Celebrities’ Social Notoriety Make Them Bigger Targets for Hacking
by Dr. Chris Pierson, CIPP/G; CIPP/US
Social notoriety has always meant the need for enhanced security. But in today’s era of the digital identity there has never been a riskier time for a celebrity’s privacy and reputation.
Consider “Chandler,” a famous actor. In the past it was sufficient for Chandler to focus on preventing physical assaults and invasion of privacy targeting them or their circle of agents, personal assistant, and publicist. Now threats have moved to the cyber realm. Chandler faces constant threats of personal information, pictures and private details stolen, or phone and social media accounts hacked.
Traditional sources of support often are in as much danger as Chandler is personally. Take for example the massive data theft earlier this year from a prominent law firm representing numerous celebrities. A total of 756 gigabytes of data was stolen, representing a treasure trove of contracts, nondisclosure agreements and personal phone numbers, email addresses and sensitive correspondence. Celebrities whose private information was stolen included Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Mary J. Blige, Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, Cam Newton, Bette Midler, Jessica Simpson, Priyanka Chopra, HBO’s John Oliver, and Lady Gaga.
The massive Twitter hack in July showed that no high-profile individual is safe. Users as varied as former President Obama, Kim Kardashian, Elon Musk, and Kanye West had their accounts seized and used to promote a bitcoin scam. Researchers believe hackers used a new kind of phishing by phone, “vishing,” to fool internal Twitter admins into sharing account credentials.
In this type of climate Chandler simply can’t go it alone. There isn’t just one type of threat to key in on. There are multiple types of threats, including opportunistic hackers, criminal organizations, and even nation states targeting high-profile people. Celebrities can get caught up in geopolitical tensions and conflict that has transitioned online. An example of this is the famous 2014 North Korea hack of Sony pictures in response to the Seth Rogan and James Franco satirical film The Interview. Leaked emails eventually led to the resignation of Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal.
Even tools designed to protect celebrities like Chandler can now be used to attack and embarrass. BlackCloak discovered that the camera security system protecting a client’s home had misconfigured settings and default credentials. This caused the cameras to put out an unencrypted feed onto the Internet, where attackers were using scanning technology to turn the cameras around and peer into the client’s home before BlackCloak intervened. A tool meant to provide physical security was turned into another vulnerability that threatened the client’s privacy.
Speaking of other vulnerabilities, Chandler needs more than just personal protection. Celebrities usually have an entourage of select, trusted people around them to provide a variety of services in support of the celebrity brand. This close circle has access to private information, and invariably increases the celebrity attack surface.
The dangers of today’s digital world require specialists focused solely on Chandler’s protection. What’s needed is bespoke concierge service that delivers holistic protection to safeguard all parts of the celebrity’s life. A holistic plan such as this would cover:
- Their Privacy – To truly protect celebrities, it is critical to have a strategy that removes personal information about them from public websites, regularly performs dark web searches for exposed personal credentials, and provides them with identity theft protection.
- Their Homes – Celebrity’s homes should receive penetration testing weekly and regular scans of their networks for malware, botnets, and other security issues.
- Their Devices – Personal devices, including cell phones, tablets and laptops, need to be protected with the same level of security as that provided by the most forward-thinking companies today.
- Their Peace of Mind – Celebrities like Chandler shouldn’t have to be constantly looking over their shoulder or feel the need to be their own personal cybersecurity expert. A solid digital protection program helps guide them with everything they need for cybersecurity and privacy risks.
This can all be done in a way that is commensurate with a celebrity’s digital risk profile and one that respects their privacy. A holistic plan can harden defenses to prevent a breach and help identify and remediate a data breach if one occurs.
The evolution of online dangers means Chandler must add this kind of protection to the existing inner circle of support services. Doing so will protect Chandler’s brand and allow 100 percent focus on the craft of acting. This way Chandler can play the hero both on screen and off.< Back