4 Ways To Avoid Being Hacked Like A Celebrity

Ben Stegner 06-11-2014

Thankfully, the celebrity photo leaks of the past few months seem to have passed. This event Apple Investigates Celebrity Nudes, YouTube Introduces Tip Jar, And More... [Tech News Digest] Also, looking forward to the Internet Slowdown, Windows XP edges 1% closer to death, play Star Citizen for free, the new Raspberry Pi Web browser, and the wearables we narrowly avoided. Read More — referred to as The Fappening, Celebgate, and a variety of other names — saw some 500 indecent photos of celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Kaley Cuoco, leaked to the public online.


This form of invasion could have happened to anybody, and it probably has at some point — you just don’t hear it reported when only a few commoners are affected. Hopefully you’ll never have to experience such an embarrassing event; if you follow these tips, you won’t.

Watch What You Save In The First Place

There’s been a lot of debate about this, and the intention here is not to blame victims. However, it’s important to remember that if there are no nude pictures (or any other sorts of incriminating files) on your phone in the first place, they can’t be stolen by others. Even with a secure messaging app 6 Secure iOS Messaging Apps That Take Privacy Very Seriously Don't fancy your messages being read by unwanted parties? Get a secure messaging app and worry no more. Read More , you have no guarantee of protection. When using Snapchat, the disposable picture messenger Send Self-Destructing Risqué Photos & Videos With Snapchat [iOS & Android] So you want to text someone a private flirty or goofy photo or video of yourself, but you know that images and videos can be shared and circulated on the Internet very quickly. Well it... Read More , for example, all the recipient of an illicit photo has to do is take a screenshot The Ultimate Guide on How to Take a Screenshot Most people would think taking a screenshot was a simple and straightforward process, and that it would be much the same on every platform they encounter. Well, they'd be wrong. The process of taking screenshots... Read More ; then who knows where it will spread?


To that end, be careful what’s on your devices. If you must keep anything potentially embarrassing, be sure to encrypt them on your phone How To Encrypt Data on Your Smartphone With the Prism-Verizon scandal, what allegedly has been happening is that the United States of America's National Security Agency (NSA) has been data mining. That is, they have been going through the call records of... Read More ; Chris has given four reasons why encryption is a good idea Not Just For Paranoids: 4 Reasons To Encrypt Your Digital Life Encryption isn’t only for paranoid conspiracy theorists, nor is it just for tech geeks. Encryption is something every computer user can benefit from. Tech websites write about how you can encrypt your digital life, but... Read More should you need more convincing.

Keep Strong Passwords And Tight Access

Initially, iCloud was blamed for the photo leaks, but it was later decided that the attack was targeted on usernames, passwords, and security questions How To Create A Security Question That No One Else Can Guess In recent weeks I have written a lot about how to make online accounts recoverable. A typical security option is setting up a security question. While this potentially provides a quick and easy way to... Read More . This tells us that the service where the pictures were stored was not to blame, but that the perpetrator was likely able to break into accounts. Therefore, it’s important to make your passwords as air-tight as possible.



If you need some advice on bulking up your passwords, we’ve compared methods of managing passwords 5 Password Management Tools Compared: Find the One That's Perfect for You Choosing some sort of password management strategy to deal with the huge amount of passwords we need is crucial. If you're like most people, you probably store your passwords in your brain. To remember them... Read More ; LastPass is an awesome tool to simplify the password process The Complete Guide to Simplifying and Securing Your Life with LastPass and Xmarks While the cloud means you can easily access your important information wherever you are, it also means that you have a lot of passwords to keep track of. That's why LastPass was created. Read More , or if you prefer the old-fashioned way be sure to follow tips to create a memorable yet strong password 6 Tips For Creating An Unbreakable Password That You Can Remember If your passwords are not unique and unbreakable, you might as well open the front door and invite the robbers in for lunch. Read More .

While we’re on the subject of passwords, it’s important to make sure that you keep them to yourself. If you wouldn’t trust someone with your credit card number, don’t share passwords with them. Obviously your spouse is a special case, but those should be rare.

If you’ve passed around this personal information before, do yourself a favor and change your passwords. You don’t need to be hyper-sensitive and change them once a week or anything, but it’s a good idea if you’ve been lax in the past.



