iCloud under fire
Following the leak of private photos and videos of multiple well-known actresses this weekend, Apple has been accused of an alleged breach of security in its iCloud service. Apple is said to be investigating, with Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris saying "We take user privacy very seriously and are actively investigating this report."
But this isn't the first time Apple has come under fire for a celebrity-related security issue. In 2011, a number of celebrities, including Christina Aguilera and Scarlett Johansson were hacked by a Florida man who basically guessed their iCloud passwords or recovered them using publicly known personal details. He then set up forwarding addresses in their e-mail accounts to an account he controlled, which allowing him to answer security confirmation e-mails and take control of their devices.
Is iCloud the culprit once again?
Rik Ferguson, vice-president of security research at Trend Micro, has suggested that weak passwords and a lack of two-factor authentication may have led to the most recent security breach if iCloud is found to be the source of the leaked images. Two-factor authentication combines your password with a pin number either sent to your phone in a text, or created by an app on your phone. It has been available on iCloud since March 2013, but apparently very few people make use of it.
The Next Web also reported that a Python script shared on Github a few days ago may have allowed hackers to exploit a vulnerability in Find My iPhone. The tool allowed hackers to repeatedly guess passwords without being locked out of an iCloud/Apple ID account, brute forcing their way into accounts. Though it is unclear if the tool was responsible for any hacked celebrity accounts, Apple did fix the vulnerability earlier today. Attempting to use the tool now locks an Apple ID after five attempts to guess a password.
But what if iCloud isn't to blame? It's worth noting that in many of the photos, the celebrities pictured are clearly using Android smartphones to take selfies. The range of devices used may mean that another backup service like Dropbox or Google Drive could be the actual source of the leaked photos, as both services also offer automatic backup tools for photos and videos from your smartphone, just like iCloud.
Or it could be something completely different. One of the strangest theories surrounding the hack is that a group of celebrities who attended the recent Emmy Awards were somehow hacked using the venue's Wi-Fi connection. The Black Hat USA conference is often touted as an example of the dangers of using venue Wi-Fi for awards or conferences, with the conference operating a "Wall of Sheep" to showcase the various attendees who have been hacked.
Whatever the actual source, UK comedian Ricky Gervais probably summed it up the best when he tweeted: "Celebrities, make it harder for hackers to get nude photos of you from your computer by not putting nude pics of yourself on your computer."
While it's not J-Law's fault that she got hacked - she's definitely a victim here - she, as well as the rest of us, should be more aware in future that anything stored in the cloud, no matter what service you're using, is fundamentally insecure.
Next: How to keep your private photos safe