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What Really Happened in Celebgate?


So what happened in the celebrity leaked photos scandal breaking out this week? The one dubbed ( Celebgate )?

Let’s examine the facts piece by piece.

Several chat boards and online bulletin boards boasted links this week to leaked celebrity pictures of big names on the celebrity arena such as Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton among many others. The victims in this massive leaked celeb photos wave include Rihanna, Kirsten Dunst, Selena Gomez, Brie Larson, and Jessica Brown Findlay. Ariana Grande and Victoria Justice say the nudes posted of them are fakes.

What is dubbed now as celebgate took the internet world in a frenzy. From people attacking cloud providing companies such as Apple and Google for failure to protect those ladies’ privacy to people searching for download links (pervert’s heaven) to rights groups urging to respect the privacy of celebs involved to, of course, those “people” slut shaming the women for taking nude photos of themselves. In other words, if you are not talking about celebgate, you should be.

So what did happen EXACTLY in Celebgate?

Let’s admit it, smartphones can be hacked. Hackers are a fact of life. Someone went and basically got those ladies’ Apple (most of them apparently owning an iPhone) or Google credentials and easily located their files, including their photos. Apple’s iCloud  and Google hacked? Jury is still out on that one. Apple did say it was “outraged” at the breach once the photos retrieved from over 100+ celebrity accounts were leaked and spent almost 40 hours investigating (photos had then been shared a billion times and could be found in under 5 minutes flat, I personally tried finding them but didn’t download, more on that below).    

So now you have the basic facts, accounts were compromised, nude or semi nude photos (PRIVATE nude photos at that) were shared and everyone’s thoughts on cyber safety are shattered.  Does it end here? No, it doesn’t.


Let’s break down how this issue should affect the world of social media and internet safety.

I find it easier to put myself into anyone’s shoes and ask the average questions.

1- Were Apple and Google hacked? Was there a security breech?

Nope, what basically happened is that those hackers (teenagers with too much time on their hands) spent a considerable amount of time guessing those celebrity passwords via the security questions section, designed to help you retrieve your account if you fail to remember your password.

Typically security questions are about personal events in your life (pet’s name, aunt’s name, mother’s maid name, year you graduated high school) , in the celebrity field, any celebrity stalker could easily find answers to those questions.

2- So, they are at fault? Cloud security is awful then! Well, the only fault I managed to think off wasn’t red flagging those accounts after what I assume, days, of putting in wrong information in the security question field. Shouldn’t be there a definite amount of times you are allowed a wrong password/ answers then your account is suspended. Well, it doesn’t seem to be the case here. Those hackers had days and weeks of trial and error with those providers not even noticing something was amiss. 3- Should I turn off my cloud accounts? Should I never share or sync anything online? Sure, if you want to, while you are at it, try to find a rock to sleep under because you are back to the Stone Age! Of Course NOT! What you should contemplate is how this service saves you time by keeping ALL your gadgets synchronized. Remember a time where you had to walk with a flash drive containing your backup information? I, personally, live in that cloud. I need it! I want it!

4- They are coming back for my photos and information!

Hackers are, in fact, choosy when it comes to nude sexting photos. Your photos, if you are an average person who is not in the limelight, mean nothing to them. They usually hack celeb photo storage for money and other favors. Yours will not generate traffic, therefore, mean nothing to them.

5- My password is too easy! I need a difficult password!

Your password is “password”, WOW! However, I feel for you, if you are online and got multiple gadgets operating under the same cloud account. It is very bad for your having to type a complicated password with capital letters, symbols and numbers on many occasions every day. Most providers now provide two steps authentication which could help a lot for security purposes.

I would suggest making up fictional answers to your security questions, for an example, when asked about a favorite aunt how about putting the name of your favorite actress instead?

Has this happened before?

Celebrities are facing similar issues of hacking and invasion of privacy since the dawn of the internet age. In 2003, a sex tape of Paris Hilton, the heiress, had emerged without her consent and became one of the highest-selling porn films in history, although she consented her partner to tape their intimate time together, she never consented it being released to the public. Same was with Kim Kardashian, Reality TV Star, who, later on settled a lawsuit against person releasing the video. Celebgate of 2014, the one we are discussing today, brings to mind what happened to Scarlett Johansson in 2011. Her personal photos were leaked online, spurring the FBI to investigate. She said the photos were meant for her now ex-husband Ryan Reynolds. “I know my best angles,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not like I was shooting a porno. Although there’s nothing wrong with that, either.” The person who hacked her account and that of Christina Aguilera and Mila Kunis was later on caught and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Even HRH Kate Middleton had issues with privacy invasion after a French publication posted nude photos of her with Prince William while on vacation. The photos were snapped from afar and published in an instant. There was an injunction filed with a French court who ordered the publication to hand over the topless photos of Kate Middleton within 24 hours. The royal couple released a statement saying they were “hugely saddened to learn that a French publication and a photographer have invaded their privacy in such a grotesque and totally unjustifiable manner.”

