You need not be a celebrity or some big wig to suffer the devastating fallout of your online images (and videos) being stolen or used without your permission.

10DSo how does someone steal your image or use it without your permission?


  • Hacking is one way, especially if passwords are weak and the answers to security questions can easily be figured out (e.g., “Name of your first pet,” and on your Facebook page there’s a picture of you: “My very first dog, Snickers”).
  • Malware can be installed on your device if the operating system, browser or security software is out of date.
  • But hackers may also get into a cloud service depending on their and your level of security.

Cloud Services

  • In 2014, the images of celebrities and others were stolen from their iCloud accounts. At the time, two factor authentication was not available to consumers.
  • Apple did not take responsibility, claiming that the hackers guessed the passwords of the victims. This is entirely possible as many use the same passwords for multiple accounts. It is reported that Jennifer Lawrence’s and Kate Upton’s passwords really were123qwe and Password1, respectively.

Social Media

  • Got a pretty avatar for your Facebook page? Do you realize how easy it is for someone to “Save image as…”?
  • Yup, someone could right-click on your provocative image, save it and use it for some sex site.
  • And it’s not just images of adults being stolen. Images of children have been stolen and posted on porn sites.
  • Stolen photos are not always racy. A stolen image could be of an innocent child smiling with her hands on her cheeks.
  • The thief doesn’t necessarily post his loot on porn or sex sites. It could be for any service or product. But the point is: Your image is being used without your authorization.


  • Kids and teens and of course adults are sending sexually explicit images of each other via smartphone. These photos can end up anywhere.
  • Applications exist that destroy the image moments after it appears to the sender.
  • These applications can be circumvented! Thus, the rule should be never, ever, ever send photos via smartphone that you would not want your fragile great-grandmother or your employer to view.

How can you protect your digital life?

  • Long, strong passwords—unique for every single account
  • Change your passwords regularly.
  • Firewall and up-to-date antivirus software
  • Make sure the answers to your security questions can’t be found online.
  • If any of your accounts have an option for two-factor authentication, then use it.
  • Never open attachments unless you’re expecting them.
  • Never click links inside e-mails unless you’re expecting them.

Stay tuned to Part 2 of How to prevent your Pics from being lifted to learn more.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to discussing identity theft prevention.

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