After Nicole Scherzinger video leak, experts weigh in on how to prevent and deal with cyber breaches
Before Nicole Scherzinger found her intimate video with ex Lewis Hamilton leaked all over the internet last month, there had been numerous instances of hackers accessing intimate images of celebrities and posting them online.
Tinsel town was shaken by and had to reckon with massive hackings that happened in 2014 and 2017, which was termed 'The Fappening' and which saw notorious hackers makig their way into more than 100 celebrity iClouds and leaking their private photos and videos for the world to see.
Embarassing, a gross invasion of privacy and not to mention illegal, these hackers have, in the recent years affected many public figures and their brands.
While some celebrities use it as a stepping stone to fame, some scramble to firefight the damage caused in the public eye.
MEA WorldWide spoke to crisis management expert Ronn Torossian and former NYPD detective, actor, and security expert Richard Bo Dietl to figure out what celebrities (and you) can do to prevent such leaks from happening and the best way forward in such a high pressure scenario.
"First and foremost, whether one is a celebrity or not, everyone should be hyper aware of what they are filming and posting. While there’s no way around some of these hacks, it’s better to be extra careful," said Torossian, crisis management mogul and CEO of 5WPR.
Dietl, Chairman & CEO at Beau Dietl & Associates, a private investigation firm headquartered in New York City, laid down the rules of securing your online presence.
"The best thing to do is to manage cybersecurity from the beginning," he said. "There are many ways to ensure data privacy but a few that come to mind for celebrities as well as the general public are - use encrypted applications for messaging, do not use public WiFi or hotspots, while this can be inconvenient, this makes it very easy for hackers to access your information and do not use the same username/password combination across multiple services and apps, if one service/app is hacked then your credentials can be used on other platforms and risk further exposure," he added.
He also added that it is extremely important to beware of "phishing" which was a huge factor in the 2014 iCloud hack. Phishing is a trick that hackers use to get your information illegally, by posing as reliable entities on the internet - be careful of what you click on.
Dietl said. "Never give out your password to anyone purporting to be from tech support, etc. A real representative from a company would never ask for your password."
He also added, "Be 100% sure about who is on the receiving end of your private photos and messages. As seen in the Jeff Bezos case and others, there can be a motive for individuals to further disseminate your private messages and photos. Once they are sent, you lose control of that data."
While for mere mortals like us, who don't live in a world where the cameras are always flashing and everything those cameras capture define who we are in the public eye, hackings can seem like just another scandal. To celebrities, it affects and sometimes, ruins, their brand image.
But, if the damage is already done, what should they do next?
Address it right away and shut it down, advises Torossian, who has had more than 20 years of experience in public affairs, crisis management and the entertainment industry.
"In the event that a celebrity photo or video is hacked, it’s best to address it right away. In the age we live in, everything becomes known eventually, so it’s better to come out with a statement as soon as possible. When a crisis strikes, as it almost inevitably does for celebrities, transparency and disclosure is key. That said, celebrities sending nudes these days simply aint wise," he added, "Never wait to address the controversy, that’s the most important thing. Actors, directors, musicians, celebrities, etc. need to immediately come out and say 'I made a mistake'. A tweet or a post won't cut it, and letting the media provide updates on your behalf can make matters worse."
When it comes to saving a career following a public scandal, Torossian said the priority must be controlling the controversy.
"The person in question’s reputation may never be fully restored in the public eye, but intense damage control can ultimately save their career. PR is what can make a drastic difference between a minor mishap and a career-halting nightmare," he said.
Their next step should be legal action, weighs in Dietl. "If there is a genuine hack and release of private photos or messages, it is best to use legal resources to pursue justice. As seen in the 2014 iCloud hack, the hackers responsible were found by law enforcement and punished for their crimes," he said.
It was legal action that saw four men -- Ryan Collins, Edward Majerczyk, Emilio Herrera and George Garofano -- sentenced for the breach in 2014, that targeted Jennifer Lawrence and Amber Heard among other Hollywood biggies.
While we do empathise with celebs who find themselves in such situations, sometimes it is nothing but a publicity stunt. So how can the lay person spot the difference? Look for hints in the celebrity's reaction, suggested Torossian. "Is it genuine? Are they nonchalant about what’s happened to them? Are they taking legal action? These are just a few ways to potentially differentiate between genuine hack and publicity stunt."
Dietl agreed, "While it is important to take allegations seriously, it is usually determined in the course of an investigation if the hack or leak was from the individual or an outside party. A red flag for me would be if the individual that was hacked does not seem to want to contact law enforcement or legal counsel."