What to learn from hacks targeting celebrities

Written by Rahul Tyagi

‘Hacking’, which was once considered limited to geeks and nerds, has become a topic of popular conversation today. It becomes even more ‘trendy’ when celebrities and their social media accounts, and the data within is out in the open because of a hack. Recently, a large media and entertainment law firm in the US, representing top celebrities such as Priyanka Chopra, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Bruce Springsteen and more, experienced a major data breach where hackers got access to their personal data. Twitter accounts of some high profile individuals such as Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Tesla Chief Elon Musk were hacked. Weak passwords, not using updated software on devices, a treasure trove of personal data and sometimes, explicit images and chats which can be used to tarnish their reputation or to exploit them through blackmail often become popular reasons for hackers to target celebrities.

But, why does this keep repeating?

Staying safe on the internet isn’t easy in the 21st century. All Internet users run the risk of being hacked, for reasons aplenty. But celebrities’ wealth and prominence, and their large entourages curating their digital presence offer criminals more doors to pry open. Over the last decade, we have seen explicit photographs of multiple celebrities out in the public and the trend seems to continue, but with a slight difference – the hacks are getting more sophisticated every passing day.

People of importance across industries – sports, theatre, cinema, art and music – spend millions of dollars on their physical security. Caitlyn Jenner, in an interview, revealed that Kylie spends a whopping £270,000 per month on security! On average, celebrities spend at least $1.5 Million each year. However, you might fail to find any such ‘numbers’ when it comes to securing their digital presence.

Cybersecurity through digital cameras, device hardening, better password management and more definitely does help push up the bar higher, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to cybersecurity, most of us have never been formally educated on how to use technology optimally, let alone use it securely. It is unsurprising to me on how casually individuals tend to look at their Digital Security ‘Quotient’.

Tim Cook in his recent congregation speech at Stanford famously said: “If we accept as normal and unavoidable that everything in our lives can be aggregated, sold, or even leaked in the event of a hack, then we lose so much more than data. We lose the freedom to be human.”

Rebuilding Cyber-Consciousness: The one-stop solution

Today, US households alone own an average of 11 connected devices, including seven with screens to view content (e.g.including smartphones and/or TVs), according to a study by Deloitte. As the number of devices we use increase, so does the increase in chances of getting hacked or leaking data. Analysing the human mind by mapping people’s digital footprints to predict their behaviour is not new. For instance, the digital advertising industry has been reaping its benefits for ages. We see advertisements across multiple platforms customized to our unique searches or interests online, but when it comes to cybersecurity, we still follow archaic and age-old ways of educating ourselves. This is one of the prime reasons why people still fall prey to simple cyberattacks because the safe usage of the internet is not inculcated into their behaviour, and celebrities are no exception. It is essential today, that the human mind is recalibrated with digital learning and re-engineered with a stronger cyber consciousness.

Celebrities, with their unsecured and often delegated cyber presence, need a hand-crafted virtual concierge cybersecurity platform not only to keep themselves safe but also stop their loved ones from being targets of scams or hacks. Such a hassle-free objective, unified and real-time platform should be able to deliver regular insights through rigorous cyberspace exposure assessments and include their personal devices’ security, communication hardening of any digital presence (including emails and social media) and a tailor-made digital data protection strategy for their homes and vehicles. There should also be a provision to continuously provide on-the-go cybersecurity awareness and education not just to the celebrities but also their families and teams. Such is the level of 360-degree protection the celebrity of today requires.

As we head towards a life that is far more transparent than in the earlier days, digital privacy needs to be in our complete control, but until we do so and learn from incidents like that of Cambridge Analytica and Twitter, individuals and celebrities alike, will continue to remain lucrative targets for predatory cybercriminals lurking in our digital environment. Take control, today lest it is too late! Bruce Wayne has rightly said, “With great power, comes great responsibility”… and now, the need for cybersecurity!

Rahul Tyagi is Co-founder, Safe Security

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