Column: the Internet’s latest nude fiasco

Column: the Internet’s latest nude fiasco

September 02
00:27 2014

Trent Johnson / Views Editor and Joshua Knopp / News Editor

Have you ever taken a nude photo?

It’s an interesting question after the leaking of celebrity images, which appeared literally out of thin air (we’ll get to this) on Aug. 31.

If you don’t know the story, some iCloud hackers obtained access to nude pictures of more than 100 celebrities.

Though the affected stars seem to live out their days in the public domain, the idea that at any time private photos meant for a loved one or even yourself could be linked on a forum or even Twitter is a frightening thought. It’s an idea that could cause copious amounts of people to reconsider clicking the capture button on  their smart phones.

Before diving into the gritty details, it should be said that if people want to take risque photos in the privacy of their own homes, then that’s their perogative.

It’s unfortunate that people have to go through this situation, but the reality is that if you’re anyone of note, your hacked photos could eventually hit a public forum. And that’s too bad, because they shouldn’t be seen by someone they’re not meant for.

That being said, times have changed and when you do take nude photos, you never know where they could end up.

Ken Westin, a security analyst at Tripwire, a data encryption security service, told the BBC, “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.”

This opens up a plethora of questions.

So what happened? How did the cloud get hacked? Should you be worried? These are questions worth taking a look at after the Sunday night leak.

What happened? 

It all started on the Internet forum 4chan, when an anonymous user posted that he had numerous nude photos of celebrities such as actress Jennifer Lawrence, model Kate Upton and a host of others.

On Sunday, the pictures began popping up in multiple places such as Reddit, 4chan and even Twitter (these were later deleted).

Once it hit the interwebs, people began spreading word and eventually mainstream websites caught wind and reported on it.

The mood on social media was generally happy, as people were given a glimpse of features that were only fantasized about before.

It’s understandable that fans of the attractive celebrities would sneak a peak, but people are definitely not entitled to do so.

Though it’s not criminal to look, it’s definitely a little strange, almost as if you’re peeking through Jennifer Lawrence’s window in some sort of technological voyeurism.

While fans were observing for pleasure, the hackers were seeking payment for obtaining the photos. It’s unclear if they did.

How did the cloud get hacked? 

This is where it gets super-technical and a bit confusing.

According to Time Magazine the hackers most likely hacked the iCloud through the Find My iPhone app, which helps users locate lost or stolen iPhones.

Through the app, the hackers used a “brute force attack,” a method of hacking that repeatedly guesses random passwords for a given username until it gains access, according to tech blog The Next Web.

Apple is currently investigating to uncover the method that caused the leaks.

“We take user privacy very seriously and are actively investigating this report,” Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris told the technology site Recode.

We probably won’t know a concrete solid answer to how the hacker gained access to so much personal data anytime soon, but it’s weird that they did.

One of the victims agreed, as actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead wrote on Twitter, “Knowing those photos were deleted long ago, I can only imagine the creepy effort that went into this.”

How often does this happen?

The quick answer to this question is: a lot. This includes nude photos of Scarlett Johansson, Vanessa Hudgens, and videos of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian.

Some males to have lude photos leaked were National Basketball Association players Greg Oden and Paul George and boxer Roy Jones Jr..

These are just a few people who had private moments released to the public.

Should you be scared?

Well, yeah.

Brute-force hacking is pretty simple. Several programs are available to download on the Internet that will simply do it for you. It’s also pretty simple to guard against – many domains will lock potential hackers out after getting the password wrong a handful of times. The fact that such a ham-handed and simple method worked is staggering.

What’s more, it doesn’t require any wrongdoing on the victim’s part. When getting a Trojan horse virus, you put yourself at risk with seedy downloads. Fallen victim to a keylogger hack? Don’t input passwords on a strange computer. But these celebrities didn’t put themselves at risk. They didn’t do anything to make themselves vulnerable.

It could have been a lot worse. Whatever imbecile did this thought the best course of action was to blackmail famous people for their sexts, and he even bungled that up horribly. How many high-level military officials have iPhones? How many bank account records are on the cloud?

Social media professor Samra Bufkins advocates moving to two layers of online security. Instead of putting things behind just a password, add in a personal question or a text alert when being logged in on a strange device. She also said to keep different passwords for different accounts.

Moreover, Bufkins said to recognize that cloud-style storage is always going to be vulnerable to some extent. The word “cloud” has gained traction recently, but it was first used as early as 1996. Basically every server-based storage system is a cloud. Facebook is a cloud. Twitter is a cloud. Everything that connects to the Internet is a cloud. And if it can be accessed remotely, it can be hacked remotely.

Bufkins said the simplest thing to do is not put sensitive material on the cloud. If you want to take sexy pictures, use a camera, not a phone.

Either way, these scenarios probably aren’t going away, so prepare yourself for more Buzzfeed posts about naked celebs in the future.

To write letters to the editor or voice concerns please email me at trentsjohnson01@gmail.com. Or send a tweet to @ntdaily.

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