Take Advantage Of Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication What Is Two-Factor Authentication, And Why You Should Use It Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security method that requires two different ways of proving your identity. It is commonly used in everyday life. For example paying with a credit card not only requires the card,... Read More adds an additional layer of security to any account that supports it. In addition to your password (something you know), to gain access to your account someone must have a code from your phone (something you have). It isn’t 100% bulletproof, and it might seem inconvenient at first, but the added security it brings is well worth any small hassle. Should a person with malicious intent crack your password, they’ll still be locked out without a code.

We’ve written about the most critical services to enable two-factor authentication Lock Down These Services Now With Two-Factor Authentication Two-factor authentication is the smart way to protect your online accounts. Let's take a look at few of the services you can lock-down with better security. Read More on, and recommend using Authy as your primary Can Two-Step Verification Be Less Irritating? Four Secret Hacks Guaranteed to Improve Security Do you want bullet-proof account security? I highly suggest enabling what's called "two-factor" authentication. Read More code-generating app. Finally, if you’re interested, lists the full details of two-factor compatibility for hundreds of websites; your bank or favorite retail sites might offer it too!

Stay In Charge Of Your Accounts

It’s no secret that Facebook changes up their workings Facebook Changes Your News Feed, Apple Protects Your Privacy, And More... [Tech News Digest] Also, Twitpic lives, Amazon buys .Buy, BlackBerry mimics Porsche, Aubrey Plaza is Grumpy Cat, and the iPhone 6 drops. Read More often, and this unfortunately includes privacy settings. Because of this, you need to stay vigilant and check what you’re sharing regularly; Facebook’s newer privacy menu Make Sure You're Secure With Facebook's New Privacy Settings: A Complete Guide Facebook also means two other things: frequent changes and privacy concerns. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Facebook, is that they’re not really concerned about what we like or our privacy. Nor should they... Read More helps, but it too could change. Have you added any third-party apps? If so, head to your allowed apps in Facebook and make sure that the list is safe and current. Any entries you haven’t used in a while or even have never heard of before should be chucked.



The more information about yourself and pictures you share with the public, the greater the chance that your security will be breached. There’s nothing wrong with sharing on Facebook or other social media; just be sure to know your audience. Go over your friends list once a month to be sure you haven’t accepted requests Facebook Friend Requests: Unwritten Rules and Hidden Settings If you have questions like "Why can't I friend someone on Facebook?" then you need this guide to Facebook friend requests. Read More from anyone weird or someone you don’t know well. A good test of your current privacy state is found on your Timeline: click the three dots menu to the right of View Activity Log and choose View As… to see what your page looks like to the public.


Another good idea is to Google yourself The Google Yourself Challenge [INFOGRAPHIC] They call it "ego surfing" - when you sit down in front of the computer, go to Google (or whatever search engine you prefer), and find out what information there is about you online. I... Read More occasionally. Knowing the first few results that come up when someone is looking for you helps you estimate how much of your personal details are immediately accessible. If you find anything that you don’t want out there, identify the site it’s found on and fix it as soon as you can.


Let’s take an example of a real hack to illustrate another point. Scarlett Johannson was a victim a few years ago, and her hacker had used the Forgot Password function along with readily accessible Internet information to get into her account. While he was in, he set up forwarding to send every message from her inbox to an email address he could monitor. This let him continue to read her messages even if she had changed her password.

The lesson here is to keep an eye on your outgoing messages on all sites. You’re surely seen a social media scam 5 Ways To Spot Social Media Scams & Rogue Apps Facebook is a huge platform for all sorts of scams. Cleaning up after falling for one is a pain; let's take a look at some ways to identify and avoid them. Read More where a friend’s account is compromised and sends you a link to some junk website or worse. Often, people have no idea that this happened until their friends tell them, and someone who isn’t tech-savvy may have already fallen for it. Be diligent and be sure there’s no one using your account silently.


You != Jennifer Lawrence

With these tips, you’re much less likely to become a victim of privacy invasion. Since you’re likely not a person who’s well-known like these women, there’s less of a risk, but know that you are still a target regardless.

