The Celebrity Photo Hack: Were Phones Hacked Over Public WiFi?

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Were the phones of celebrities hacked via WiFi, perhaps at a celebrity event? Although this is not known or confirmed, it’s one possibility among many being floated around the Internet in the wake of the naked photo scandal rocking Hollywood.

A new TechCrunch article shared a quote from actress Jennifer Lawrence, who previously said, “My iCloud keeps telling me to back it up, and I’m like, I don’t know how to back you up. Do it yourself.” Metadata in the images shows that the majority of the hacked photos were taken using Apple devices.

On Tuesday, Apple said they found no systems breach related to the celebrity picture leak.

However, while Apple is protecting their own brand, they’re also not advising the public that this technically could have have been the result of a public WiFi hack.

So to one of TechCrunch’s theory — what if phones were hacked via WiFi — this is a scary reminder that public WiFi hotspots can leave your private communications exposed. It’s almost like leaving your front door unlocked and then crying when thieves break in and saying “but I just don’t know how to turn the lock…”

A VPN like PRIVATE WiFi on your laptop, smartphone, or tablet would encrypt all your sensitive communications — and create a “secure tunnel” between your data and any prying eyes.

After all, WiFi signals are radio waves, and anyone within range of a public WiFi network can listen in on what users are sending and receiving. Unlike home WiFi networks, most public WiFi hotspots don’t encrypt the data being transmitted. The 2013 Identity Fraud Report released by Javelin Strategy & Research found that the number of identity fraud victims increased to 12.6 million consumers; that is more than one out of every 20 U.S. consumers. The report shows that smartphone and tablet users were often targeted by malware, phishing exploits, and unsecured WiFi connections.

While this Hollywood hacking story may take another turn — it could have been the result of any number of devious methods — using a VPN is as important (if not more) than using firewalls, antivirus, and a good dose of common sense.

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Elaine Rigoli

Elaine Rigoli is PRIVATE WiFi's manager of digital content strategy.