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Scrub Your Damn Exif Data!

02/15/2021

This is a story I like to tell not only because of how insane it is, but also because it teaches a lesson in cybersecurity.

If you don't know, most files have data about them, metadata. The most consistent examples of this being the date the file was created, what it's size is, when it was modified, but certain filetypes have different forms of metadata. Photos and videos have Exif (Exchangeable image file format) data, which gives more detailed metadata, including the camera the picture was taken with, and the location of where the photo was taken, including coordinates.
An example of the information that Exif data contains.

So, why should you care about any about this? How beneficial is it?

Removing the metadata from your photos is an effective measure in guarding your privacy; Having access to certain information, especially your goddamn coordinates, will make it a lot harder for people to track you down in the event you get into any heat, such as being stalked, harassed, or investigated. Granted, most major social media websites (even Facebook, surprisingly) automatically scrub this metadata so that they don't get into any more privacy lawsuits, but it's still a good measure to keep in mind of.


John McAfee learned this lesson the hard way.


Imagine that you're a man on the run from the Belize authorities for the suspected murder of your neighbor. You'd probably want to get the hell outta there ASAP, and if you're like John McAfee, you'd run to Guatemala.

This isn't the first time McAfee had been pursued; Just a few months ago he went to court under the suspicion that he was cooking meth, possessing firearms illegally, and the reason he even moved to Belize in the first place was because he had more than a dozen lawsuits under his name.

While the lad was chilling in Guatemala, he was picking up attention from the media back in the USA, which got an offer from a Vice reporter to come and interview him. McAfee accepted it, leading to the publishing of an article titled "We Are with John McAfee Right Now, Suckers". Don't get me wrong, it's a good bit, it even came with a pretty nice photo of McAfee himself! You could probably see where this is going. If you were to view the Exif data of that photo, then you'll come across some pretty incriminating evidence of his exact location: GPS tags that have been left unscrubbed! McAfee and the reporter tried to deny this by saying that the Exif data was tampered, but the damage had already been done. After merely three weeks of being on the run, John McAfee was captured, and eventually deported back to Miami.