Yes, this celeb photo hack is really bad for the cloud industry

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

We don’t yet know—and may not know for some time—how exactly the hackers did it. But we do know that nude photos of celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton were stolen, and the cloud appears to be to blame.

Apple is investigating whether its iCloud service was the source, as alleged in many reports. (Update: Apple says photo theft used passwords, not a break-in to iCloud.)

But at this point, it doesn’t entirely matter whether Apple could’ve done anything to prevent the breach. That’s because consumers and businesspeople already have a general uneasiness with storing things in the cloud—and this would seem to confirm our worst fears about it.

A post on Ars Technica puts it bluntly:

Because Apple and other devices automatically upload so much to the cloud, by default—including full phone backups, which, if an account is compromised, could be downloaded by an attacker onto another device—these personal cloud services are particularly dangerous.

Ultimately, this could be bad news for any startup that sends a consumer’s or company’s data to the cloud (which is just about every software startup these days). The benefits of using the cloud are enormous in many cases, sure. But the risks could be a lot harder to dispel following such a high-profile incident.

The conclusion—of the Ars Technica post, and probably of many who’ve heard about this incident—is that avoiding the cloud, at least for the most sensitive materials, is likely the only sure-fire way to protect yourself:

It’s not that it’s celebrities’ fault for being hacked; it’s just that they should arm themselves with the knowledge that the cloud is fundamentally insecure in the future. And mobile device manufacturers and cloud providers need to make security much more transparent to users and give them more control about what stays in the cloud.

Kyle Alspach has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since 2005 and was one of the original staff writers at BetaBoston.
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