It’d be hard to miss the headlines about Hollywood stars’ iCloud accounts being hacked. What should have been private photos–including several nude photos intended for only specific and personal eyes–were suddenly made public. Apparently, Apple’s iCloud online backup service had a serious security flaw that enabled criminals to repeatedly and limitlessly guess passwords without being shut off from the task of logging into others’ accounts–as opposed to other companies that lock a person out after a series of unsuccessful login attempts. In response to this scandal, Apple has reportedly agreed to strengthen its security protocol, stating they will add alerts to inform their users about activities that indicate signs of hackers. In two weeks, they will add “push notifications”–that is, emails and alerts sent from Apple to customers–when someone attempts to change the password on their iCloud account, upload users’ personal account data onto a new device, or when someone tries to log into their accounts for the first time from an unknown device. These changes reflect a step up from Apple simply emailing customers when someone changed their account after the fact, or when someone logged into their account from a new device–and users were not notified when someone loaded an iCloud backup onto another device.

Reportedly a list of 100 celebrity women as well as one male actor had photos downloaded by at least one hacker. Actors included in this crime are Jennifer Lawrence, Hayden Panettiere, Kirsten Dunst, Mary Kate Olsen, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Winona Ryder, Aubrey Plaza, as well as Dave Franco although reports state that not all the victims listed had racy photos leaked. Some other victims were described as “D-listers.”

Can you imagine waking up only to find the media was reporting that your most personal photos were being distributed like wildfire via the internet? Well, that’s how many of the victims became aware of this deeply disturbing violation of their privacy. Jennifer Lawrence, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Kate Upton quickly came forward to confirm the images were indeed of them. Whereas others like singer-actress Victoria Justice, singer Ariana Grande, and gymnast McKayla Maroney insisted the circulated pictures were fake. Victoria Justice later put out a statement reading: “Shortly after I tweeted about certain pics of me being fake, I was faced with a serious violation of privacy. There have always been fake photos of me on the internet, but I will not be put in the position to defend myself as to what is real or what is fake. I am angry at this massive invasion of privacy, and like the other women who are in this situation alongside of me, I am taking legal action to protect my rights.” In other words, it sounds like she has become aware of some hacked photos that are really her.

What a nightmare! What can you do to protect yourself? First of all, experts are saying this can happen to anyone–regardless of fame. So, here are some ways to safeguard your private digital property:

Password Empowerment

Many people create passwords out of convenience so that they are easier to remember, and they tend to use the same password on different sites. Does your password include a name of your pet or loved one? Well, if you’re famous, informative sites like Wikipedia or IMDb can publicly display this info making you particularly vulnerable to hackers. But even if you’re not so famous (…yet!) such names can still be accessed through a variety of other websites. Experts highly recommend that people practice using more complex passwords that include a combination of at least one uppercase letter, one number, and one character. They also say that the longer a password is, the better. Using a different password for each account is strongly advised as well. That way if one of your accounts is hacked, your other accounts won’t be compromised.

Cloud Awareness

You know that “before” shot you took before your bun-burning exercise video, or that risque selfie you intended only for your significant other, or maybe that wild night out with your friends that was captured on your device? You may think you’ve deleted certain photos or videos, but they still may be stored in cloud services unbeknownst to you. Be aware that even if you delete a photo or video from your iPhone, iPad, or Apple laptop, it still may be backed up in your iCloud because your data doesn’t reside on your device alone. iCloud can include any data from iMessage, Photostream as well as photos that other people send to you. In fact, whoever you share images with will likely have that image stored on each of their devices as well as Apple’s computer servers. After all, cloud services store this way by default. But it’s not just Apple; Google Drive/Android users have their photos stored at a Google data cloud center (GOOG), and Microsoft’s OneDrive/Windows Phone and laptops have their photos stored at a Microsoft cloud center. But that’s not all! Did you know that companies such as Cisco, IBM, and Verizon strike deals with these companies to help manage the vast quantities of data we produce? That means your private documents can end up on servers of companies that you never signed up for. Now, hackers would have a difficult time accessing these photos, but be aware that your images are no longer in your full control. And this includes your documents as well, so don’t create digital password lists, or create documents with your social security or credit card numbers. And be aware that unless you take deliberate steps, your files are not restricted to the device on which you create them. So make sure to check your settings.

Mary Winstead, for example tweeted, “Knowing those photos were deleted long ago, I can only imagine the creepy effort that went into this. Feeling for everyone who got hacked.” Fortunately, Apple and those hurt by this crime are working together with law enforcement including the FBI to catch those involved in this crime.

Being an actor is a profession where you bare your soul to the world and get paid for that service. It’s not a career path in which the public is entitled to to have access to your most personal images, interactions, and documents. As you move forward with your career, we’re hoping you can keep all you intend to be personal truly private!

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