Category Archives: Blog

Removing image location and extra information (EXIF data)

Photographs taken on modern cameras and smartphones often contain supplementary information such as the location where the photo was taken, camera or smartphone model, aperture settings and more. This is called EXIF and stands for Exchangeable Image File format.

In compliance with GDPR, and also as good data protection practice, it is often necessary to strip this EXIF data from images we use and share on websites or social media. Even passing a client’s image to a print company means that you are sharing location data and maybe other details that wouldn’t be desirable.

An example of the bad sides of EXIF

Imagine you run a security company and that you have taken an image that shows a hidden override switch to an alarm system on a property with half a million pounds of jewellery stored in a bedroom. You share that image online with no details of where it was taken and comment “Saw this today, some people never learn LOL. £500k in jewellery at this pad too, lol”. You think nobody would be able to guess where the property is just from the photo. Well, think again. The photo gets downloaded, analysed (with free tools) and the location extracted. Happy Mr Burglar McBurglarface…

OK, so this is not always going to happen, but it’s an example of how you need to protect data that gets stored in the background without you knowing.

How do I strip the EXIF data from my photos?

You can use a free tool and it’s one that I recommend for my clients. IrfanView image viewer and editor installs on PCs (not Macs) and it’s a fast, lightweight image viewer. It has great resizing functionality, so easily cropping images and keeping file sizes down is it’s main use. By default, it will save EXIF data, so you need to change this behaviour.

Load any image file and then ‘Save As’. Once there you’ll see a grey window to the right of your Save dialog box, something like this:

 

how to strip exif data irfanview

 
Make sure that you have no ticks in it and that the quality is set to 100 on the slider at the top.  If you have anything ticked here, just untick it and select “Save” (* Note that I mean the Save button in this grey window that I have pictured, not any other one!).  Close everything and on the next Save As you’ll now see the new settings applied.
 
Don’t forget, the area that stores the location and other phone/camera details is called EXIF so you are stripping this off the image when you save it. You can also check the EXIF data by opening the image in IrfanView and clicking on the blue ‘i’ button on the toolbar at the top. There you will see another button marked “Exif info” which will give you all the data attached to that image. If you don’t see this button then it has been removed already.
 

Summary

 
You are now hopefully more aware of the need to be vigilant about important data connected to images stored both online and on your computer system and/or network.
 
For completeness, you should be aware that EXIF is also available for audio files so these need to be treated the same way for data protection using different software tools.

Stop unwanted phone calls and junk postal mail

Stop junk mailDo you want to stop unwanted phone calls and the influx of unsolicited mail through your post box? For a long time now I have been on a list of people who “Opt-out” of marketing telephone calls and junk postal mail. Many people are unaware that this can be done, so I thought I’d share it with you. And the price for this? Completely free of charge!

You need to visit the TPS (Telephone Preference Service) website and register your details. Once done, they send you a confirmation email and you are registered free for 12 months. When the expiry date is reached, they email you once to advise it your registration requires renewal. And that’s all there is to it. You should see an immediate drop in your unsolicited marketing calls.

TPS website:

http://www.tpsonline.org.uk/

 

For the mail side of things, over 3.6 billion postal mails are directly sent out every year.  You can use the same organisation as above to prevent this, but you need to visit here instead:

http://www.mpsonline.org.uk/

 

Finally, if you run a business, you might want to look at the free corporate tps here:

https://www.tpsonline.org.uk/tps/index.html

 

The theory is that any company carrying out marketing calls or delivering marketing mail has to, by law, check if you are subscribed to TPS (Telephone Preference Service) or MPS (Mail preference Service) first.  If they don’t do this then they can be reported and heavily fined.

 

Unaddressed Postal Mail

With over 13 Billion unaddressed postal mails being sent out yearly, this needs to be canned too.  Unfortunately, the mail service above doesn’t stop the post sent via Royal Mail to “The Occupier” or “The householder” etc.  For this, you need to write to:

Freepost RRBT-ZBXB-TTTS
Door to Door Opt Outs
Royal Mail
Kingsmead House
Oxpens Road
OXFORD, OX1 1RX

Alternatively, send an email to [email protected] asking for their door to door opt-out form to be sent to you.  You can also call them on 08457 950 950

 

You are welcome to point your friends to this article, it might help them too.

Contact form spam and offers of cheap SEO!

contact form email spamI do get annoyed by the common website contact form spam from Eastern European and Asian countries (mostly India). My regular clients do too. These contact emails offer the promise of cheap SEO services which can often be attractive for businesses just starting out. There is a hidden price to pay though if you take them up on this offer. If you’re lucky, they’ll just do a bad job. If you’re unlucky, and many are, they’ll make your site completely disappear from Google’s search results and you’ll need to recruit a proper SEO company to put things right.
 

Preventing contact form spam

Unfortunately there isn’t much we can do to prevent this type of contact form spam while still allowing legitimate enquiries to come through. The spammers often use newly created free email accounts such as those from Gmail, Yahoo, Live etc. This is because their previous ones are caught by the email spam filters and it takes a while for their new accounts to get detected. We use various levels of filtering on websites that we create, but it’s a trade-off between getting those all-important enquiries and blocking everything that seems potentially spammy. Believe it or not, we get this type of spam through our website too, saying that our site is no good and that we urgently need an SEO company! It’s simply automated junk that fires off to every website that has a contact form, they don’t read or test your website at all.
 

