Belfast Telegraph

Nude celebrity pictures scandal show the web's a blessing... and a curse

By Frances Burscough

Since that eureka moment when the internet went live, we have become inextricably entwined in the world wide web. Day by day, bit by bit, pixel by pixel, we have entrusted our most intimate details to a system few of us even remotely understand.

Of course we have. It's the way forward. The benefits to our lives have been so wide and varied, it's difficult to imagine how we manage before.

So, to keep up with technological advances, we've blithely passed on our entire identities one click at a time, until everything but our very souls have been sucked into cyberspace.

What's more, we've done so willingly. We entrusted our lives to a filing system more complex than we can comprehend, then assumed it would remain safe and secure as long as we remember our passwords (even then, all it takes is our mother's maiden name for an almighty hint).

But now, the downside of all this technology is beginning to rear its ugly head. In this latest scandal, more than 100 celebrities have had private nude pictures leaked onto the net.

Now that in itself isn't so unusual. Rarely a week goes by in the press without some vengeful ex-boyfriend leaking a nudie of a star, or for an ambitious agent to leak one as a publicity stunt.

In fact, it's so commonplace that at first it's difficult to fathom what all the fuss is about. After all, how many of us actually care about the privacy of a superstar who has gained fame and fortune from effectively selling his/her image to the highest bidder? Doesn't it go with the territory? Isn't that what they're buying into?

However, the uproar this time comes with good reason. These pictures were all stolen, not from individual devices, but directly from iCloud itself.

One of the reasons the iPhone became so popular was that it has an unlimited capacity for image storage. Every time a user takes a picture, it is automatically uploaded onto this universal archive. The advantage is that nothing is ever lost. But the disadvantage is precisely the same.

Even though images on iCloud are encrypted and can only be accessed by a code and password, someone has foiled it.

And even the organisation that designed the programme hasn't a clue how it's been done. In fact, they're so baffled, the FBI has been called in to investigate. The fear is that these hackers are simply showing what they're capable of, before they begin to hold the world and his wife to ransom.

So it seems the celebrity pictures are just the tip of the iceberg. If hackers now have the knowledge, method and ability to access the very epicentre of all databases, then virtually anything is possible. Who cares about Jennifer Lawrence's privacy?

Well, we all should. Because, whether we like it or not, we all have our lives stored online.

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