Celebrity iCloud Hacked – What Did We Learn?

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PUREVPNIndustry NewsCelebrity iCloud Hacked – What Did We Learn?

We’ve just learned that new nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence, Kim Kardashian, Vanessa Hudgens, Mary-Kate Olsen, Avril Lavigne and other female celebrities were leaked online. These photos are being circulated on websites like 4chan, Reddit and Twitter.

It is clear that these celebrities photos are part of the iCloud hacking incident that happened in 2014. Although Apple announced beefing up the security of iCloud after the the hacking incident, the new round of these photos show that Apple is not as mighty as it was considered to be.

These new photos have given rise to hundreds of questions. The top most questions are the following:

1. If these pictures have been hacked through iCloud once again, will that mean Apple has failed to secure its users’ data?

2. How will the new iCloud hacking incident affect sales of the new iPhone 6?

3. Are people ever going to trust Apple, especially its new payment solution ‘Apple Pay’?

4. How will Jennifer Lawrence’s career (and her good girl image) be affected by these leaked photos?

5. What effect will the new leaked photos have on personal and professional lives of Kim Kardashian, Vanessa Hudgens, Avril Lavigne and all others targeted in this celebrity photo leak?

Is there anyone who can answer these questions?

Truth is stranger than fiction.

Just recently, I saw a ‘Cameron Diaz’ movie in which her most private moments with her husband got accidently stored on iCloud. To delete the ‘evidence’ from their friends’ devices (that they gifted and were synced with their iCloud account), they had to go through a series of hilarious obstacles. Well, the last day of August 2014 has just put the script into reality as someone hacked into iCloud accounts of a number of female Hollywood celebrities and leaked their deeply personal photos.

iCloud Hacked? Are You Serious?

On 31st of August, an alleged hacker compromised iCloud accounts of 100+ of the most influential female celebrities, stole their personal photos and posted them on the internet. Sources claim that the hacker apparently gained access to these photos through Apple’s iCloud Photo Stream service, although data on iCloud is encrypted when it is on the server and when it is in transit. iCloud is said to use a minimum of 128-bit encryption to prevent hacking. It is also said that if anyone using today’s technology tries to hack iCloud account through encryption, it might take a billion year to do this job.

The question is how did someone, in precisely one night, manage to hack so many iCloud accounts? Only Apple can give a clear answer to this mystery!

Unfortunately, this is not the only incident where people’s private data has been compromised. Last year witnessed the worst forms of cybercrime and hacking. So, it was a matter of ‘when’, rather than ‘if’. Let’s take a look at some of the worst hacking and photo leakage incidents from 2013:

 1.    Facebook – February 2013

Facebook was attacked by hackers once again in Feb 2013, but Facebook completely denied that any attack was made or that any user data was compromised.

2.    NBC – February 2013

The NBC website was attacked using Citadel Trojan, which was programmed as a drive-by download that made users ‘Stumble Upon’ a hacked website by visiting an infected URL.

3.    Twitter – February 2013

Some hackers hacked Twitter in Feb, 2013 by unidentified means. The hackers gained access to over 250,000 user accounts, including Jeep and Burger King’s. Tweets were posted that McDonald’s had taken over Burger King.

4.    Evernote – March 2013

In March 2013, Evernote faced a cyber attack that compromised the data of its users. The information leaked included usernames, passwords, e-mail IDs and other important financial details of the users.

5.    Microsoft – October 2013

Microsoft was another company that was attacked with a zero days exploits malware. The attempt started in January 2013 and damaged many computers.

What Lessons Have We Learned So Far in 2014?

Everyone who uses iCloud is vulnerable to such kind of hacking incidents. According to cyber security experts, if you are putting your stuff on the cloud, it means it is leaving your ‘custody’ and being stored on a third-party server. While the convenience is immense, the risks can be devastating – as proven by this iCloud hack incident.

While there is no clarification from Apple as yet, the most probable means by which hacker got the access to celebrities’ iCloud accounts is by guessing passwords, which were either ‘too easy’ or had obvious ‘secret questions’ to reset the passwords.

How to Avoid Hacking Attempts?

If you are breathlessly waiting for a magical shield that will hide you from all the trouble of hacking and cybercrime then DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH! If you are not being smart with your privacy, there is nothing that can guarantee 100% protection. However, if you are willing to smarten up, here are some tips you can always practice to reduce the probability of suffering the same fate as these celebrities.

Strong Passwords and Two Factor Authentication

It is important how strong your data encryption is; but, it is more important how strong your Password is. Always use passwords with a number, an uppercase letter and a lowercase letter in it.

Moreover, the actual problem isn’t just how strong the password is. It also depends on how unique it is.

Don’t use your birthday, car number, pet’s name or your nickname as your password. Create a unique password for every website, especially if you are using iCloud service. Don’t keep same passwords for all your accounts. It is also important to change your password regularly – on a weekly basis is best.

Another ‘Best Practice’ is learning and using ‘Two Factor Authentication’. This helps in setting tough, personal and unique verification questions that only the real user of an account knows.

Never Link Your Accounts and Use Two-Step Verification

While it is very convenient, never link your accounts; whether that’s email, Twitter, Facebook or any other platform. It may be a pain to keep separate accounts but it’s a lot safer, as well. If anyone hacks your one account they won’t get access to all your other linked accounts.

Moreover, we should also use the mobile phones almost all of us carry to our advantage. We should always enable Two-Step Authentication whenever it is available. Gmail, LinkedIn and Amazon are some of the really popular websites that offer Two-Step Authentication.

Always Keep a Pass Code On Your Smart Devices

Syncing your iPhone and iPad iTunes account with your home system for storing data on iCloud is another general practice in today’s world. While the data you store on iCloud is encrypted, but on phone it’s another story. Your pictures and videos on your phone are not encrypted; and, if you don’t have a pass code on your iPhone, iPad or any other device for that matter, then anyone can connect it to your home system and steal your private data.

Always Use Powerful Encryption

Whatever goes online should be highly encrypted. The best way to do so is to use a VPN cover. Use a trusted VPN service provider to encrypt all your data on your Phone, Tablet and Laptop/Computer. There is a possibility that the celebrities whose pictures got leaked actually gave out their passwords while they signed in to their iCloud account through an untrusted public Wi-Fi hotspot without a VPN cover. A VPN has the power to save people from massive embarrassment as so clearly demonstrated through this iCloud hacking incident.

In the end, I would like to quote Paul Ducklin, the head of technology for the Asia Pacific group at Sophos:

“Use the cloud to add some convenience to your digital lifestyle, but make sure that you embrace the cloud. Don’t let the cloud embrace you!”




August 30, 2023


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