Celebrity photo hack

05.09.2018
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The Dark History Of Celebrity Photo Hacks

Emma Watson and Amanda Seyfried are in the news, and its not for their March movies Beauty and the Beast and The Last Word.

Unfortunately, Watson and Seyfried's privacy has been compromised, thanks to the work of online hackers. In a stunt coined The Fappening 2, the supposed sequel to August 2014s massive photo leak, multiple nude celebrity photos are currently being disseminated across the internet.

This recent hack eerily coincides with the release of an alleged sex tape featuring actress Mischa Barton. With such egregious affronts to privacy becoming commonplace, it's clear that women celebrities are being especially targeted by hackers and trolls. But how much do you know about the history of such attacks?

From 4Chan to legal responses, heres timeline of the forces at work behind such disturbing violations.


celebrity photo hack
The Dark History Of Celebrity Photo Hacks


Emma Watson and Amanda Seyfried are in the news, and its not for their March movies Beauty and the Beast and The Last Word.Unfortunately, Watson and Seyfried's privacy has been compromised, thanks to the work of online hackers. In a stunt coined The Fappening 2, the supposed sequel to August 2014s massive photo leak, multiple nude celebrity photos are currently being disseminated across the internet.This recent hack eerily coincides with the release of an alleged sex tape featuring actress Mischa Barton. With such egregious affronts to privacy becoming commonplace, it's clear that women celebrities are being especially targeted by hackers and trolls. But how much do you know about the history of such attacks?From 4Chan to legal responses, heres timeline of the forces at work behind such disturbing violations.1 of 10But first, some vocabulary.Since well be venturing into the depths of the web, here are some terms that will help you follow along.

4chan: 4Chan is the lawless meme-machine of the internet. In addition to pioneering memes and internet cultural trends like Rickrolling, 4chan has generated hoaxes, cyberbullying incidents, and pranks. Part of 4chans tendency toward deviousness stems from the fact that, unlike with Reddit, theres no need to make a username, and no way to message others in 4chan hence creating an atmosphere of anything-goes anonymity.

Reddit: The so-called front page of the internet, Reddit is essentially a giant democratic forum in which information is shared through a series of subreddits, pages based around specific topics. Reddit is the chatter of people talking, meeting, and sharing stuff on the internet.

Fappening: A portmanteau of the words fap (masturbating) and happening. Also known as "Celebgate."

iCloud: Apples online storage system, where many of the leaked photos were obtained.

Pictured: Christopher Poole, founder of 4chan

2 of 10September 2011: The first big leak.Call it prelude to a Fappening.

In fall of 2011, hacker Christopher Chaney released photos of celebrities, including Scarlett Johansson, on the internet.

Chaney had gained access to these high-profile email accounts by using a scarily simple technique. According to a GQ article by David Kushner, Chaney guessed celebrities' email address using their first and last names. Then, Chaney hacked the passwords through answering the security question, "What is your pet's name?" and finding the answers on IMDb.

In a trial in 2012, Chaney pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 years in prison and $66,179 in restitution.

4 of 10 Where were the photos leaked? After photos were posted on sites like 4chan, Reddit users created the subreddit r/TheFappening to preserve them.

On September 6, Reddit deleted the r/TheFappening subreddit, but not for any moral reason. Simply, it was too difficult for the site to comply with legal requests to take down photos, since users reposted photos so rapidly.

Defending their users' posting habits, Reddit said in an official post, You choose what to readwe will try not to interfere not because we dont care, but because we care that you make your choices between right and wrong.

5 of 10 Fall 2014: Celebrities respond.

Over 100 celebrity women were hacked, including Jennifer Lawrence, Kirsten Dunst, and Kaley Cuoco, who all confirmed their involvement.

Lawrence was especially vocal in expressing her disgust at the photos. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Lawrence condemned not only the hacker but anyone who viewed the leaked photos.

Anybody who looked at those pictures, you're perpetuating a sexual offense and you should cower with shame, she said in the interview.

6 of 10October 14, 2014: More photos are found by the FBI.

This public hack alerted authorities to other individuals engaging in the same photo-grabbing phishing scheme.

While searching for Celebgate's perpetrator, FBI agents stormed a house in Chicago and found computers, phones, and storage drives connected to the IP address of Emilio Herrera. Herrera used this IP address to hack 572 iCloud accounts, including those of high-profile celebrities.

Declining to provide full names, the FBI identified the initials of eight celebrities whose accounts were accessed by Herrara: "A.S., C.H., H.S., J.M., O.W., A.K., E.B., and A.H." Conjectures as to the celebrities' identities followed, such as Olivia Wilde (O.W.) and Amber Heard (A.H.).

7 of 10 March 15, 2016: Ryan Collins is sentenced.

36-year-old Ryan Collins of Lancaster, PA pleaded guilty to his crime, and was sentenced to prison for 18 months.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not coincidentally), this trial happened exactly a year before this most recent leak.

8 of 10 January 24, 2017: Another Fappening hacker goes to prison.

Turns out Collins wasnt the only perpetrator of Celebgate.

Chicago native Edward Majerczyk, 29, was sentenced to nine months in prison for hacking 30 celebrities' electronic accounts, though authorities say that Collins and Majerczyk actually worked independently.

9 of 10March 15, 2017: Could this be the Fappening 2.0?

