Hacked clouds?! There is a lesson in this for everyone

Academy Award winning actress Jennifer Lawrence was one of several celebrities recently affected when a hacker stole images from Apple iCloud Photo by JOE KLAMAR - © 2013 AFP - Image courtesy gettyimages.com
Academy Award winning actress Jennifer Lawrence was one of several celebrities recently affected when a hacker stole images from Apple iCloud
Photo by JOE KLAMAR – © 2013 AFP – Image courtesy gettyimages.com

By now, I’m sure many of you are aware of the infamous Apple iCloud hack which ended with the theft of several celebrities’ nude portraits. When I heard of this, a lot of things came to mind, however, I figure, as Abanathy Photography, LLC is, along with our traditional work, a boudoir photography studio, I might have something to offer to the conversation.

If you are unaware of this iCloud breach, click here to get the details! 

Of course, as I indicated in my lead, the headline notes the hack. However, it is also quick to dive right into the gossip aspect. And that is of it having resulted in the unintended public release of nude images taken of several celebrities including, among others, Academy Award winning actress Jennifer Lawrence and Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kate Upton.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I agree this was an incredible breach of privacy and the perpetrator should be prosecuted as such. However, as a professional photographer who is overly cautious when it comes to intimate photography, as a 35-year-old man who has been working with the internet even before it was cool, and as a rational human being, I have to ask: What were they thinking placing such sensitive images anywhere near an internet cloud in the first place?

These days, it seems many of the younger generation place way too much confidence in the online universe and what it offers in the way of privacy and protection (even though no service has truly offered much in the way of guarantees). Perhaps in my 35 years I am a bit more apprehensive, as I have yet to see an impenetrable online vault…and I don’t expect to see one any time soon.

NPR recently posted a story (The Myth Of The Private Naked Selfie) relating to this infamous hack noting security measures are always aiming for improvement, but notes the complete privacy of online storage is somewhat elusive.

All this being said, I am a little surprised, almost suspicious, Lawrence, one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actresses would even fathom uploading legitimate nude images of herself into a third party’s digital hands. This is especially true, as Lawrence, as of today, has not performed a nude scene in a movie (no, I have not watched all her movies with fingers crossed, but rather did my homework before writing this blog 🙂 ).

Had she already performed such a scene, the stolen images would be somewhat devalued. Therefore, the lack of a commercially released image, makes these images, to the unscrupulous hacker, pure gold! It would be like placing the only copy of a rare Elvis recording into a lock box with minimal security on Times Square and expecting nobody to even consider stealing it. Eventually a professional thief with the right tools and knowhow is going to come along. And that is nearly what happened here.

As I indicated above, this situation hints at a breach with a purpose. After all, this type of scandal partially fuels Hollywood and I’m sure the affected celebrities will eventually see a boost in their image and pay as a result of this. Perhaps this is another part of being 35. by now, I’ve seen this scenario way too many times. However, if this were revealed as a publicity scandal, the lesson would be lost. So, let’s not go down that road just yet.

Instead, let’s pretend for a moment this was not some kind of publicity stunt. Let’s pretend this is simple. Let’s pretend this is an honest case where well-known celebrities uploaded potentially damaging images thinking they were private and secure. Then an experienced hacker broke in and stole said images and posted in online galleries for all to see. Lastly, let’s pretend this could actually irreparably damage a celebrity’s career.

Given this scenario, I say: “I hope you learned your lesson, though it is surprising, to me, you would be so naive to begin with”. To everyone else, I would say take a good look! You might not be a sought-after celebrity, but that does not mean intimate portraits of you stolen from an online database can’t severely damage your life.

And the truly scary thing is our society’s current shift to, and trust in, cloud-based storage in the first place. I can understand the need to have anywhere access to some of your files, however I believe discretion would be key in this convenience. The downside is: As more and more people begin indiscriminately using the cloud (in lieu of personal hard drives) for EVERYTHING digital, I fear the options might become few and none for true (and relatively free) private storage. In other words, if the personal hard drive market dries up, so does your option of private vs. public storage. But that is a topic, hopefully for a blog waaaaaaay down the line 🙂

Fortunately, we still have the option for personal hard drive storage and, For me, this is where I can bring this whole incident down into a local perspective. On a professional level, and as an intimate portrait photographer, I know better than to be indiscriminate about file storage.

Now, I know I will unlikely ever be tasked with securing the intimate portraits of a celebrity. However, it is very possible I may shoot a “You by Abanathy Photography” boudoir session of someone who is well-known in the community (i.e. a teacher or local politician). That is why, when we book a “You” session, we are very specific on how we keep and store the images.

In fact, we leave much of the security options up to the client. Most notably is our in-house vs. out-of-house printing liability waiver. Our clients have the option to either have their intimate portraits uploaded to a private, online gallery for printing by a third party OR to have them kept offline and isolated at our password-protected studio where we print them. Also, we would never use a client’s portraits for public or publicity use without their expressed written consent (these and other concerns are addressed in our “You” FAQ page)

Of course, we can’t control what you do with your portraits once we hand them over to you and that is where this infamous iCloud hack relates even to the everyday client. As we hand these sensitive images over to you, or as you create your own intimate portraits, we implore you to use the same discretion as we do when storing them. Because, unlike celebrities who tend to positively bounce back from such incidents, the everyday joe or jane could instead face harsh consequences down the line.

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