Now that you’ve secured yourself, sit back and enjoy the more lighthearted take: the funniest tweets about the celebrity nudes leak Titillating Tweets: The 18 Funniest Reactions To The Celebrity Nudes Leak [Weird & Wonderful Web] Opinions on this saga have varied. We are not here to preach, so, presented without judgment on their suitability, here are some of the funniest tweets that appeared on Twitter in the aftermath. Read More .

What other methods keep you safe from being hacked? Do you have any victim stories? Leave a comment!

Image Credits: Burglar Via Shutterstock, Index finger Via Shutterstock, Mouse and Key via morgueFile; xkcd Passwords via xkcd; PIN Hand via Shutterstock

Related topics: Online Security, Password, Security Breach.

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  1. Mike
    November 24, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    Do you need any of this hacking services?

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  2. Guy
    November 9, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    "Blaming victims only makes them feel worse. Blame the assholes who did the illegal act, not the victims."

    If you walked through an area of a city you knew to have a high crime rate, and you did so - flaunting expensive jewelry, late at night, and alone, and you got robbed you're totally absolved of any contribution to the act of being robbed?

    Stop swallowing the propaganda of arrogant people with entitlement issues who can't possibly see themselves as ever being in the wrong, and start applying logic and reason to everyday situations.

    Stop reveling in the role of victim and start taking some responsibility for your own life.

    Stop perpetuating the lie that you can do whatever you want, but if someone hurts you for it, they should be punished and you should have the right to carry on thinking you can do whatever you want.

    Just stop. Then think for yourself.

    Or we can go on with this delusion and anyone who attacks my facts, or me, is just being an asshole and they should be punished.

    • CityguyUSA
      November 10, 2014 at 2:48 am

      Again well said.

  3. Guy
    November 9, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    I'm going to take Devil's Advocate here, yes, in a public forum.

    We're using words like blame and fault, which are inadequate for the conversation. Instead, words like responsibility and caution are much more accurate. As in, we all have a responsibility to exercise reasonable caution in the protection of ourselves and our property.

    Let's take the example of having one's house broken into. I cannot be blamed for being robbed and it's not my fault the bad guy did it.

    However, I can be blamed for not exercising my responsibility for due caution.

    If I don't take reasonable precautions - locking doors, keeping valuables out of plain site, closing windows before I get the picture. If I don't do that, and someone breaks in, then I can be blamed for making it easier to be robbed.

    Your insurance company will re-enforce this fact if it ever happens to you.

    What we need to do is separate the two faults. The fault of the thief, and the fault of the careless homeowner. Two separate acts, two separate faults, yet both combine to create an unfortunate situation.

    The same would be true of a car theft. If I leave the keys in the ignition and the car running (which is absurdly common in Canada in winter) and some jerk takes my car, I have failed in my responsibility to take due caution. I can't be blamed for stealing the car, that's absurd. If I stole my own car it would still be in my possession. But I can be blamed for not protecting it.

    Again, ask your insurance company about this and they will support that statement.

    Now, specifically, let's talk about people having images stolen from their phone.

    You are right. They should not be blamed. I don't recall reading that they regularly left their phones unattended and unlocked so anyone could go through them. They did exercise reasonable caution and due diligence. At least as much as a non-IT professional can be expected to exercise.

    Whether you like what I'm saying or not, it doesn't make it less of a fact.

    I really do empathize with those that had their pictures stolen. Especially because they had every reason to believe the images were secure.

    All rights come with responsibilities. If we don't exercise the responsibilities, then having the right is inconsequential. Negligence can also be a crime.

    • CityguyUSA
      November 9, 2014 at 10:27 pm

      Well said.

  4. isse
    November 8, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    "correct horse battery staple--easy to remember"

    And how easy would it be to memorize 50+ different random word combinations and match them to the correct accounts?

    • Newb
      November 12, 2014 at 3:37 pm

      Use the first four words as your base password and add the name of the site/use as the last word in the password, e.g. correct horse battery staple makeuseof or correct horse battery staple email or correct horse battery staple yahoo.

    • Ben S
      November 12, 2014 at 9:54 pm

      Newb's idea would work, but I wouldn't recommend it. All it would take is someone figuring out your starting phrase and you'd be toast.

      The best solution is to use LastPass. I've been using it for almost two years and haven't looked back once.

