Photography makes the world a better place, and it remains one of the best ways to tell a visual story and capture the beauty we find all around us. Whether that’s wildlife in the forest or a portrait from the streets of New York, there are photo opportunities everywhere we go.
Our skills as photographers can sometimes be overlooked in this digital age we live in, with copyright infringement being a common problem for photographers.
Not only do those behind the lens find people stealing their images for their use, but photographers are also vulnerable to hackers from a variety of avenues. We are going to dig deeper into the cybersecurity issues facing photographers and discuss some of the best ways to protect our photos from hackers.
Ways to protect your photographs online
Photographers are vulnerable to hackers due to the wealth of images they store on their devices. Whether it’s on a personal computer, the internal memory of a camera, or using cloud storage, each option has its limitations when it comes to safety.
There is also a risk to photographers when sharing their images online as they may find themselves the victim of fraud or copyright abusers who seek to use their content for free. From social media sharing to dedicated photography apps and software, there are plenty of cyber risks to photographers.
① Regular password updates
Whether you are editing your images or uploading them to an image-sharing bank, there are likely to be several logins that are part of your regular storage practice. Weak passwords are a common way for hackers to infiltrate a computer system, especially if that same weak password is used for multiple logins. In fact, weak or stolen passwords were used in 81% of hacking-related breaches.
Make it a habit to change your password every few months, ensuring that you use a combination of letters, characters, and numbers. For added protection, enable multi-factor authentication, which offers another level of protection against hackers.
Jed Kafetz, Head of Penetration Testing at cybersecurity specialists, Redscan, offers this advice regarding multi-factor authentication, “A major issue that I see regularly is a failure to enforce multi-factor authentication (MFA) across systems and applications.” He adds, “If adopted more widely, I can confidently say that there would be far fewer security breaches.”
② Cloud storage access control
Cloud storage offers a practical solution to our need for more and more data storage in the modern media world. Rather than dedicating an entire room of our homes to servers and hard drive space, we can send it into the cloud for someone else to worry about the physical logistics.
But, while most cloud storage is protected against hackers, it’s important to understand more about the company you choose to use for your remote data storage. Ensure that whichever provider you choose offers end-to-end encryption of your data, which scrambles the information sent from your device to the cloud the moment it leaves.
Photographers must also be careful about who they give access to when saving their files. For example, Google Drive allows you to share files with anyone or restrict access and editing control, so ensure when uploading to the cloud that you are fully aware of your settings.
In general, cloud storage is well protected, but like all security solutions, it isn’t bulletproof. Flaws in the system can allow hackers in, while there are risks of data loss and malware infections through data transfer. For this reason, you must back up your most important files on a separate device to ensure you still have a copy.
③ Protection against ransomware
The clue is in the name when it comes to ransomware, and it’s a form of computer hacking that can cost data and intellectual property owners a lot of money.
Commonly used to hold large corporations to ransom over their data, ransomware can still impact photographers if hackers are given the opportunity.
Any information or data of value must be protected against hackers, so to defend against ransomware hackers photographers must:
- Encrypt their valuable data and back it up as soon as possible
- Update and patch any operating software you have across all devices
- Keep security features enabled on all applications and software programs
- Install defensive software such as antivirus
What are the risks of sharing images on social media?
Social media platforms such as Instagram have allowed creative photographers to share their images with the world.
Within seconds of uploading, your photographs are available to people who share your interests, love your images, or who are looking for inspiration.
But when you sign up for a social media site, you agree to its terms and conditions.
So it’s important to understand their licensing terms in full; for example, Facebook’s statement of rights claims for images and videos “a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook.”
So, while great for boosting your follower count, some social media apps may see you lose part of your copyright claim.
The main risk to photographers from posting to social media is image theft, and there are some useful methods to better protect your creative property:
- Upload low-resolution images
- Register for and include a copyright notice
- Disable the save picture option when right-clicking
- Use a digital signature
- Add invisible foreground layers
App and software vulnerabilities
Your cyber defenses are only as secure as your weakest link. Choose which apps and software you use carefully to ensure that the developers are doing what they can to look after your data.
Reputation matters when it comes to protecting your images, so ensure you use trusted brands and apps. But reputation alone isn’t enough, and users must be careful to avoid falling into traps set by hackers. Emails from fake technical support are just one example of how a hacker can dupe you into clicking on a link and accidentally downloading a virus to your device.
It’s also critical that whichever apps you use for photography, from photoshopping someone into a picture to file sharing, are updated to the most recent version. These updates fix any security vulnerabilities of the previous versions, so continuing to use them is like leaving the door open for a hacker.
Outsourcing and third-party problems
You may wish to outsource some of your activities to a third party, perhaps because you are busy or on location and need someone else to upload or edit your photos. With a rising number of security breaches caused by third-party activities, it’s important to retain control over login details.
Once introducing a new element into your photography ecosystem, managing the risks is important. Do your due diligence before onboarding new parties to your activities, and if necessary, deliver some training and explanation of how to protect photos or data. From potential data breaches, which can rise to millions of dollars, to reputational and financial risks of hacks, it’s important to remain vigilant.
Stay safe and protect your images
If you are a professional photographer, then you don’t need us to remind you that the images you create are what your livelihood hinges on. Losing your images or data through a cyber attack affects your ability to make money, and image theft means you lose control over how your photographs are used. Protecting yourself using these methods can help keep your data and your photos safe.