The Snapchat celebrity photo leak that saw over 500 photos of celebrities such as Kaley Cuoco, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Jennifer Lawrence made accessible to the public serves as a wakeup call if you use social media. This is an invasion of privacy, which could happen to you, and it probably already has though it only makes big news when it involves celebrities. However, while it may be a traumatizing experience for the persons involved, the hacking has some lessons that you could apply to protect yourself from becoming the next victim of such an incident.
Watch what you Save
While we cannot blame the victims of the hack, it is important that you take measures to ensure that you only save pictures or files that you would not mind if they leaked to the public. No messaging app is secure as it says it is as even Snapchat’s disposable picture messenger allows a recipient to take a snapshot of your image and save it for later use. A malicious recipient will simply take the screenshot and spread it to their network. Having pictures that may potentially embarrass you on the service is thus not advisable.
Always Encrypt Your Devices
It is important to encrypt your devices if you store any potentially embarrassing data or images on it. A good method of protecting yourself when online is through ensuring you only access websites that encrypt your session through the “https” protocol. One of the most effective server side protections is accessing your social media sites is using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN adds a layer of protection by encrypting your data and routing it through a secure offsite server, thus preventing unauthorized persons from having access to, or intercepting your data connection.
Have Strong Passwords
While initial investigations blamed the iCloud for the leaks, later information shows that hackers gained access through targeting usernames with weak security questions, and passwords. If you are like most people, your passwords will contain common and easily identifiable personal information that will be easy for a hacker to guess. It is important to ensure that you make passwords that are as secure as possible. Follow recommended tips for making a strong yet memorable password that hackers cannot crack with brute force attacks. Given that remembering passwords for multiple accounts may be impractical, I recommend you use password management programs such as Passwordsafe and LastPass that encrypt all your stored passwords. Lastly, use different usernames and passwords for all your accounts.
Make Use of Two Factor Authentication
Be sure to add two-factor authentication for any of your social media accounts that support the function. You need two-factor authentication since it adds an extra layer of security to your account given that access to the account needs a code retrieved from the phone in addition to the password. While a persistent hacker might crack your password, it is almost impossible for them to access the code that you receive on your phone. While, it may seem inconvenient when you implement it for the first time, the extra security is well worth it. Visit TwoFactorAuth.org, a website that provides the list of two factor procedures and compatibility for hundreds of sites that you may be using.
Take Charge of Your Account
Social media sites frequently change their privacy settings, which mean you, may have to monitor what persons have access to what you are sharing regularly. If you have added any third party apps recently, or frequently do so, always ensure that they are current and safe. Delete any apps that you have not used for a long time or that you do not remember giving access to. It is important to note that it was third party app “Snapsave” that is responsible for the hacking of Snapchat. Users gave unfettered access to the unsecure app making it easy to hack their accounts. Periodically check out your friends list and know your audience so that you can filter out any weird persons whose friend’s request you may have unknowingly accepted.
A good rule of thumb to protect yourself online is “the less information and images you share with your audience, the less the chance that your account will be subject to hacking.” Periodically Googling yourself is also an effective way of knowing how much information is presented when someone is searching for you.
Do not Sync Private Images to the Cloud
While many cloud services have enhanced their security practices since the Snapchat hack, it is important that you take into account that hackers are always looking for ways to counteract such measures. Moreover, no company’s security practices are 100% hack proof and hence it is up to you to take measures to protect your data. Always assume that any images you upload or sync to the cloud may be accessible to the public. Therefore do not rely on technology companies to protect your data since even the large companies such as Yahoo or Google are vulnerable to hacking. Lastly, read your company’s privacy policies regarding the data they collect about you and the access to your given to other persons sharing the same facilities before you subscribe to the service.