Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard about the breach of privacy against some celebrities who had some indecent images stolen. It is easy to get caught up in the hoopla that surrounds this latest intrusion due to the racy images that were stolen, but there is a bigger question around all of this. Lets pull away those top layers and see what the deal is.
The story goes that images were taken with mobile devices, and that device then synced the data to some form of cloud storage. You have seen cloud storage before right? DropBox, Sync, Box, ICloud, etc. There are a lot of services that allow storing your data into “The Cloud”. Some of this is just for backup purposes, others help sync data across multiple devices.
Lets start by talking about this mysterious cloud. If you saw the recent movie “Sex Tape” you may have heard it mentioned. You might be shocked that the only thing about the cloud that actually resembles a cloud is its representative image on a network diagram. There are lots of definitions and everyone will tell you something different when describing the cloud. The key point is that these services have servers running in multiple data centers and when you send your data to them it gets stored on those servers. You don’t know where the data actually is, and in most cases it doesn’t matter. It is, in this scenario, an offsite storage mechanism.
Many of these services make it easy to sync files between devices. Wait, you really don’t have more than one device? It is becoming much more common for people to have a phone, tablet, computer, etc. Wouldn’t it be great if when you created a file (photo, document, etc) that it was available on all your devices? The cloud services help with that. Some programs, like the IOS photos feature will automatically sync your pictures to all your devices.
Whether people are aware of how this works, or the implications is hard to really determine. I think most people really don’t think about the mechanism by which the photo made it from their phone to their tablet. They just care that it got there, not thinking about a copy being stored somewhere else. Just like in law, ignorance is no excuse for not knowing what is going on with your devices and services.
As we have seen in the past few years, breaches are an every day occurrence. Usually we see them at big businesses or retailers. These cloud services are also targets due to the types of data they store. Sure, in the most recent case it was nude photos, but think of some of the other stuff that you store from your device. There is a lot of potential for sensitive information being stored.
Do you stop using cloud services because of an incident? Personally, I keep on trucking as usual. I use ICloud, DropBox, and other cloud services all the time. Understand, there is a risk to using any of these services, although I wonder if that risk of the service getting compromised is less than or greater than your own personal device getting compromised. Like everything we do dealing with life, you have to be aware and take responsibility for what you do. Hey, if you want to take nude photos, that is your business. If those images get compromised, and if on an electronic device there is a chance of that, then you determine how to handle the situation. This goes for any data you store, not just photos.
There is so much finger pointing and blame game going around the internet about the recent nude photo breaches. It is the celebrities fault, it is the hackers fault, it is the cloud service provider’s fault. I don’t see how any blame is put on people that take pictures and use a service. We were all given a choice and that doesn’t give anyone else the right to exploit it. Depending on how the accounts were compromised, maybe user, maybe provider. If the provider did something completely negligent, then I can see some problem there. But lets not let any of that detract from the true malicious user here; the attacker that broke in and stole the information. There are going to be people that do this all the time and we are seeing more of it everyday. Lets be clear, there is no way to remove the blame from the attacker in any of these scenarios.
As users, we need to stay focused on doing the right security practices. Strong pass phrases, less password reuse across sites, don’t click stuff you shouldn’t, stay away from shady sites, and think about what you are doing. Don’t get caught up in the hype of news headlines, but rather take in the details and determine what the real issue is. All of the talk about nude photos is not the issue. Data stolen by an attacker is the issue. Be safe and enjoy the internet.