There have been a few complaints around these parts lately because Pajiba’s been covering what some were previously calling “leaks,” and what Jennifer Lawrence aptly corrected to “sex crimes” — the theft of nude celebrity photos. And of course, if you put together the words “nude and “celebrity,” it might drive a bit of traffic to your site, but I feel comfortable saying that when we do put up pieces about this sort of thing, it’s more about a) covering the stories we think people are discussing and want to discuss, and b) the actual discourse the pieces spur. Now sometimes the results aren’t exactly what we’d have hoped, but other times there are interesting and evolving public conversations. I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that many of us have come to, and stayed around Pajiba because of the open and (usually) fairly respectful discussions we have around here. People don’t come here solely to read news bites or catch the latest Seriously Random List; they also come (at least I hope and believe) for the community.
It’s been interesting and enlightening to read all the opinions on stolen celebrity photos, and what course of action said celebrities should take to ensure pictures of their bits aren’t being put up for public auction. I’ve seen everything from the usual, “Well, if you don’t want your naked photos out there, don’t take them in the first place,” to “We already saw your tits in X movie, so what are you worried about,” to last night’s almost brilliant suggestion that Jennifer Lawrence makes enough money to hire Liam Neeson to track down the hackers, and so she should. Indeed, the situation already seems past anyone’s control — whatever photos (and you can be sure it wasn’t just photos) have been stolen are already taken (there’s possibly a checklist of celebrities still to come) — and suing Google isn’t really going to change anything for those people now. There also seems to be some inherent flaw in the technology security system that allows hackers to get at people’s “private” cloud data; but will doubling your iPhone security really keep the bad guys out for long? (More on that in a minute.) I’m sure Google and Apple have kept their teams on shifts, hopped up on triple shot, organic, cold-brewed Frappabrainstormers, and think-tanking future solutions, but for now whatever’s out there is out there. The damage is done.
There’s the obvious down side to celebrities being the hacker targets, but for regular folk, there’s also a *slight* bit of an upside: celebrities are big news and draw attention — they hire lawyers and publicists who make a stink in public, and therefore the people seeking solutions will work that much harder and faster to figure out this mess. (It’s a little sad, but it’s also a fact of this American life.) Anyone with half a brain and little to no technological background can see that nude photos are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. No hacker worth his salt is going to be content with celebrity nudes, and for those whose sympathy gene went missing, wake up and realize that somewhere down the line, you’re next. No, maybe not your nude photos, or that scathing email to your spouse who just happens to be the CEO of Xerox; rather, your bank account, your IRA, credit cards…medical records — you get the picture. We’ve seen the preliminary moves already (Target, Citibank, Home Depot, Chase); cyber-criminals are likely ten steps ahead before the technology police even realize the possibility of what they’re doing (ask anyone who works in IT — by the time they get any one aspect of a firm’s technology updated, that technology is probably already outdated). Let’s be clear here; stealing data is stealing data — whether it be phone/account numbers, code, messages, documents, photos. To those who smugly say “Nothing’s private anymore,” I wonder if you’re remembering where your own records are. Do you have all your cash stuffed under the mattress, or did you just forget your own bank/employer/credit card company/hospital has everything in cloudland as well?
All of this to say, “What now?” People like Matt Smith, Daisy Lowe, Rita Ora and Jennifer Lawrence can either sit back quietly, or loudly speak out. Their most important role could be that of someone who can effect change, faster than you and me. Right now, it seems like everyone’s just spinning in circles, we don’t know exactly who should be held responsible for data security — who to blame, or how to catch the perpetrators.
An interesting conversation with the mister — who works in cloud computing technology — clued me in a little better on “strong authentication,” which can involve the use of time-based tokens. Strong authentication is something you know (password) combined with something you have (a computer-generated token) so a hacker can’t break in, because they can only have one of the two. The hacker would have to steal your phone *and* know your password, thereby making it near impossible for thieves to steal your data. Likewise, Apple Pay is a secure system for paying with one-transaction generated credit-card numbers, which makes credit-card number theft also near impossible. It’s clear that merely having a (often easily-guessable) password on one’s phone and/or computer is not protection enough for anyone, celebrity or not.
At the very least what we can do here is not rip apart other people for being human, just like the rest of us. The celebrities (who choose to do so) can speak out and bring attention to the matter, writers can try to foster discussion, and maybe the end result is a few less privacy-invaded, stolen data victims.