Celebrities are constantly stalked by their fans and by paparazzi. They complain frequently about their privacy being destroyed. It would seem puzzling why, at the same time, they were storing nude images of themselves online. Didn't they fear being exposed?
It's possible jet-setting celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence didn't regularly back up (and update) their iCloud accounts. If you delete a photo from your phone, it won't be deleted from the iCloud until a new backup is created. This means that photos they deleted from their devices might have remained on their iCloud without the celebrities' knowledge.
Actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead was the first celebrity to confirm the authenticity of the leaked photos, and she said the photos were taken "years ago" before being deleted "long ago." Winstead seemed confused as to how hackers gained access to a photo she had deleted, but iCloud's unclear photo backup system could be to blame.
We're not saying this is the precise, definite cause of stars stashing a mountain of their private material online. But the iPhone backup process sure doesn't make it easy if you want to stop that from happening by accident.
Here is how it works. The iPhone runs an iCloud backup only when three conditions are met:
- The device is charging.
- It is connected to Wi-Fi.
- And it is locked.
The only other way to create an iCloud backup is to manually force the device to do it.
Busy celebrities rarely have time to connect to a Wi-Fi network and leave their phone charging. Stars like Kate Upton spend much of their lives traveling from photo shoots to awards dinners, staying in hotels or relaxing on private jets.Such celebrities are loath to just leave their phones unattended while plugged into a socket, because their entourages are often also the source of tabloid leaks. They probably don't trust hotel Wi-Fi services either — would you, when you're a frequent target of privacy invasions? Jennifer Lawrence admitted to being lax with iCloud backups in a red-carpet interview with MTV.
Speaking before the leaked photos emerged, Lawrence remarked: "My iCloud keeps telling me to back it up, and I'm like, I don't know how to back you up. Do it yourself!"
The news that Lawrence doesn't know how to use iCloud would have been music to the ears of any hacker looking for a target.
Irregular iCloud backups mean that photos can remain online for months after they were deleted from the camera roll of the device.
If, for example, an actress took a photo of herself to send to a friend, went to sleep, and her iPhone ran an iCloud backup overnight, that photo would then be stored online. But if she deleted the photograph from the iPhone Camera Roll before heading out for a two-week business trip to Los Angeles, that photo would still live on in iCloud.
The photo, which she thinks she deleted, is just sitting there on iCloud. You also can't "see" which photos are in iCloud until you perform a restorative backup. And why would you, if you already believed you deleted the private image?
Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company would roll out a number of improvements to iCloud security over the next month. Among the changes, Apple plans to send emails and push notifications when iCloud backups are accessed as well as modifying its two-factor authentication system.