The Internet has been buzzing with reports of celebrities’ candid private pictures being leaked onto various online sharing sites. But let’s face it; even everyday folks like us are exposed to this threat.

We have all indulged in a little ‘personal photography’ every now and then, sometimes with undesired consequences. What drives one to take pictures? Is it nostalgia? Immortalizing the moment to relive later? Or just plain heat of the moment foolishness! As Smartphone use has exponentially grown in popularity over the past few years, most people now have pocket access to high resolution cameras and are sharing a multitude of photos in their digital galleries.

What we choose to do with said images is OUR business, and no unsolicited parties should be privy to such information without permission. How the hacker came across these photos is yet to be confirmed. Some speculate he exploited a vulnerability in Apple’s iCloud service which lets you store content online and access it across all your devices.

Here are some suggestions to ensure your Smartphone is secure and the data on it is theft-proof so that you’re personal images do not fall into the hands of someone who can abuse them:

Sharing the same password across different platforms may be convenient as keeping track of all online accounts is a bit tedious. But, if some hacking entity manages to compromise one of your services and then goes on to discover that the password is shared across one or more of your online accounts, they will have gained complete access to your online identity. This obviously is an unwanted occurrence. Here are some tips for strong password creation: Use numerics, upper-case letters and symbols to generate un-guessable, near hack-proof passwords.

Do NOT open E-mails or attachments from unknown senders, or sometimes even from those on your contact list! You can fall prey to targeted attacks by receiving emails, files or even via a USB drive which already contains hidden malicious software. There are countless E-mail and Facebook viruses that install themselves on your computer just through a single click. They then go on to mail or message themselves to your entire address book with appealing subjects such as ‘OMG CHECK THIS CRAZY VIDEO OUT’, or ‘CELEB SEX TAPE’ etc. If it sounds too good to be true, then it usually is. Trojan key loggers usually send screenshots, mouse-clicks and keystrokes back to the hacker; hence provide them access to whatever data you have accessed including: websites, social networks, bank accounts etc.

Using public Wireless Hotspots can also put your personal files at risk. There are a host of readily available applications that enable hackers to compromise any devices connected to unsecure public networks, usually the case with coffee shop Wi-Fi networks. A common method used is known as the ‘man in the middle attack’. It deceives a wireless access point into letting the hacker’s device become the default gateway for that network. Thus enabling the hacker to view all traffic across the network; therefore any content that you have access to or have shared is at risk.

Factory reset your device before selling it. If you are upgrading to a new phone and decide to sell the old one back to your mobile shop make sure you format its built-in storage and do a ‘Factory Reset’ to ensure that there is no residual data left on the device. Don’t accidentally leave yourself vulnerable to blackmail, fraud or identity theft because you forgot to wipe your phone before selling.*don’t forget to back up your files either!

Also be careful as to who can get their hands on your device. Go to a trusted mobile shop when giving your phone for repairs. Most ‘MMS Scandal’ leaks are from shopkeepers in mobile markets who have hundreds of phones to repair on a daily basis and nothing but spare time on their hands to sift through the entire contents of your Smartphone. Be wary of angry ex’s who would jump at the opportunity to take revenge for the sore sentiment left behind. Make sure you keep a pin or password on your device!

Rest assured that your device is safe and the data on it secure. In today’s day and age of technological knowhow, one can never have enough privacy.