Within the past few days, several photos of celebrities, often in compromising positions, were leaked by a hacker who exploited a hole in the Apple iCloud system. Virtually overnight, the Internet was filled with nude pictures of Jennifer Lawrence, Victoria Justice, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and several others, private photos that were intended to stay with those people and not be passed around by the public. Unfortunately, someone who is extremely skilled was able to acquire these extremely valuable private files and distribute them quickly. No one knows what the true motive was, but what we do know for sure is that they were successful in not only violating the privacy of several high profile people, but have once again injected fear into the general public about the cloud storage industry.
As we stand now, does this mean that the apparent cause for alarm is justified? Is it once again time to rethink the security, safety and privacy of cloud storage services? Not at all. Because one service falls victim to exploitation, it does not mean that all services are unsafe. It means that now, more than ever, research and study should be done before choosing the provider that is right for you. It also means that the biggest companies aren’t always the best. This recent incident proves that conclusively.
So who can you trust? Even if the service is solid on the provider’s side, how can you keep people from getting your data on your own end? Here are some tips and advice that will help make sure that you are doing everything you can to deter and discourage data theft:
1. Make sure your password is unique and uncommon, and that you don’t give it out to anyone you can’t absolutely trust. This is one of the most important security measures you can take no matter what online service or sight you are logging into. Also, for extra safety, you should secure your devices, such as your smart phones and tablets. Enter a passcode into those devices to provide another layer of security. It is far too easy for someone to grab your phone, swipe it open, and then quickly email themselves a few of your files. By the time you discover it happened, if at all, it is too late.
2. If you are using any type of cloud storage service to automatically back your devices up, make sure you are thoroughly familiar with exactly how the service works. This is also very important. If you are uploading anything to the cloud any way, whether it is manually, or through automatic sync and backup tasks, make sure you know where your files are being copied to, how many copies are out there and on which devices.
3. When you delete a file, make sure it is completely deleted. As one of the compromised celebrities stated, she deleted the file years ago and it just suddenly popped back up. The reason for this is that deleting files on a local device doesn’t guarantee deletion from everywhere else it may be copied. An initial sync or backup task could have copied the file to any of a number of devices, including a server, and manually deleting a local file doesn’t affect the other copies. For this reason, it is worth the couple extra minutes it takes to not only familiarize yourself with cloud storage processes, but also to make sure all copies of a file are gone.
With just these three simple steps, it is possible to easily avoid these sticky situations in which a private or valuable file can suddenly be made public, causing embarrassment, compromise of intellectual property, divulging of financial data, and many other consequences.In the case of these celebrities, the files happen to be both private and valuable because of their status. Their data is clearly in more demand for being poached, but you never know who will find a piece of your own data valuable enough to steal.
These recent leaks should in no way deter anyone from using cloud storage, nor should it cause you concern about its safety and security. Like with anything else in a similar situation, however, it should cause us to take another hard look at our data and make triply sure it is secure. It is fast and easy to do, and will possibly save your life one day.