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Celebrity photo leak reveals issues with online security

03 September 2014 - 15:54 by Sarah Collinson

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One of the biggest news stories of the week revolves around the leaking of a huge number of intimate photographs depicting some of the most famous female movie stars in the world, including Hunger Games hero and Oscar winner, Jennifer Lawrence. And in the wake of the scandal, many people will be wondering about the extent to which their private information is secure online.

In this instance, the issue arose because hackers were able to get access to photos which the celebrities had stored via Apple's iCloud service, a solution which is intended to help people back up their data, so that it does not get lost if their smartphone or tablet is damaged or stolen.

The automatic nature of iCloud's backup capabilities meant that in many cases, the people involved did not know that their private photos were being stored remotely. And some even assumed that by deleting them from their phone, they were gone for good.

This story could be a big problem for Apple in particular, which is just days away from launching the iPhone 6. This new flagship device is thought to be packed with an NFC chip, allowing users to combine safe shopping online and real world retail, via a digital wallet, but if there are questions over security then it could have a tough time making this a selling point.

The good news is that it seems the hacking incident was more based around the criminals using relatively unsophisticated techniques to break into celebs accounts, such as guessing passwords or resetting them and tricking their way past easy-to-circumvent security questions.

For normal consumers this is a reminder that to carry out safe shopping online and ensure that all your internet-based accounts are secure, you should use a combination of a strong password and security question answers that no one else could know.