Ricky Gervais jokes aside, it has become public knowledge that data thieves purposely hacked into the iCloud accounts of some of Hollywood’s most high-profile celebrities. The list seems to be growing by the minute with some victims remaining tight-lipped on the matter and others claiming the photographs are outright fakes. For the rest, their publicists are scrambling to release statements expressing their anger and embarrassment over the blatant breach of privacy.
What makes this instance different to your average tabloid fodder, is not just the fact these starlets have taken very private photographs of themselves at one point and uploaded the images to a cloud storage system. It shines a spotlight on why everyday people and even businesses, need to be more cautious with the information they store in the cloud. Majority of us use cloud for storing family photos, music, films and TV shows instead of storing them solely on a personal computer. The benefit of this is that photos can be taken on one device like an iPhone and shared to computers or devices across the same account. Utilising cloud means that we save ourselves from the heartache of hard drive crashes or theft, and we have the ability to access these files between our many devices and from any location.
iCloud is Apple’s version of a cloud-based service that is used by millions of people worldwide to share documents, photos, music and videos between Apple devices (Apple is just one of the big companies that host private data for people and organisations. Other giants include Google and Amazon). While Apple have investigated reports that hackers have exploited vulnerabilities in their cloud service, they have now publicly released a statement admitting that certain celebrity accounts were compromised by an attack on Apple usernames, passwords and security questions, and other accounts could have also been compromised via online phishing scams.
A hack of this multitude does raise serious questions about the risk posed to cloud services by potential hackers, while also coming as a very rude wake up call for users regarding the issue of privacy, what they share and how they share it. The other important point is that it highlights the issue at hand for cloud providers such as Apple, Google and Amazon, reinforcing their need to build more secure cloud spaces, and tougher security measures which their users have been constantly asking for.
While the scandal may be a public relations nightmare for Apple iCloud, many IT experts affirm that cloud reliability and security is not the villain here. Cloud computing has consistently shown it can be much safer than on-premises IT. For example, extended security such as email and web filtering services can be implemented by cloud security providers which then allows you to have the most up-to-date protection from spam and malware. When the right cloud services are put in place it can also be a wonderful tool for accessing your business files while on the road. Some specific data and applications for businesses may also need tighter security than others, and the responsibility should fall on IT departments to look for the cloud security providers that are willing to provide it.
You can also take the clever initiative and add extra layers of protection to your personal or business cloud account. Here are some of the best ways to lessen the risk of private photos or information falling into the wrong hands.
TIPS for covering yourself
• Is your phone or tablet linking automatically to the cloud? This automatic backup may have been a feature you opted into when you signed up to your account. You can confirm this in your settings, so change it so that you need to put in a secure password each time.
• Forget using your mother’s maiden name or street you grew up on as your security password. A lot of that information is on public record, if someone really wanted to hack into your account, using those kinds of questions and answers for security purposes has shown time and time again to be insufficient for protecting your account.
• Use different passwords for each account. If a hacker gets hold of one password, they cannot use it to break into other accounts that share the same login information.
• It is advised that your password should not contain any words that are found in a dictionary. Instead use lower and uppercase letters, numbers, and if allowable, symbols.
• If you have many social media accounts and you want to protect them each with different passwords, then get yourself a password manager. This can generate hard to crack passwords for each account and store them in the one place securely.
• Add more protection by turning on a two factor authentication for accounts that offer it (like Facebook). It can be slightly more time consuming, but it will give you a second key that only someone with access to your mobile can have access to.
• Also be aware of email phishing scams. Do not reply to any email that requires you to send personal information such as a username, phone number, credit card, or even password.
Remember, nothing on the internet is unhackable so be very careful about any files intended for private use that could potentially end up on the cloud. Just by following these simple tips, you will be telling hackers to ‘hack off’ and save yourself from any future embarrassment.
On second thought, you might also want to think twice before posting that picture on Facebook, you know the one I am talking about.