While experts still aren’t quite sure how hackers accessed a slew of compromising celebrity photos, the source of the photos is clear – Apple’s iCloud storage service.
Cloud services can be extraordinarily useful, but like any technology, it’s important to understand how it works and how to protect that data. Here are some tips on preventing someone from seeing what you’d prefer they didn’t:
Get two-step authentication:
This is something that most online banking accounts require, and it’s easy enough to set up. When you try to access your accounts from a new device for the first time, you will be sent a code or pin number to an already-registered device – usually your cell phone or desktop computer.
If a hacker manages to guess your password, they would still need to go through this verification, since they wouldn’t be logging in from your computer. Visit Apple’s guide or Google’s to set this up, depending on your device.
Don’t Use Guessable Security Information:
If your password is an English word, or your security questions can be answered by viewing your Facebook page, they’re not safe. Some of the simplest password-cracking programs just run through the dictionary until they find a hit. And if someone is specifically targeting your account (as happened with many of the celebrity photo leaks), knowing a birthday and favorite pet’s name can get a hacker pretty far.
Check out our post on secure passwords for more tips.
Beware of Phone Backups
Because of automatic cloud backups, things you delete off your phone may not actually be gone. Double check your settings to make sure you’re not saving things you don’t want to be saving.
Remember that these features are meant to be helpful – in the off chance that your phone or device is lost, these backups allow for data recovery and syncing to a new device. Keep these risks in mind before you disable the service.
If you have an Android device or Chromebook, chances are your documents, pictures and data are being backed up to Google Drive. Check any Google apps you have (Google Photos, Google+, Google Drive) to see if there are any documents or photos that you did not intend to upload. If you have linked your device to a Gmail account, it’s probable that there’s at least one app syncing something.
To disable auto backup, check Google’s guide
for your particular device.
Users with an iPhone, Mac or other Apple product may not realize their information is being backed up to iCloud. To check, follow this guide
from Apple to manage which apps automatically back up data.
Keep in mind that iCloud also keeps music, data and updates synced between a user’s multiple devices, so disabling all features may prevent the user’s devices from updating. For instance, if a user purchased an iTunes album on their desktop Mac, it might not be accessible through their iPhone until the devices are allowed to sync.
With the amount of data we share, keep, and consume, it’s inevitable that most people will need to use a cloud storage system at some point. But a little bit of knowledge (and caution) can do wonders for keeping your data safe.