Anna writes, "I’ve heard in the news that hackers were able to download private pictures from the iCloud accounts of celebrities. I use an iPhone, and I think it has iCloud. Are my photos safe?"
We have bad news for you, Anna. Your photos probably are not safe – statistically speaking, at least.
If you’re like most people, you use the same password for multiple websites and accounts, including your iCloud account. It’s probably also a very simple password that is easy to remember. If so, then your photos and other data are at risk.
iCloud is the online backup service that Apple provides for iPhones, iPods and iPads. When it is turned on, iCloud automatically backs up your photos, files and settings over the internet to Apple’s servers. The first thing you should do is look to see if you have iCloud turned on in the first place. We say this because you actually have to opt in to using iCloud, it is not on by default.
When you set up your device, you were given the option to leave iCloud off or turn it on. If you chose to turn it on, you can most definitely turn it off now. Just go to the Settings app, tap the iCloud logo, and you can either turn off the options under Photos or go to the bottom and tap Delete Account.
Unfortunately, the major problem here is not how secure the site is, but how secure your passwords are. iCloud is about as vulnerable to hackers as most websites and services are, especially if users do not use long, secure passwords. You want to make sure that your password contains at least 15 characters, and is complicated and unique. Also, make sure that you don’t use your iCloud password anywhere else.
The best thing to do to protect your account, though, is to turn on two-factor authentication. This makes it so that even if someone has your password, they would need to also have your phone to log in. When you turn two-factor authentication on, Apple will send you a text message with a special pin code in it when you try to sign in, and require you to enter that pin code to complete the process.
To active two-factor authentication, go to appleid.apple.com, select Manage Your Apple ID and sign in. Then select Password and Security. Under the heading Two-Step Verification, select Get Started and follow the instructions.
By choosing a long, complicated password and turning on two-factor authentication, you can help to protect your private pictures and information from hackers.