The celebrity targeting is far from over, it seems. Exactly a year after the sentencing of hacker Ryan Collins, photos of Emma Watson and Amanda Seyfried were leaked onto 4chan, Reddit, and a website called Celeb Jihad.

While Seyfried and Watson are the first targets, it's likely they won't be the last of this hackers' photo leak.

10 of 10 March 15, 2017: Seyfried and Watson take action.

A representative for Emma Watson addressed the photos to E! News, saying, the photos [are] from a clothes fitting Emma had with a stylist a couple of years ago have been stolen. They are not nude photographs."

Seyfried's lawyers are demanding her photos be taken down from the site Celeb Jihad.

We Need To Talk About Noah Centineo's Baby Voice Countless celebrity nude photo leaks being blamed on supposed iCloud hack (Updated)

A plethora of reports are swirling around the internet that countless private celebrity photos have leaked (no, were not going to link you), andwhat are as of right now baselessrumors claim that someone found a vulnerability in Apples iCloudplatform and exploited it to obtain the images. Of the celebrities reportedly involved are Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Avril Livigne, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Mary Kate Olsen, Hillary Duff, and many others.

News of the leaked images first started spreading on a 4chan /b/ thread earlier today, where many users have made claims that the leaks are due to at least one person maliciously exploiting iCloud and various celebrities cell phones. Reports on 4chan also claim that the hacker has acquired videos as welland intends to sell them to TMZ for as much as six figures. Of course, most of this information is from an anonymous 4chan board, so take it with a heaping pile of salt.

But the fact remains that these private photos are definitely making the rounds, and many celebrities have taken to Twitter to seemingly confirm that at least some of them are indeed real. Most notably, Mary Winstead says she can only imagine the creepy effort that went into the leaks.

Photo Stream automatically syncs photos to iCloud as theyre taken, but its not yet known how the hackerif they did indeed manage to hack iCloudgot ahold of so many different celebrities photos across so many accounts. Mary Winstead mentions that the leaked photos of hers were deleted long ago, which raises even more questions includingwhether or not a deleted iCloud photo is ever truly deleted. But that, of course, assumes that iCloud is the problem here.

As many have noted intending to prove that iCloud isnt the source of these nudes, videos dont work with My Photo Stream. You can, as of iOS 7, upload them to shared streams (and therefore iCloud) and, perhaps more importantly, iCloud will also upload them to the cloud when performing a full device backup. Having access to an iCloud account would mean that a hacker could effectively restore the account to a wiped phone.

Some celebrities have reported that they dont even use an iPhone, which leads most to believe that the hacker got these filesfrom multiple sources (which is probably likely anyway) orthat some other cloud service could bethe real culprit. Perhaps more interesting, however, is that some celebrities, namely Trisha Hershberger, have proven that their nudes are actually fake and, coincidentally, they dont use an iPhone.

Weve reached out to Apple for comment on the situation. In the meantime, now is a good time to remind you to turn on two-factor authentication on your iCloud account.

Update: A vulnerability in the Find My Phone service may have allowed hackers to brute-force themselves into celebrity accounts.

Its still speculation at this point that iCloud is involved at all, but avulnerability found in Find My iPhone could have permitted hackers to brute-force their way into accounts by guessing a huge number of passwords that fall in line with Apples criteria. In order for this method of attack to work, the accounts of the celebrities in question would have to have relatively weak passwords. But as many celebrities know each other and would have other celebrities contacts in their address books, its possible that contacts data could be used to identify the account email addresses of others, effectively creating a chain of hacks.

The program,being called iBrute and exploiting a flaw now patched that let the program guess an unlimited number of passwords without being locked out, hasnt been linked directly to any attack on iCloud. But saidsecurity flaw that it took advantage of came to light and was fixed on the same day of the leak of countless private celebrity photos, so the timing is definitely a little uncanny.

Update 2: Apple has issued a statement to Re/codesaying that theyre actively investigating whether or not iCloud was actually involved in leaking the private images. We take user privacy very seriously and are actively investigating this report, Natalie Kerris, spokesperson for Apple, said.

Update 3: As pointed out by Mashable, the iBrute program was released just three days before the leak of the first celebrity photo, which may not have been enough time for this specific vulnerability to have been exploited to the extent needed to leak hundreds of celebrities nude photos.On August 30th,Andrey Belenko and Alexey Troshichev, security researchers withviaForensics and HackApp, respectively, gave an in-depth report (link to presentation slides) at Defcon Russia on the state of iCloud security, and iBrute was their proof of concept.

In the presentation,viaForensics actually outlines how Find My iPhone isnt the only security flawhere. Supposedly, hackers may have been able to guess a users iCloud Security Code offline, which therefore not triggering a lock out mechanism similar to one that was missing from Find My iPhone.

In terms of how this applies to the issue at hand, the iBrute Find My iPhone flaw being patched this morning may have simply been a result of this security talk and had nothing to do with the leaked images.


Update 4: Actress Kirsten Dunst appears to credit iCloud for her photos beingleaked.

Update 5: The United StatesFBI is investigating the alleged iCloud hack, according to an FBI spokesperson (via The Telegraph):

[The FBI is]aware of the allegations concerning computer intrusions and the unlawful release of material involving high profile individuals, and is addressing the matter.Any further comment would be inappropriate at this time.

Update 6: Apple has denied that iCloud was actually breached, and says that this was actually a very targeted attack on certain celebrities.

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