  5. CityguyUSA
    November 8, 2014 at 4:14 am

    "the intention here is not to blame victims. "

    Well it should be.

    • Harry
      November 8, 2014 at 2:29 pm

      Why do you say that? If someone breaks into your house it's not your fault. Yes there are more steps they could have taken to avoid being hacked but as cases like the Mat Honan hack and the more recent @gb hack show, even extremely tech savvy people with serious security set ups and strong passwords can be hacked if people are sufficiently motivated.

    • Ben S
      November 8, 2014 at 4:05 pm

      This is a touchy area, CityGuy. I said so because lots of people view victim-blaming as a bad thing, and I somewhat agree.

      However, there are differences. Compare two people whose bank accounts are broken into. One person's PIN was 1234 and the other was a random combination.

      The person with the bad code should have had a better one. Does that make it their fault for being hacked? I'd argue slightly. They should have taken better precautions.

      Still, no one should be trying to be dishonest and break into other's accounts, but it does happen, so being prepared is a must. I liken the same principle to the celebrity situation.

    • Jessica C
      November 8, 2014 at 6:24 pm

      Really good article here about why we blame victims:

      @CityguyUSA, I urge you to strongly consider this line from the conclusion and re-evaluate your way of thinking:
      One way to help make the world a better place to fight the impulse to rationalize others' suffering, and to recognize that it could have just as soon been us in their shoes.

    • dragonmouth
      November 8, 2014 at 9:51 pm

      "If someone breaks into your house it’s not your fault. "
      Yes, it is. It is up to YOU to secure your house adequately. Or do you expect the government to come by, do a security audit and install the needed security measures? Or maybe your neighbor is kind hearted enough to keep the burglars out of your house? As the saying goes "If you want things done right, do it yourself."

    • CityguyUSA
      November 8, 2014 at 10:20 pm

      Because everyone knows the risks and huge security holes that exist on the internet. If you have expensive jewelry you don't put it somewhere that is might be stolen.

    • Justin Dennis
      November 8, 2014 at 11:17 pm

      Why would you blame the victim for something illegal that was done to them? Stealing someone else's private photos is illegal, and distributing naked photos that you've stolen is a heinous sex crime. You wouldn't blame someone for having their house broken into or their car stolen. Anyone can be a victim of a crime, and that doesn't make it their fault.

      Taking and owning photos of yourself that you expect to keep private is perfectly legal. Nobody should have to apologize for being the victim of a crime. Blaming victims only makes them feel worse. Blame the assholes who did the illegal act, not the victims.

    • Harry
      November 10, 2014 at 12:22 am

      The point is that the people who are hacked did lock their doors. They didn't post their passwords publically. Yes there is always more but if someone is determined they can get past it.

      I can guarantee neither of your houses is adequately secured against someone who wants to break in. Glass windows? Job's done. No deadbolt on your door? Game over. But if someone throws a brick through your window, climbs through and steals your TV it's not your fault. Every other person on the block has the exact same windows as you do. The guy who stole it is just a prick. It's the same here.

      Against someone who wants to hack you, there's very little you can do:

  6. John
    November 8, 2014 at 12:17 am

    I have been using Smart Shield VPN. I think most of the VPN apps are very similar - this one just happens to be free and doesn't bother me to pay or upgrade. Speed is pretty good also.
    [Broken Link Removed]

  7. Dan Willis
    November 7, 2014 at 2:45 am

    Looked at last pass but prefer the app security and cloud data encryption that is unhackable from the toolset.

  8. Joe
    November 6, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    I've come across a lot of users who will encrypt and protect their computer data, but then not do the same for their mobile. I think a lot of people don't realise or consider the security implications of mobile devices. Two-factor authentication and a password manager, as Ben mentions, are key at minimum.

    • Ben S
      November 8, 2014 at 4:06 pm

      You're right, Joe. People don't remember that their phones are computers, too, and the data on there is worth targeting. It's a shame people will take care of their PCs but not their phones.

    • Ben S
      November 8, 2014 at 6:19 pm

      It is really a shame that people don't realize their phones are computers, too. There's a lot that needs to be done to secure them, and most people don't even think about it. You're right, Joe.

      I wonder why this is. Perhaps people still think of phones like they're all old flip models from the early 2000s.