Summer is a time of year when people have lots of free time. We either go on vacation or, more frequently, we visit our favorite bars, restaurants and cafes with our friends. Nowadays, it is perfectly normal for people to ‘check-in’ at all the places they visit.
A check-in is a geo-location mark that the user of an online service makes when he/she visits some sort of establishment. The implication is that the user’s friends, relatives or colleagues can see where he/she is at a certain time. This may be useful for a number of various reasons. For example, the Foursquare service was building a system of assigning rankings to the places people visited; people who visited specific locations more often than others were given the title “mayor” of that location.
Users could also give feedback and a score. That was very useful when a user needed to find a place nearby to visit, such as a café or a shop, based on other people’s opinions: the user could read the reviews and decide whether to visit that place or find a better one. Some cafes organized contests and competitions, offering discounts and nice bonuses to those who visited most often and left positive reviews online.
As a matter of fact, check-ins in one form or another exist on Facebook, Twitter, Google and many other services. One thing they all have in common is that anybody can see where you are. This is good and bad at the same time.
• Your friends can always find out where you are and join you.
• You can earn discounts/bonuses at those places you visit regularly.
• With your reviews, other people can decide whether a place is worth visiting.
• If the need arises, your friends and family can always track you down or know where you are.
• When you check in on a regular basis, a criminal could find out when you are not at home.
• Should you become a target of a cyber attack, a cybercriminal could track you down and trick you into connecting to a bogus Wi-Fi network.
• Whether or not you are aware of it, some people may not like the fact that you visit certain places.
• The habit of checking in all the time may backfire: you could inadvertently click on a bogus banner resembling a check-in button
• When you check in at an unknown place, you may receive an automatic “invitation” to visit the establishment’s “special site”, which most probably leads to a cybercriminal site containing phishing or malicious software.
As you see, check-ins are not that straightforward. To avoid any unpleasant consequences, it’s worth following a few simple rules:
Stop checking in at all places you visit. The “mayor” title as well as the points you get only have a virtual value and mean nothing in the real world.
Give up the habit of checking in when you are away from home. Remember your check-ins may help cybercriminals track you down. No bonus points will make up for the losses you may suffer in a targeted cyber attack or a burglary.
Be careful when pressing those “check-in” buttons. Make sure it is actually a genuine button you are about to press rather than a bogus banner in a popup window in your browser or in a program you know nothing about.
Avoid visiting so-called “promo sites” which may be suggested after you check in. The chances are that they won’t contain any information that is new or useful to you. However, there is a good chance they may cause you problems.
Use a security product. It will block bogus banners, prevent you from visiting malicious sites and warn you if anybody is trying to attack you.