In 2104 a raft of high profile celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Ariana Grande fell victim to a huge iCloud hack. Dubbed The Fappening the celebs private pictures, many of which were nude, ended up on 4chan a popular online bulletin board where people post pictures anonymously.
A little closer to home, and just days ago, the mother of One Direction crooner Harry Styles had her iCloud account hacked and photos released into the Twittersphere. Less than a few eyelid blinks later another famous singer Adele reportedly had her private photos leaked online.
How to protect your iCloud pictures
Most of us aren’t celebrities and as such we’re not likely to be victim of online celeb stalkers attempting to pry into our personal lives (if celebrities have such a thing). But that said, the Harry Styles and Adele photo hacks do bring home just how easy it is to hack personal information.
If you use iCloud it’s a good idea to ensure the tightest security possible – and here’s how you do it.
Step one – control what is backed up to iCloud
You can easily see what data is being backed up to iCloud.
Simply go to Settings and then scroll down to iCloud.
You will see a list of apps and services that are automatically backing up information to the cloud.
You can turn off apps and photos so you can effectively control what is backed up to iCloud.
Step two - reset your password
A strong password is fundamental to good security.
In the past, hackers have gained access to iCloud accounts using a brute-force hacking tool. This essentially runs through likely password combination until the correct one is found.
Apple does place restrictions on the number of passwords attempts that can be made but it’s always a good idea to have a strong password in the first place.
The key to a strong password is to use as many characters combinations as possible. Of course these can be easily forgotten. A useful tip is to pick a memorable phrase like ‘to be or not to be’ and translate the letters into characters. This makes it easier to remember.
Also remember to create security questions that can’t be guessed by people who know you.
Step three - turn on two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication improves the security of your Apple ID and all the personal information you store with Apple.
- Go to Settings > iCloud > tap your Apple ID
- Tap Password & Security
- Tap Turn on Two-Factor Authentication
When you want to sign into your account in the future, you’ll be required to enter your regular password followed by a verification code that will be sent to your phone at the time of login.
Step four - turn off iCloud
Using iCloud may seem like the most convenient way to back up your data because it is done automatically.
But as hacks reveal this means you don’t have control over how the backup is stored - and ultimately hackers can gain access to your data.
If you don’t want to use iCloud go to Settings > iCloud and scroll down to the bottom
You’ll see ‘Sign Out’ – click on this and you have the option to delete your account.
Or you can simply turn off the iCloud drive.
Step five - back up device manually using iTunes
If you stop using iCloud, you’ll have to back up your content manually using iTunes - you'll have more control of where the backup is stored.
To backup using iTunes you need to make sure you have downloaded the latest version.
Connect your iOS device to your computer. Then choose File, Devices and Backup
If you're using iTunes 10.7 or earlier you can right-click the device from the list and choose Backup Now.
Once completed open iTunes Preferences and select the Devices tab. Here you'll see the name of the device along with the date and time iTunes created the backup.
How to protect your Android device
Of course not everybody has an iPhone; in fact Android devices are far more popular. But because of the open nature of Android operating systems they are far more vulnerable to hacking and malware, which also means your photos potentially being hacked.
Today most successful account hacks are the result of user blindness. For instance, if a pop-up ad or a false login screen cons you into submitting your credentials, there's no need to "hack" anything because you've purposefully handed that information over.
This information gets fed to a bot which attempts to log in to anything and everything on your behalf. Unfortunately, there's not an automatic or third-party way to avoid this kind of social engineering. If you want to keep your device and your accounts free from this kind of malware, you're going to need to look before you tap.
App installation from unknown sources
Every Android phone includes the ability to install apps that do not come from the Google Play Store. It’s useful because you get access to some great apps and it's one of those things that helps keep Android open and flexible.
Unfortunately, very few apps that ask you to enable this feature to install an app from an ‘unknown source’ tell you to go back and disable this feature once the app is installed.
There are good reasons to install apps that aren't in the Google Play Store, but maybe not as many as there used to be. Google has worked hard to set up user testing areas for companies that want to beta test new features. As a result you should only install apps outside of the Google Play Store if you know without a doubt the app is safe.
These apps could be tampered with, or the app could just be malware that is labelled as something else.
Every app you install on any Android device must tell you what parts of the OS, including your personal data, that app is going to have access to.
While it's easy to treat this popup like generic Terms and Conditions popups on traditional computers, you need to read over this list and make sure the app you are installing is something that you consider adware or malware.
Antivirus software to protect Android
There’s no question that Android-based devices are rapidly becoming the target for a surging tide of malware and spyware. This is why they need protection.
BullGuard Mobile Security for Android provides this protection. It delivers comprehensive protection so your photos and other data are always protected.
A range of features means that it’s always up to data so infections are halted, including unwanted apps such as adware. It also scans new apps for malicious code that may be ‘hiding’ in the app.
A cloud-based AV engine doesn’t drain your battery while ensuring you always have the latest protection. A full scan feature allows you to check the entire phone for possible infections, malware or unwanted apps such as adware. And it automatically scans apps as soon as they are installed on your device notifying you immediately of any malicious or suspicious apps.
Keeping it safe
It may feel like a bit of a chore having to enable security on your mobile devices and take steps to keep your data safe. Unfortunately, this is the nature on the online world, for all the benefits there are some corresponding downsides – and to keep our personal data safe from prying eyes we have to accept some level of responsibility. But it’s well worth it.