Texas Standard
3:42 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

The Dark Corners of the Web That Hacked Nude Celebrity Photos

It's being called Celebgate: private photos of some of entertainment's most famous women, ricocheting around the web.

Jennifer Lawrence, Kirsten Dunst and Lea Michele are among the female entertainers targeted. And the anonymous hacker claims to have private images of dozens more celebrities.

Fernando Alfonso III is a reporter with the Austin-based website The Daily Dot. He tells Texas Standard most photos appear to be gleaned from the performers' cloud storage accounts online. The photos were then posted to what the Dot describes as "the seediest corners of the Web," including the infamous, unmoderated image board called 4chan.

"4chan, for the past 10 years, has been known as the Internet's bathroom stall," Alfonso says. "Basically it has been kind of ground zero for not just only some of the worst content on the internet, but also some of the most beloved content as well – including things like LOLcats and the RickRoll meme – which have all kind have become very much part of our everyday lives, in a sense."

Interview Highlights:

The photos for bitcoins 'scam':

"One of the original posts from the person who claims to be responsible for leaking these photos … was trying to basically get people to give him bitcoins in exchange for the photos. … What's interesting is it seems like this person just started releasing them on his own, without ever receiving any payment.

Almost immediately, as these photos were leaking, what I saw on 4chan was a large number of people claiming to be the original hacker, asking people for money … There is a huge number of people now, even today, that are still pretending to be the original hacker. And some of them are actually getting money, getting bitcoins. The scam is working, in a sense."

How the images continued to spread:

"Once things get to Reddit, which is such a huge site in and of itself – and very visible and very much used by the media for stories– it just exploded ­… Once it got to Reddit it was everywhere."

Cloud storage, legal action and what’s next:

"Apple has been fairly tight lipped about this since the news broke … Everybody is kinda just waiting to see what will happen, what is going to change. Because by and large people have always considered iCloud and Apple services in general to be very secure.

How are sites ... going to deal with these photos? Jennifer Lawrence's representatives have said that they are going to prosecute people who proliferate these photos around the Internet. So what does this mean for those sites and how are they going to stop this wave of people reposting the photos over and over again?"