 2009 12:57 ET

BitDefender Offers Image Theft Prevention Tips

Five Ways to Protect Your Pictures on Facebook® and Other Online Sites

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA--(Marketwire - August 7, 2009) - Web 2.0 applications in general, and social networking applications in particular, are no longer friendly platforms for sharing personal news and information. They are the ideal place for data and identity theft, according to BitDefender's latest issue E-Treats Landscape Report (H1 2009).

Data and identify theft attempts no longer focus solely on obtaining valuable information about the user and his or her account. Pictures, e-cards and photo streams are now highly valuable targets for e-larcenists, as highlighted in recent cases such as the hijacked family Christmas card, which was unlawfully used for a grocery commercial; or the stolen picture of a baby used in a fraudulent scheme for an alleged adoption organization.

"Images are stolen online for many reasons, but mostly for profit," said Catalin Cosoi, Senior Researcher / BitDefender AntiSpam Laboratory. "By using images downloaded off of sites like Facebook, the normal fees associated with the use of photography are avoided, for example. Other reasons include creating a false identity or to give credibility to spam and phishing attacks."

Facebook® -- a social networking site with enormous worldwide popularity -- with about half of those holding an account logging in daily, is often criticized for its loose privacy policy on all information, including images. Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (Revised May, 1st, 2009) states:

"Sharing Your Content and Information

You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how we share your content through your privacy and application settings. In order for us to use certain types of content and provide you with Facebook, you agree to the following:

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos ("IP content"), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook ("IP License"). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account (except to the extent your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it)."

This opens the door to unrestricted/unpunished visual identity exploitation, as already shown by the abusive usage of photos lifted from users' Facebook® gallery involved in third-party advertisement campaigns.

Fortunately, users of Facebook and other sites can preserve their image and protect their visual identity by following these five tips:

1. Avoid uploading pictures - Although a picture is worth a thousand words, if one is not really necessary, users should refrain from posting it. This is probably the simplest way to avoid image theft.

2. Check the privacy options - Facebook® and other social networking platforms offer several options for restricting access to the content users post, including uploaded photos. Users can choose whether the data and images in their albums are public or available only to a limited number of people. Also, a good idea is to refrain from involving third-party services or options, especially those asking for Facebook® login credentials.

3. Embed/Add a watermark - Another simple method to protect visual content is to embed or add a visible (digital) watermark, such as the user's name or logo, over the image. Although it alters the image slightly, this practice will discourage e-thiefs from stealing the photo and using it for a different purpose (i.e. identity forging or cases that involve copyright infringement). Professional image editing applications include this option, but the capability can also be found on the Internet, where users can search for freeware or online watermark creators with similar capabilities. We also recommend that users check their digital camera's software for a similar utility.

4. Use low quality/small size images - Keep images at a resolution of 72 dpi and, if possible, do not exceed a size of 640 x 480 pixels. Although the images won't look as sharp as a magazine cover, the picture will still be recognizable. Plus users will have more chances to keep their visual identities intact. Not to mention that users save a lot of the limited storage space, which social networking platforms provide.

5. Try not to post individual, portrait images - As shown by two of the three previously mentioned cases of image theft, the photos of individuals (both adults and kids) have a better chance to be lifted for nefarious purposes than those depicting groups, families, or featuring subjects in nature or sets that are difficult to be otherwise removed from the picture.

"By following these simple tips, users of social networking sites like Facebook and others can protect their images and their identity," added Cosoi. For additional tips on how to protect your data and identity, please visit the BitDefender website at www.bitdefender.com.

About BitDefender®

BitDefender is the creator of one of the industry's fastest and most effective lines of internationally certified security software. Since its inception in 2001, BitDefender has continued to raise the bar and set new standards in proactive threat prevention, emerging as the industry's anti-malware innovator. Every day, BitDefender protects tens of millions of home and corporate users across the globe -- giving them the peace of mind of knowing that their digital experiences will be secure. BitDefender solutions are distributed by a global network of value-added distribution and reseller partners in more than 100 countries worldwide. More information about BitDefender and its products are available at the company's security solutions press room. Additionally, BitDefender's www.malwarecity.com provides background and the latest updates on security threats helping users stay informed in the everyday battle against malware.