Celebrities and Cloud Hosting: Highlighting Security Risks

There is no question about it: people are fixated with celebrities. Pictures of the stars can sell for lots of money, and let's not forget those who blackmail them using provocative pictures. A recent case highlights the issue and how it relates to the cloud, and in turn, cheap website hosting.

Celebrities and Cloud Hosting: Highlighting Security RisksYou may have heard of Christopher Chaney, the man who hacked into email accounts of various celebrities over the period of 11 months and uncovered intimate photographs of the over 50 high profile victims, including Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis. In doing so, it proved that it isn't as hard as people think to attack the cloud. You don't even need to know anything at all about hacking.

Celebrities and Cloud Hosting: Highlighting Security Risks, The Problem

That's right, anyone can do it. And Woodrow Hartzog, professor at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama who studies social media and digital security, knows why this is such a problem.

“It is still a significant issue,” he said. “These kinds of attacks can ruin people immediately.”

Chaney hacked into online accounts at Google, Apple, AOL, and Yahoo! starting in 2010. The way he broke into the accounts shows the glitches in the security of certain cloud-based services.

He began by accessing the Apple MobileMe (what we know as iCloud today) account of Simone Harouche, a celebrity stylist. He obtained her email address, entered it in the login page, and clicked “Forgot Your Password.”

Social Media: How It Fits In The Puzzle

When you tell the system you forgot your password, the user is then asked security questions such as “In which city did your mother and father meet?” or “Which of the cars you've owned has been your favorite?”

Taking this information, you just turn to Google. There, you see pictures of the celebrity driving around in a car, or finding out through an interview you did in a magazine where your parents met. It doesn't take long to crack the code to get in.

Hartzog said, “We're all at risk of attacks through this kind of social engineering. So much of our information is out there, it really underscores the significance of limiting who can access your personal information online.”

Chaney went on to see who she was emailing, noting contacts and their email addresses. When she resumed control of her account by contacting Apple, he was still able to see all of her messages. He entered an address that was forwarded every single email she received. The account he kept was under the alias Nick Chulbert, although he was also trainreqsuckswhat, jaxjaguars911, and anonygrrl.

Celebrities and Cloud Hosting: Highlighting Security Risks, Many Other Victims

He went on to breach the security of Christina Aguilera's account. He was able to pretend to be Harouche, convincing her to send pictures of the pop star in “very little clothing,” which worked according to the plea bargain.

He published those pictures, then went on to do the same to Scarlett Johansson through her Yahoo! account, then Mila Kunis who held an Apple account.

It wasn't just the pictures, though. It was unpublished movie scripts, Social Security cards, business contracts, and other highly sensitive information, that he was able to obtain. This is exactly what one must calculate as a risk when using cheap website hosting, more specifically, cloud hosting.

Celebrities and Cloud Hosting: Highlighting Security Risks, What You Can Do

Your first defense is an almost impossible to hack password, and even harder to hack answer to the security questions. For example, if they ask for your mother's maiden name, use her nickname for the answer instead, or even the horrible nickname you gave her when you were a kid and she was punishing you for something. Make it something so incredibly odd that no one would be able to come up with it. Be super creative when crafting your answer.

It should also be said you should limit what people can find out about you by simply running a Google search. Google yourself and see what comes up. Does it surprise you? Change it. Figure out how to make that information disappear and protect yourself from being hacked.

Is this something that concerns you with your cheap website hosting company?


  • Animals says:

    Good information. Lucky me I came across your blog by accident (stumbleupon).

    I’ve saved as a favorite for later!

  • Carol says:

    After reading this article, it makes me uncomfortable knowing how easy it is for people to hack into my email accounts. To think someone out there is Googling me to find information then using it to gain access to my personal accounts is scary. To be on the safe side I’m going to change my passwords and security questions to prevent anyone from hacking into my email.

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