Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, are divorcing, ending a 25-year marriage that played a role in the creation of an e-commerce company that made Bezos one of the world’s wealthiest people. (Jan. 10)
Many read with salacious glee the texts supposedly sent between Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and paramour Lauren Sanchez.
But what if you were in his shoes and your texts were made public?
Among the messages the National Enquirer published that it says Bezos sent to Sanchez: “I want to smell you, I want to breathe you in. I want to hold you tight.… I want to kiss your lips…. I love you. I am in love with you.”
According to Page Six, the texts were leaked by a friend of the former L.A. TV anchor .
There’s no technical way to stop someone from leaking a text that you share with another person. If Page Six’s reporting is a accurate, this episode is a reminder that anything you share can easily be reshared by someone with less than noble intentions.
“Anything you do and anyone you speak to can have repercussions,” said Juda Engelmayer, president of HeraldPR, a New York public relations firm and a crisis management expert. “The only secret is the one only inside your head. The minute you share it, it has the potential to get out.”
That’s not to say there aren’t digital lessons to be learned. Here are some ways you can protect yourself when messaging in 2019.
SMS texts could leave you exposed
While it sounds like a Hollywood movie plot – and is very much illegal – devices and methods do exist to allow a person to intercept text messages over a cellular network if they’re close enough to either party.
iMessage, Signal and WhatsApp can be your friends
In 2019 there are plenty of ways to message securely. Apple’s iMessage offers end-to-end encryption on all of its messages, though you and the person you’re texting with both need to have Apple devices. Apple encrypts the messages on each device, which the company says provides “no way for us to decrypt your data when it’s in transit between devices.”
There also are a number of free, cross-platform messaging apps. Signal and WhatsApp, for example, similarly offer end-to-end encryption for chats and calls made through the apps by default, keeping your conversations private regardless of if they are on Android, iPhone or through their respective web apps.
Its also important to note that WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, so depending on how much faith you have in that company should guide you on whether or not you should trust this platform.
One other tip: Regardless of the messaging app you use, make sure it and your phone are updated to the latest versions to ensure they remain protected against any new security vulnerabilities.
Protect your iCloud and Google Drive backups
Apple allows you to backup your iMessages to its iCloud cloud storage service and Google allows you to backup Android devices to Google Drive. While this is great for making sure your chats are safe in the event you break or change phones, as we’ve seen in the past iCloud accounts can be broken into.
In 2014, celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Ariana Grande had nude photos leaked after hackers gained access to their usernames, passwords and security questions.
If someone has access to your iCloud or Google Drive it is possible they could download a backup of their phone onto a new device which would give them access to the messages and any other information you have on your phone.
How can you protect yourself? Use different passwords and security questions for different services is a strong start. Password managers such as 1Password or LastPass can help you remember all the various passwords you have and help you keep track of what goes where.
Making sure two-factor authentication is turned on for your iCloud or Google account, requiring you to enter a second code when signing in on a new device or browser can also help. You can turn on two-factor authentication by following the steps on Apple’s site here or Google’s site here.
But perhaps the biggest lesson learned from this saga: Make sure you totally trust whomever you are texting.
Follow USA TODAY reporters Eli Blumenthal and Mike Snider on Twitter: @eliblumenthal & @MikeSnider.
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