Five tips to keep your private photos and documents safe from hackers

September 8, 2014

Revealing photos of A-list celebrities have recently found their way onto the internet over the past week or so.

The stars - including Hunger Games actress Jennifer Lawrence (pictured), Rihanna, Kirsten Dunst and Kate Upton - were shocked to discover that photos, some nude, they thought were private had been stolen.

In many reports a hack called iBrute that exploited a weakness in Apple's iCloud security is accused as the most likely culprit. And Apple has investigated and already tightened the password-related weakness.

However, other observers aren't so sure Apple was at fault. They claim that some of the images originated on Android devices and had never existed on the iCloud. There are suggestions a single hacker amassed the collection of intimate snaps after acquiring email contacts from, possibly, a stolen mobile phone.

Meanwhile, The FBI has launched an investigation saying they were "aware of allegations" and were "addressing the matter".

While it's hard to feel too much sympathy for the mega-star millionaires, the whole issue raises serious concerns about keeping private pictures private. Even if you have nothing more racy than your holiday snaps on your phone, imagine how you would feel if they suddenly became public property.

Here are some tips to keep your stuff out of the hackers' clutches:

Power-up your passwords. Secure your phone with a passcode lock, create passwords that are a complex mixture of letters, numbers and characters. Avoid using sequences that match up with anything else, such as your phone number.

Keep an eye on the cloud. Don't mindlessly go with settings that automatically backup images to the cloud, whether iCloud or one of the others such as Dropbox. Investigate the deletion process - just because you've deleted it from your phone, doesn't mean it's gone from the cloud.

Exercise a little caution. Think twice before downloading apps, do you know where they come from? And once you've bagged an app, make sure you are aware of what permissions you've granted it. Don't agree without understanding what it means. In all your digital dealings, make sure you know and trust the organisations and people you are dealing with - things are not always as they seem at first glance.

It's not all about you. Before you relax in the knowledge that you're not in any digital danger, have a think about what else you use your phone or tablet for. Do you open sensitive documents from work? Have colleagues or family members used your device? Are you sure you understand everything that's happening on your device and have you checked your settings lately. If you use your mobile device for work, you might need a secure document workflow solution.

The easiest solution. Simply, don't take photos of yourself naked or, if you must, exercise great caution about where you put them and with whom you share them with.

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