First of all, this is a terrible thing that has happened to these women. It is certainly some form of sexual assault and we should really think about how we treat celebrities and regular Janes when it comes to unintended nudity (so many nip slip images, wardrobe malfunctions, the Duchess of Cornwall’s boobs/buttock) is our society really this prurient?
The morals of the issue aside, there are some very serious implications of this event both legally and for people’s confidence in cloud storage.
What are the legal aspects?
1. Obviously the guy who hacked these devices broke a number of laws, domestic and international. The FBI will be after him and I believe he has been identified. He will likely face fines and imprisonment.
2. Sharing the images, links to download sites etc is really not okay – but it may not be criminal where you live (it will be in some places). However the legal representatives of the parties involved may bring legal action against you. If you do not wish to be sued, don’t share links to this stuff, don’t even look at it. This columnist makes a very good point about how these women, all very young, are victims and also real people. Imagine if this was someone you knew (okay straying into the morality of it all again)!
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What does it mean for the rest of us?
Well the big question is, can we trust cloud services to protect our data? Not all of us will have naked photographs on our devices and if we did; few of them I imagine would be appealing to hackers but we do have a lot of personal and commercially sensitive information in the cloud.
Are you on the cloud? If you have a smartphone then yes anything on that smartphone is probably backed up online. If you use social media all of that content is potentially hackable. This includes chat, the data, images and whatever else you share in private on instant messaging can all be hacked.
So are Apple, Facebook, Sony, Google, Skype, Dropbox and whoever else doing enough to secure our data? The answer is yes, usually, with some provisos.
If your data is valuable – like anything of value people will try and steal it for their personal gain. They will invest resources in stealing it that are proportionate to the rewards they anticipate. So if you are a beautiful young woman, more so if you are famous, naked photos are not safe with default security settings. From a security POV those images should never hit the internet in any form, for them to be safe. But times being what they are and you want to share them or any other very valuable information on the net, you need to do the following.
(Please don’t take this as victim blaming, I don’t think this attack was in any way due to the actions of the victims.)
1. If possible, activate two step verification. This is available on just about every service these days.
2. Be smart with your passwords. Don’t use the same one everywhere and it must not be personal, the name of your first crush is not as obscure as you think. Mixing words and numbers is not as powerful as most tend to think. Using real words that are unrelated to you is the most powerful password type. e.g. PigsEatHousesRunning is much more robust than Matth3wJ1994 which is useless.
3. Be smart with your email. Don’t use your main email address for everything. If you use a Gmail account for Android, Dropbox or iCloud don’t use that email address for registering for competitions or games and apps etc.
4. Use software. You need to have a good, paid for antivirus and anti-malware tool.
5. Don’t get phished. Phishing attacks can be very sophisticated and look just like a message from Twitter or eBay really would, even down to the email address. Rather than clicking the links in these emails, log into the site separately by typing the domain (www.ebay.co.uk or similar) into the address bar and checking your notifications there. None of these websites will send you a notification about your account that is not also in your notifications on the site. Some experts believe this is how the hacker got access to the accounts of his victims in this latest attack.
There is no need to be afraid of using cloud software, these tools provide a great service to private individuals and companies alike. We need to use them safely and be sensible with our valuable data. We may all need to have a think about our personal vulnerability after this event but definitely don’t let it deter you from using cloud solutions.
About Matthew Jensen- I am an experienced digital strategist and manager. I have gained my experience working with global brands at the cutting edge of digital marketing, search engine optimisation, social media, web development and mobile apps. I excel in business development, consultative selling and finding the optimum product or service for my client’s online marketing or digital development needs.
(Image credit: Brian Klug)