When I spotted the weekend’s headlines of female celebs’ private photos unleashed online by hackers, I thought, here we go again. I didn’t plan to dwell much further on celebrity nude photos. Then on Tuesday, the Denver Post business editor called, asking me to write a consumer-focused story on cloud security. How could I say no?
I immediately reached out some of my old computer-security contacts, plus a few new local ones, to get up to date with cloud security. Yes, the Cloud — the amorphous entity that appears to be all knowing and omnipresent, yet potentially hackable. As it turned out, Apple said that nope, iCloud was not hacked, at least not in this celebrity-photo case.
Nevertheless, if you like to take photos, share them online and mindlessly back up files online in the Cloud, there is always a security risk. We use the cloud because our smartphones don’t have enough space to store all those selfies — or we want the convenience of accessing them on our phones, laptops and tablets. It’s (mostly) seamless. You don’t even have to think about it. I’m betting that very few iPhone users think about what is actually in the iCloud. I’m not even sure if a majority understand that iCloud lives outside their phone.
I like what Jonathan Sander, the strategy and research officer at STEALTHbits Technologies, told me:
“I guarantee that half the celebrities didn’t even know their photos were in the cloud,” Sander said. “If you asked them if they trust their nude photos in the cloud, I’m sure they would not.”
There are still ways to be smart about your photos and files. New technology in the form of two-step authentication is one extra layer of security that can make your account less attractive to hackers. Apple’s Two-Step Verification, which was introduced last year, requires users to verify accounts using a password and a special code. Google also offers it, as does Microsoft, Dropbox and nearly every company offering cloud storage.
But when it comes down to it, protecting your digital life means using common sense and being aware of what you have out in the Cloud. As Sander told me, “Do I trust the cloud to what? To store my vacation photos? Yes. Do I trust it to store my birth certificate and passport? Probably not.”
So, there you have it. My freelance debut for The Denver Post — on the Front Page too! All thanks to celebrities who take naked photos with their iPhones.
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