Slut Shaming and Female Body Invasion

As I told you before, it takes under 5 minutes to find those photos and they are just EVERYWHERE, which saddens every woman who can sense the amount of predators and perverts out there with no respect for the meaning of privacy. Twitter and Facebook are buzzing with people attacking and slut shaming the actresses for taking nude or sexually suggestive photos of themselves. No one is looking at or discussing the bigger issue here. There is no proof any of the people involved were sexting or sending those photos to others. For all we know, they were taking those photos of themselves to examine their bodies or in celebration of their form. And what honestly matters, is that they are private photos meant for private viewing.  But it wouldn’t hurt to learn how to protect your private files from being hacked, no? Check the following:

My Top 9 Rules for Internet Safety

Rule #1: Pretty straight forward, don’t snap a picture that is deemed “PG 13+” with an Internet connected smartphone. Celebrating your body? By all means, go for it but snap the photo with a digital camera that is kept safe in your own home. Remember Polaroids? GET ONE!

Rule #2: At a moment of poor judgment, you took a photo that is “naughty” with your phone, hit DELETE!  A rule of thumb is, the longer the images are on your phone, the higher the chances of them being seen or hacked or sent by mistake.

Rule #3:  Install a password protection scheme for your phone. Whether an ioS or Android or blackberry, your phone has several password options installed. Apply them now!

Rule #4: Don’t store your photos in the cloud. Go in your phone settings and manually change them to exclude photos and any other sensitive data.

Rule #5: I am going to sound grossly boring but, please! Choose a unique hard to guess password for cloud account. The longer the log-in credentials and the harder it is to guess, the less vulnerable it will be when it comes to hackers who try thousands of popular passwords until they find one that works.

Rule #6:  If your service offers two step authentication, use it!

Rule # 7: Your service doesn’t offer two step authentication? Don’t use it or don’t store sensitive data on it. Simple as that!

Rule # 8: You are above 18 (or above 21 if I were a mom) and you feel like sending a racy picture to your significant other? Find a secure service or simply wait till you are with them in the same room, show it to them then delete it.  Be wary of services that don’t delete the photos right away, we heard there are applications that allow users to screen-shot their phones even if the photo is being sent via an application, like Snapchat, that promises to delete photos in 10 seconds.

Rule #9 : Phishing Alert! Don’t click on that link! Apple or Google sends an email about updating your information? Close that link now! And send an email to their support service to enquire whether it is for real. I bet you it is not real! I always apply the two second rule! Look at each email you receive, pause for two seconds before opening it and think “could this be scam?” If you have a hunch, you are probably right and it is best not to open that email.

Don’t know if this part counts as an internet safety rule but photos can be recovered even if you delete them.

According to this article, a study conducted by Avast Software, a Prague-based internet security firm, found out that, especially with Android phones, it is quite easy to recover data from someone’s phone even after a “factory settings” sweep.

The company pulled 20 used phones from eBay and was able to get thousands of photos and videos and was even able to discover the identity of several sellers, and one person’s completed loan application.

According to CNET, there are ways to seriously wipe clean your phone if you are planning to sell it or get rid of it.

1. Encrypt your device before the factory settings move, which can be done in the ‘Security’ section of the ‘Settings’ menu.

2. Next for the factory reset, which is done in the ‘Backup & reset’ section of the Settings menu.

3. Extra careful? Go for extra protection by uploading pictures from the internet or “dummy info” on your phone so you are not faced with identity theft.

4. Now perform another factory reset, erasing the dummy data. Repeat this move three times or more to be as secure as secure gets.

5. Your data is not only now buried beneath dummy content, but if someone manages to go this far in your phone’s files, they will find it is encrypted as well.

While we , at NoBullying, encourage everyone to practice photo safety and to refrain from sexting, we also encourage against the victimization of some women who simply took a photo of themselves for whatever reason and then found it online for everyone to see. If it were you, you wouldn’t be so happy or thrilled.

We also would like to remind the world of the story of Amanda Todd, a teenager whose pictures were massively shared online, resulting in her committing suicide.

In conclusion, I urge you to get a password for your smartphones, to note when your phone is “syncing” and if you took a photo that you aren’t thrilled about, hit DELETE and not SEND. Once your photos are out there in the internet universe, it is almost impossible to remove.

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