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Risks of Information Leaks Through Meta Data

Meta data represents a rather unique problem in the industry. It could reveal our private information, even if it isn’t our intention. Meta data is essentially a data that provide description on another set of data. It means that we could get documentation about other data managed within an environment or application. Many popular software, such as Adobe Bridge, Version Cue in Adobe CS and Microsoft Office capture meta data, which can be used to track the use of documents. Meta data provides us with information when a data is created, how it is created and by whom. We also know how the information is actually formatted. In Microsoft Office documents, meta data is created and used in different ways.

Because software developers create and manage meta data differently, there is no single method to eliminate it from our document. In many cases, meta data is benign, but in a more complex scenario, it can be financially costly; because people could derive some potentially critical information that shouldn’t be known by public. Many businesses, small and large, store their data in Microsoft Word and Excel documents. Meta data from these files can be accessed using some low-level binary viewers and editors. As an example, meta data information can be tracked since the file was first created. Image and video files also store specific meta data. Not only when these files are created and edited, but also the camera owner and the type of camera.

Risks of Information Leaks Through Meta Data

Metadata data may contain various information like name, company name, organization name, initials, computer’s name, file properties, various summary data, name of hard disk or server where we saved the file, names of document authors, embedded OLE objects, document versions, document revisions, comments, hidden text and template information. The real problem with meta data isn’t only about because they are added, but also because they can’t be removed easily. It is clear that businesses and users are more dependent on digital technology and it is important for them to prevent possible information leakage. Many people are sharing their documents and other files in email messages, cloud storages and file sharing services.

The immediate connectivity could create additional risks, because some bad people are specialized in collecting bits of information from meta data. Many businesses can function properly only through online means, so it is important for us to do this in a much smarter way. We can use DRM or digital rights management software to prohibit some files from being copied, edited, printed and forwarded. Documents should have expiration dates before they can become accessible. This will limit access only for specific people and access to unauthorized individuals can be prohibited.

Another way is to use encryption tools and this will prevent people from opening the documents. For personal and small business uses, they don’t need to buy expensive encryption tools. Some compression tools allow us to create password-protected compressed files. With complex password structure, it would less efficient for hackers to crack our information, so they will go elsewhere.

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