What the celebrity iCloud photos hack teaches parents

Apple’s iCloud hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons, as private photos of celebrities were taken from their personal accounts by hackers and posted online for all to see.

This was by no means the first example of hackers attempting to glean private information from the iCloud accounts of the famous, and Symantec has previously spoken about email scams masquerading as Apple Support in order to obtain Apple IDs and passwords. But how does a few unfortunate celebrities being targeted by hackers have any bearing on your day-to-day life as a parent?


Cybercriminals evolve as quickly as digital

What this incident highlights to parents is that children are growing up in a constantly connected world, where some of our most sensitive personal information lives online. From learning to communicating with friends, new developments are taking place on a daily basis. It’s never been a better or more exciting time to be a child. However, It’s also a world where the online threat landscape changes from moment to moment. Digital threats are constantly evolving and cybercriminals are continually developing new, more sophisticated tactics.

Internet safety starts with a conversation

The best way that you can start addressing online safety with your children is to talk to them about it. When children understand the reasons why it’s so important, they are far more likely to be careful when they’re online. As the celebrity iCloud hack has clearly demonstrated, even adults don’t always take the necessary steps to protect themselves from hackers. However, by speaking to your child about these issues, they are far more likely to respect the reasons why you have set up parental controls, installed security software and are teaching them about issues such as cloud storage too.

Don’t be complacent about cloud security

If your children are backing up data using cloud storage, then it’s important to be up to speed on how to keep your accounts secure. Firstly, check that you’re not automatically syncing to a cloud service, as many of them are opt-out rather than opt-in. It’s better to change settings to sync manually rather than auto-sync as this gives you and your children better control over what’s being uploaded.

You’re only as strong as your current password

Secondly, it’s crucial that you teach your children the importance of using strong passwords. The recent hacks highlight how easy it is for hackers to guess weak passwords, and proof that the usual suspects such as “Password” simply won’t cut it. Pay particular attention to the passwords for email and social networking accounts and make them as complex and unique as you can. Additionally, avoid using the same password for all your accounts – if one gets hacked, then the rest will be put at risk too.

Don’t talk to strangers

Cloud users also need to be mindful of phishing threats, as hackers are increasingly masquerading as trustworthy bodies in order to trick users into sharing sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and bank details. We’ve seen evidence of phishing with the iCloud hack, with the perpetrators sending emails contain links to phishing websites that will capture your Apple ID credentials and send them back to the attackers. It’s important to teach your children not to share any information with people that they don’t know.

Online is still the ‘real world’

It is vital to remind your children that just because they feel protected by the apparent distance a screen gives between you and the person you’re talking to, online is still the real world. Mid to late teens need to remember that everything they do over the web is captured forever and could come back to haunt them, as many employers and university admissions offices look at social media profiles when researching candidates.

To conclude, the advice I give my own family and friends is to stick to the mantra of ‘If you wouldn’t do it face to face – don’t do it online’. The internet is a fantastic tool, but we must ensure that children grow up aware of how to use it securely.

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