Videos or Images Leaked From Phones: How?

Here’s how videos or images get leaked from phones:

Images and videos can be leaked from a phone through a number of ways that include malicious software, general security problems with an app, guessing your passwords, or malicious behavior from someone you know. 

They are then shared from person to person or on websites built for this kind of thing.

So if you want to learn all about how videos and images get leaked from phones, then you’re in the right place.

Keep reading!

Videos or Images Leaked From Phones: How? (Prevention)

How Are Images and Videos Leaked From Phones? (5 Ways)

Young woman shocked looking at her laptop.

There are really two parts to this question. 

How are the photos or videos stolen, and how are they shared? 

Let’s answer the former question first.

These are the primary ways that photos or videos can be stolen in order to be leaked online.

#1 Malicious Software

serious woman checking smartphone while outdoors

Malicious software is an easy way for a complete stranger to get access to your photos.

They can secretly rifle through your photos and videos, and then the app can upload data from your phone to another device.

What might be scary to learn is that malicious software doesn’t have to be a secret computer virus or anything like that.

It can be any app on the app store that doesn’t secure access to your data. 

Many mainstream apps have been used maliciously in this regard, including apps like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat.

This doesn’t mean that these apps are exclusively malicious, but many major apps have used their access to your phone to share your video and picture data without you giving express permission.

Imagine how much worse it is with an app that is solely there to steal information.

#2 Password Guessing

male hand typing on laptop and holding smartphone

This is one of the primary ways that celebrity photos have been leaked. 

Software is used to guess passwords for an account, and after enough tries, the software can often guess correctly.

This is based on a simple principle.

If your password is easy to remember, it’s probably also easy to guess.

There are two ways to go about guessing a password. 

A computer can simply try to guess every possible combination until it finally gets your password right.

This isn’t realistic.

There are so many possible passwords that even the fastest computers would take trillions of years to eventually get the right answer for a 16-character password.

Instead, password guessing uses trial and error by going down a list of the most common passwords. 

A computer system can guess millions of common passwords in a matter of minutes or less (depending on the security of the account being attacked). 

If your password is on the list that the hackers try, your account can likely be compromised.

This is why security experts strongly emphasize using random passwords instead of something that is easy to remember.

Once the password is guessed, the data thief can access cloud and online accounts and browse and steal photos and videos at their leisure. 

The breached account could be where you store your photos, such as iCloud.

It could also be social media accounts or anywhere else where your photos and videos are accessible.

However, any serious online service has security measures to prevent password guessing or at least to make it as challenging as possible such as with CAPTCHAs.

#3 System-Level Attacks

Hacker in the hood working with laptop and mobile phone typing text in dark room.

Password guessing involves someone attacking your personal account.

That’s not the only way to get access to videos and phones. 

Instead, hackers can attack the system that stores them, such as a Google or iCloud account.

These hacks come in a lot of shapes and sizes.

Hackers can steal a lot of data, and every few months, it seems like another major news story breaks of a major data breach.

Now, not all data breaches will include your photos or videos, but some might.

Facebook had vulnerabilities in the past that were exploited by hackers, and ultimately, more than 6 million people had data stolen. 

Sophisticated attacks can get into servers, or they can target individual users through security exploits that exist on any given app.

The big thing about these attacks is that they tend to impact a large number of people.

But, these attacks aren’t always caught quickly. 

Users can have their data breached for months on end without any clue that it happened.

#4 Social Engineering

happy woman using mobile phone for social media.

Social engineering is a common way for hackers to get past powerful digital security systems.

Many hacks that could compromise iCloud, Dropbox, and other well-known systems work through social engineering.

What is social engineering?

It is where a hacker (or anyone) uses social techniques to trick people into giving up important information.

This can be done to compromise a large organization, or it can target your individual account.

Here’s an example.

Have you seen something going around on social media asking people to share stories of their first concert? 

It seems like a fun way to interact with friends and family, but this is a common security question used to reset passwords.

Clever social engineering can convince you to give up information that can be used to take over your accounts.

Very famously, this was done to steal a bunch of photographs of celebrities.

Originally, people thought it was the result of a major data breach.

Instead, social engineering techniques were used to gain access to individual accounts on iCloud and other services.

#5 Malicious Acquaintances

Young group of friends drinking, having fun at a house party.

This is the primary source of leaked images and videos.

A person you know can leak them, and they can do it on purpose.

The classic example is the malicious ex.

They might have photos or videos of you that you would never want to be shared, so they share them out of spite, malice, or any other reason.

Depending on the nature of the data shared, this can be illegal in some countries, but there are no universal rules.

Once a person decides to maliciously share videos or photos, it can be hard to remove them from the greater internet.

Keep in mind that this isn’t really limited to exes.

Any relationship can sour for any number of reasons.

People who have photos or videos of you can ultimately leak them if they decide to do so.

How Are Images and Videos Shared Online? (4 Ways)

 Anxious woman sits at desk with laptop hides face in hands.

Now that you know where the vulnerabilities lie, there is still another question. 

How do these photos and videos make it across the internet? 

You’re not going to find a list of websites or resources here.

Instead, let’s look at the general ways that this all works so that you can have an idea of what is really happening.

#1 Peer to Peer

university students looking at a video together in the library

The most common way to share these photos and videos is directly from one user to another.

It’s not hard to imagine this happening in a school setting.

A photo is shared with one person, and for one reason or another, it is ultimately passed around the school.

But, this type of setting can happen just as easily outside of schools.

Private messages, texts, and other systems can be used to share individual files, and ultimately, these messages can be sent far and wide.

It’s also very difficult to stop peer-to-peer sharing.

There is no centralized system to shut down to get the photos off of the internet and back in Pandora’s Box, so to speak.

#2 The Dark Web

Hacker hacking the server in the dark web.

The dark web has plenty of places an individual could go to find leaked images or videos. 

If you keep in mind that the dark web is considerably larger than the lighter, regulated internet, it’s easy to imagine that the resources are virtually unlimited for this purpose.

It’s also easy to understand why it would be extremely difficult to shut down all of the dark web assets that can share leaked photos and videos.

#3 Totally Legal Websites

female hand using smartphone at desk

Unfortunately, there are plenty of legal websites that share this kind of data.

Depending on the country, hosting such a website could be illegal, but there are plenty of countries where no such restrictions exist. 

As long as these websites are hosted out of countries where it is legal, it’s difficult to find recourse to stop data sharing.

Even if these websites use geo-blocking to prevent access from countries where it isn’t legal to do this stuff, a simple VPN gets around all of that.

#4 Social Media

Happy young asian woman lying on sofa at living room and using mobile phone at home

This loosely falls under the purview of peer-to-peer sharing, but social media allows photos and videos to spread so much faster.

If the data is within the site’s terms and conditions, it can go completely viral before you are able to do anything to stop it.

Even when a photo or video violates the terms and conditions, it can still spread pretty far and wide before the social media regulatory resources catch up to it.

When you remember that there are many kinds of social media apps and websites and that not all of them are intended to be safe for work or for children, it’s easy to see how social media can be used to leak photos or videos very quickly and with little impunity.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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