Head in the clouds

There are some very smart, conscienceless people who are intent on stealing personal information.

The revelation this past weekend that personal data accounts of some celebrities had been hacked shines another light on how sophisticated and ruthless these Internet outlaws are. Nude photos of some celebrities were posted on websites and it remains to be seen how much other private information was stolen.

In these cases, the security breaches were the result of “cloud” computing – using Internet servers to back up data stored on personal computers or mobile devices. Apple Computer admitted that a flaw in its iCloud and Find My iPhone software may have opened the door for the theft of data. The company says the software has been fixed and that it believes the breach was limited.

But even if this particular open door has been locked, there will be more data thefts in the future. Apparently, data theft can be very profitable and it therefore draws a lot of brilliant psychopaths to try their hand at stealing personal information.

There are things you can do to help with a roadblock for the would-be thieves. The most obvious one, of course, is don’t store personal data on cloud computers. The Sydney (Australia) Herald advises its readers in a story to turn off the Photo Stream setting in the iPhone. Then photos taken with your phone won’t be automatically uploaded to iCloud.

The Herald story also recommends using different passwords for different Internet accounts. A lazy user who has the same password for all accounts will find that a single breach can open up everything from iCloud to personal banking records.

At the risk of once again sounding like a computer Luddite, we’d urge readers to be very careful with storing data on remote servers. A nice little USB drive that can be detached from your computer is a great place to back up personal information.

Don’t put anything you want kept private on a device – or a cloud – that is just a few clicks away from becoming a public bulletin board.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.