How to protect your privacy in 'the cloud'

The recent spate of celebrity hackings make it more apparent than ever that it is crucial to protect pictures and privacy in the digital age.

What is "the cloud?"
Put simply, the cloud is just a metaphor for the Internet. In a nutshell, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of on your computer's hard drive.

What are the popular Cloud platforms?
Three of the most popular Cloud platforms are Apple's iCloud, Google Drive and DropBox. All three are free at a basic level and as you add more storage, you pay for that storage.

What happened with the celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton?
What happened with the celebrities is that they most likely took photos with their iPhone, and then they uploaded those images to iCloud. iCloud is Apple's own version of the Cloud. The celebrities might have done this for a couple of reasons. One, photos take a lot of data on a phone and people often remove them to make space for other applications. Two, the celebrities may have been worried if their phone was stolen, those pictures would be at risk for being leaked. Thus, they uploaded the photos to iCloud - thinking they would be safe.

Was Apple's iCloud hacked?
The answer is that we do not know. As of Monday afternoon, Apple has not yet released a statement saying whether or not iCloud as a whole was hacked. What some technology experts suggest is that the hacker was able to get into each celebrity's account individually. This is more likely because it's easier to hack an individual account rather than an entire system like Apple's iCloud.

How safe is the Cloud and how can I prevent myself from being hacked?
The Cloud is not as fool-proof. Because you're uploading data to a server that you don't have ownership or physical access to, you cannot be certain that your content is 100 percent safe. For that reason, you should never upload anything to the Cloud that you would be worried about showing up online publicly. This goes for photos, videos, writing and any kind of sensitive business information like spreadsheets and presentations.

How do I protect my account?
If you are going to post content to the Cloud, you should take extra steps to protect your account.

One option is to sign up for two-factor authentication if it's available. This feature requires you to login twice--once with a passcode and once with a temporary pin that you are sent via SMS. A hacker wouldn't have access to that temporary pin, thus they could not hack your account.

The second and easiest thing to do is to create stronger passwords-and never use the same password twice.

As we have so many passwords, this can be very tricky to remember them all. Software like Last Pass is a great, inexpensive solution. The software stores all of your passwords and provides a master password that you can use to gain access to it. It will also generate complex passwords and remember those in its system for the next time you log in using your master password. More information is available at LastPass.com.
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