Overexposed: Online privacy, even on the cloud, can be elusive

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It is a rare celebrity who dreads exposure, but the computer hackers who broke into Apple’s iCloud service platform to steal intimate photos, emails and phone contacts of well-known actors have brought new meaning to the problem.

The FBI is not amused. The bureau is investigating the theft of nude photos from what was supposed to be the protected iCloud account of actress Jennifer Lawrence. Ms. Lawrence’s photos were deposited on an anonymous image sharing site where the public has unrestricted access.

As many as 100 celebrities have had their iCloud accounts compromised by determined hackers. They are believed to have taken advantage of a back door in Apple’s “Find My iPhone” app to infiltrate and raid the image storing platform. That back door has since been closed, but the fix comes too late for many who once believed that cloud-based platforms added an extra layer of security that was practically impregnable.

It shouldn’t be necessary to state the obvious, but in this case it is: Because there are bad people lurking on the Internet, a good rule of thumb is to assume that once photos are uploaded, a determined thief or voyeur can get at them.

That said, it isn’t enough to tell celebrities or ordinary people to stop uploading nude photos of themselves to the cloud — many people will do whatever they like without regard to the consequences. It’s still important that image storing platforms such as iCloud constantly update their security protocols.

Apple and its competitors should also level with the public: There is no such thing as privacy in cyberspace.

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