Blog/How-To/

Photo encryption: how to secure your memories from prying eyes

Jan 06, 2020

1 trillion. That’s the 'low end' estimate of how many photos are taken every year. The real number is probably around 10 trillion, or roughly 320,000 snaps per second. What do we do with all those photos? Most of the good ones end up on social media, while the vast majority is trashed. Eventually. However, some photos are not meant for sharing.

The ones that aren't should not become the property of a cloud service provider or a prize for a few petty hackers. Encrypt your photos before you upload them to the cloud. We'll show you how to do it in 3 easy steps.

Here's how to encrypt your entire photo collection in 3 easy steps.

If you don't have one yet, create a NordLocker account and get 5GB of free encrypted photo storage. With NordLocker, you'll put your photos into secure lockers, which can be opened in only two ways:

-With the master password. You will create one during the registration.

-With the recovery key, which is generated for every new NordLocker account. Print it out and keep it in a safe place.

After NordLocker is installed, enter your master password. Now, we can begin.

Step 1. Open NordLocker. You can use the default locker or create a separate one just for your photos

Step 2. Click Add files to add individual photos. Alternatively, pick Add folder to upload an entire folder.

Step 3 (optional). Drag and drop the pictures you want to encrypt from your photo collection to NordLocker.

After adding the files, don’t forget to delete the original unencrypted photos. Photo encryption only works if you don't leave unprotected copies lying around.

That's all there is to it. The photos in your locker are now secure. You can safely organize them into separate folders, upload the locker to the cloud, or share the photos with people you trust.

As long as you’re encrypting photos, why not go over your video library, too? We know, it’s a hassle. But to control your own data, you must take an extra step to protect it. Whatever you do, we strongly recommend disabling the auto-sync feature on your phone and removing all unencrypted copies of your photos from the cloud. There are at least five good reasons to do that.

The downside of keeping photos on the cloud

We all have photos that we wouldn't want to go public. Some are too embarrassing (like the time in college when friends drew on your face), some are silly jokes that would take too long to explain. And some are memories with people closest to us. We want to call the shots on whether we share them. Unfortunately, sometimes we can’t.

If you have enabled photo syncing on your phone, you’re not the key master of your data. The cloud provider is. A safer option is to take care of picture encryption on your computer and then upload them to the cloud. Even in the case of a cloud provider's server breach, your photos remain secure.

If you would like to know more about clod security, check out our blog.

Why encrypting photos is more important than ever before

You may remember a high-profile photo leak a few years back, including Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Alba, and dozens of other celebrities. These attacks never stopped. On a smaller scale, private photo leaks happen constantly. Celebrities, athletes, politicians, comedians — the news feed is packed with these stories.

What the media often fails to mention is that ordinary people become victims of hacks much more often. Here are the main ways how your private memories could end up in the wrong hands.

1) Phishing scams

Often the victim is tricked into revealing their password via phishing scams. The worst thing is that these attacks are getting more sophisticated, which makes recognizing the threat even harder.

2) Security weaknesses

Public networks, routers, printers, computer software, and mobile apps — no piece of technology is 100% secure and bug-free. These weaknesses can be used to inject malicious programs that grant complete control to the attacker.

Sometimes it's not even about the software but the process. For example, during the 2014 iCloud hack, hackers utilized the weaknesses of Apple's password reminder and guessed the security answers of their victims.

3) Stealing

Some hacks are not hacks. They’re just old-fashioned thefts. Just recently, thieves snatched an HDD containing the private data of 29,000 Facebook employees. Think about how many portable devices you have. A phone, a laptop, maybe a tablet — any of these can be used to access your online accounts.

4) Company employees

Cloud services like Google and Dropbox encrypt your data on their servers. But if they wanted to, they could access your private files without your permission. Here's how Dropbox puts it:

“Like most major online services, Dropbox personnel will, on rare occasions, need to access users’ file content."

Dropbox reserves the right to access your files due to legal reasons, maintenance, or to enforce their Terms of Service.

5) Revenge porn

Revenge porn is a term used to describe posting private photos and videos without the consent of the people involved, usually by an ex-partner. In the UK alone, 1 in 10 people is a victim of revenge porn. The good news is that countries (46 US states, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France) started introducing laws criminalizing revenge porn. However, the list is still very short.

In the end, everyone's situation is different. But we can universally agree that we should be the ones to decide whether and which photos we want to share with the world. Stay in control by encrypting your photos with NordLocker.

Elisa Armstrong

Elisa Armstrong

Verified author

Elisa’s all about languages. She speaks five, loves stand-up comedy, and is writing her first novel. Besides her extensive knowledge of cybersecurity, she’s an expert in persuasion techniques hackers use and strives to teach people how to avoid online scams.