Reverse Image Search

Updated: Dec 4, 2018

Everyone knows that search engines such as Google and Bing let people search for key words and phrases to help find things that they are looking for. But how many of us know that these search engines also let search the internet to see is a picture has been posted before? And what does that have to do with Cyber Security?

Last night on Stopping Scotland’s Scammers I demonstrated how this functionality can help to prevent cyber scams. More and more people are using technology in their search for love, with lots of websites and apps dedicated to helping people find a perfect partner. Not only that but the ease with which people can buy and sell items ranging from cars to toys for the little ones has made the some of these sites a prime target for scammers.

As mentioned on the show last night some of these scams include trying to befriend someone on a dating site in the aim of tricking the victim in to handing over money. Other scams such as advertising non-existent goods for sale are becoming more and more common. Typically, the attackers will advertise the same product, perhaps a car, on many different websites and ask for a deposit to be paid to take the item off the website. Once the money has been transferred the seller disappears.

In the case of dating sites, the victim is lured in to a relationship that takes place over either messages or the phone. Once trust has been built the victim will then be asked to transfer money to help the scammer out. This might be to pay for a ticket to come and visit or to help them out of financial difficulty. An attacker will be running the same scam against several victims at the same time.

But what does this have to do with being able to search for images? Well, one way to help protect ourselves is to use this function to search for similar images that have been posted on other websites. In the example used last night, someone was posing as another person on a dating website and had used an image taken from a strangers Facebook page. A quick reverse image search revealed that this picture had actually been used in many previous scams. The same type of search can be used when looking to buy something from the internet. Is the same product being advertised elsewhere? It’s a handy feature that is all too often forgotten about.

It’s also important to note that not only is the person who hands over the money that is a victim in these dating scams. The person who had their picture used is also a victim. They now have a tarnished online reputation. That is why it is important that we are careful about the pictures that we post online and also the privacy settings of our online accounts.

For more advice on cyber security, contact

Gerry Grant, Chief Ethical Hacker

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