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September 18, 2014

The celebrity hacking scandal: how safe is your data?

After a procession of high profile hacking stories targeting big business, the celebrity photo hacking scandal has turned the spotlight on the security of personal information.

We have become worryingly used to seeing large-scale data breaches making headlines around the world, although these stories usually concern well-known multinational organisations. Recent examples have included tech giants such as Apple and Sony, with public sector organisations also falling victim.

It is less common for these stories to focus on individuals, although smartphone owners and computer users around the world do get hacked on a daily basis. Indeed, the recent celebrity photo scandal certainly brought the issue of personal data security to the publicís attention.

So what lessons are there for the average man and woman on the street? Besides encouraging a little salacious gossip, these high profile hacks did seem to open up some genuine debate amongst users as to how best to protect themselves. When cyber-criminals are able to steal and publish intimate snaps of some of the most recognisable faces in the western world, many of whom will have professional help in managing their online accounts, itís easy to see why the average consumer may be a little concerned about their own security.

Of course, hackers have something to gain from getting their hands on the private photos of stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Rihanna. No offence, but your own photo collection is probably of less interest to them! Instead, itís likely to be personal data - think credit card details and email addresses.

How can we protect ourselves?

What, then, can we do to keep our own files away from unauthorised eyes? According to one cyber-security researcher, Ken Westin, an effective defence should begin with one simple realisation.

In a recent blog post, Mr Westin wrote: "It is important for celebrities and the general public to remember that images and data no longer just reside on the device that captured it."

"Once images and other data are uploaded to the cloud, it becomes much more difficult to control who has access to it, even if we think it is private."

Effective password management is absolutely critical. Our advice is that you should use a different complex password for each of your online accounts. This may be tricky to manage but there are plenty of suggested systems that can be found online for remembering your login details.

Two-step authentication has also been mentioned a few times since the celebrity snaps started to circulate at the beginning of September. This is something that anyone who regularly uses web services should consider and we can help. Put simply, a single password just isnít enough anymore.

If thereís anything good to come from these serious invasions of privacy, itís the fact that more people are looking to reinforce their own cyber security. Please contact us on the numbers above if you have any questions regarding your own online data storage.