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Celeb hacking scandal shows digital vulnerability

Published on NewsOK Modified: September 2, 2014 at 11:47 pm •  Published: September 2, 2014
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — To keep private pictures private, never upload them online.

That's the advice experts offer after hackers broke into female celebrities' personal accounts, stole nude photos and posted them on the web. Jennifer Lawrence and Mary Elizabeth Winstead have said they were victims of the hack attack.

Federal investigators are looking into the theft, and Apple confirmed Tuesday that while individual accounts were breached, its iCloud and Find My iPhone services remained secure.

This latest hacking scandal is another reminder that locking down digital data is a must for public figures.

"It shows that celebrities, like the rest of us, are not as attuned to Internet security as they should be," said marketing expert Dorie Clark. "Like many regular couples, celebrities probably enjoy taking racy photographs, but they have to recognize there are people out there who are inherently interested in what they're doing, and want to either make money or make a name for themselves by getting at those photos."

It could be embarrassing for anyone to have their nude image shown online, but most people aren't at risk of being targeted by hackers in this way, said Gary Zembow, who helps celebrities secure their data as founder of Hollywood Tech Consulting.

"If you accept that some celebrities need bodyguards," he said, "then their personal, private data needs a version of that, as well."

Individuals and companies increasingly use Internet-based "cloud" storage for images and other data. But such data can become more vulnerable once uploaded online, said professor Lance Larson, an instructor at San Diego State University's Graduate Program in Homeland Security.

"The cloud is like a storage locker," he said. "Are you the only person with the key? Or does the storage-unit owner also have a key?"

In short: "Don't put a document or photo online or in the cloud if you don't want it to get out at some point," he said.

It is unclear when and in what context the targeted actresses created the nude images. Winstead tweeted Sunday that the intimate pictures she took with her husband "in the privacy of our home" had long been deleted. "I can only imagine the creepy effort that went into this," she wrote.

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