Their underhand methods explained

spam gmailSpammers will use common SEO terms to make it look like they have something to offer but, when pushed, they really try to cover their lack of knowledge with more technical jargon to ‘blind’ the customer. Recruiting one of these companies to do your SEO work is a big mistake and we often pick up the pieces of poorly run campaigns which cost the client more money to put right.

Most of these ‘companies’ just throw lots of links to your website from very dodgy sources and these can get it quickly de-ranked in the search engines for attempted manipulation of the results. Some of them even run off with your money, never to be seen again, unless under a new name with more false promises.

In contrast, our link-building methods are natural and allow your website to grow over time with no damage to reputation or rank. And to answer common questions from our clients, yes, we monitor Google Webmaster Tools, we monitor website analytics and look for keyword trends and patterns and much more besides. We do every legitimate search engine optimization technique that the email spammers say they’ll do but actually don’t do very well.

 

How to find out if an SEO company is real?

Asking a few key questions should quickly expose their legitimacy. One look at their email address usually is enough to show that they don’t have a registered business, often using free Gmail or Live email addresses that close down when things get awkward between them and their clients. If they include a number it’s often just a throwaway one too.
 
As a guide here are some things that you should check:
 
  • Has the company got a registered business address?
  • Do they have a UK company number?
  • Does the company have verifiable client testimonials?
  • Does the company have any websites they can show you that rank for difficult or competitive search terms?
  • Can you hear call-centre noise if you actually speak on the telephone with them (many work in call centres by day and spam websites by night)?
  • Are your questions answered in plain English or are you given more technical jargon as a response?
  • Did you contact them or did they contact you?
  • Is their email address a free one, eg Gmail, Live, GMX etc.?
  • Are there spelling and grammar mistakes in their email and would you want them creating content on your behalf?
  • Do they have a website that doesn’t look like a generic, unfinished template (if they have one at all)?

 

While not an exhaustive list, this has hopefully made you more aware of what to look for and the potential hazards of recruiting an unknown and unaccountable company to drive your business presence on the web. You have been warned…

We are happy to chat about your company’s business requirements by email or telephone. Get in touch now to see how we can simplify your Search Engine Marketing.
 

Google’s mobile index set to roll out

mobile device google indexAt the time of writing, Google are about to launch a new mobile index. Since over half of Google searches are now driven by mobile devices, the new mobile index is destined to become Google’s primary index, which is definitely a major change to be taken seriously.

This switch to a new mobile index means that mobile content will be ranked far more effectively than it currently is. Where we currently determine mobile ranking by looking at data from desktop content, this new index will definitely be a game changer if you optimize for mobile. In theory, users will see better and more relevant content that is strictly coded for mobile devices such as phones and tablets.

Old ranking factors just got promoted

Consider the ranking factors that this now promotes:

  • Lower webpage load times
  • Better mobile user experiences
  • Fully optimized responsive designs or parallel dedicated mobile designs

Yes, the above were all important over the last few years, but they are even more important to get right now. Google will still keep its desktop index but this will eventually take a back seat as mobile connectivity drives change throughout the web.

Achieving a high search ranking for your website

These new algorithm changes make it even more crucial that websites offer a high-quality mobile experience. By ensuring that your landing pages are optimized and mobile friendly you can expect higher ranking in the SERPs. Constant feedback from Google’s Search Console and Analytics tools will help to detect any necessary changes. Be prepared to quickly carry out these changes to remain competitive and create better user experiences.

New report states half of homes in UK vulnerable to hacking

A new report states that over half of all homes are vulnerable to WiFi hacking.  More shocking to many people is that nearly half of all home Wi-Fi networks in the UK could be hacked within five seconds, according to a report by CPP reasearch.

When we setup or install a wireless network, we always encrypt it for these reasons.  Some encryption can be easily broken so we always add the strongest settings possible.

Wireless router setup Sutton ColdfieldUsing proprietary software on one of our laptops we can break into an unsecured network in seconds and many secured networks in less than a few minutes.  Obviously we do this for penetration testing and audits when required, but the effect of having an unsecured wireless network can be costly, annoying and time consuming for private individuals and businesses alike.  We have seen networks where neighbours unknowingly (or knowingly) connect onto the client’s WiFi and effectively share their broadband.  Worse still, a malicious person could redirect all of your traffic to another site first, stealing credit card and password details easily.

Please ensure you always have your wireless network secured and that your password is never simple to guess (eg “password”, “abc123”, “letmein” etc).  A combination of non-dictionary words, numbers and greater than eight characters makes breaking in very difficult.

Employees spend more time online

Employees plan to spend nearly two full working days on average shopping online from a work computer this Christmas, according to a survey conducted on behalf of ISACA, a nonprofit association of 86,000 information technology (IT) professionals. One in 10 plans to spend at least 30 hours shopping online at work. Convenience (34%) and boredom (23%) are the biggest motivators, according to those polled.