How to Stop Hackers From Accessing Cloud Photos: Celebrity Leaks Highlight Need

September 3, 2014 Updated: September 4, 2014

Many mobile devices are set to automatically synchronize with users’ online accounts—a convenient feature in many ways, as it promises users won’t have to worry about backing up, restoring, or losing data. With the benefits of cloud storage, however, come risks. 

Recently, private photos stored in the iCloud accounts of some celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence and Kirsten Dunst, leaked to the public. Apple said a hacker attack was aimed specifically at certain celebrity accounts, while denying that its online systems have been breached. 

As Apple works with authorities to investigate allegations of computer intrusions and to increase security features, users can take some immediate steps to protect their data. 

How to Disable Auto-Synchronization

Users have the option to backup photos and other data to a local computer, but this can sometimes be cumbersome for the average user. Another option is to disable the automatic synchronization of images to the cloud.  

For iPhones: Go to “settings,” then “iCloud,” then “photos.” From there, users can disable “photo sharing” and “photo stream.” 

For Android: go to “menu,” then “settings,” then “camera and photos.” From there, users can turn off “auto backup.”  

By keeping sensitive data on a local storage device and only releasing less sensitive data to the cloud, users can mitigate the impact of any potential hacks. While the cloud feature makes it easy to get a new device up and running (users can access their data, photos, et cetera, in the cloud without having to upload them to the new device), the wealth of data in the cloud could make it a lucrative target for hackers. 

Apple’s new iPhone, expected to be unveiled Sept. 9, is said to have increased security and privacy features.