Taking a closer look at the cloud

The Cloud

OSHKOSH - Apple says hackers stole nude photos of dozens of female celebrities by hacking into the stars' Apple cloud accounts.

The leaked photos include some belonging to Oscar-winning actress, Jennifer Lawrence. She contacted authorities after the images began appearing online on Sunday.

Federal investigators continue to remove the images from various sites.

The photos in question were saved using Apple's version of the cloud called iCloud.

When it comes to technology, what exactly is the cloud?

"The cloud is really just online storage," said Joe Wetzel, an IT instructor at Fox Valley Technical College.

Think about it this way: the cloud is like a virtual floppy disk or external hard drive.

When you sign up for a cloud account you can choose to automatically back up files like photos, for example.

"They're local to the machine, but every few minutes it will synchronize and copy those files to an online storage location," Wetzel explained.

So if you took a picture on your phone and backed it up in the cloud, you can look at it from another device using the cloud account.

"The advantage is that, as everyone's becoming more mobile they can access their information wherever they're at," explained Mike Pulvermacher, president of eBiz Results, a web marketing and design firm in Oshkosh.

"When you get a new phone, or upgrade, automatically your pictures are there, all your contacts are there," added Wetzel.

It's important to remember when you erase something from your phone, or computer, it's still in the cloud and vice versa.

So how do you keep the files in your private cloud account private?

"I think the best thing to do is have a strong password," said Wetzel.

"Have a strong password," echoed Jim Poulakos, tech director for eBiz Results.

Some tips for a strong password:

-Use a long combination of letters, numbers and symbols.

-Avoid any common words, or full words if possible.

-Do not use the same password for multiple sites.

These will help you avoid what may have happened with the celebrity iCloud hack.

Tech experts say hackers likely stole the celebs' login id's and used something called "brute force."

"They have an id that they can log in with and they just keep putting passwords in until one works," explained Poulakos.

So the more complicated your password, the better.

The experts also recommend keeping your virus protection software and browser up to date to avoid having your cloud hacked.