Hacking celebrities photos

14.09.2018
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iCloud hacked, multiple celebrity nudes leaked

hacking celebrities photos
Pennsylvania man charged with hacking celebrities' nude photos

The man allegedly at the center of a massive celebrity photo hacking case in 2014 has agreed to plead guilty to a felony hacking charge.

The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday named Ryan Collins, 36, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, as the culprit behind the massive hack of accounts containing nude photos of celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence, Rihanna, Scarlet Johansson, Gabrielle Union, Hope Solo, Hillary Duff, Jenny McCarthy, Kim Kardashian, Kate Upton, Victoria Justice and many others.

According to the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, Collins illegally gained entry to more than 100 Apple and Google accounts in the process of accessing the celebrities' photos.

Although Collins has admitted to accessing the accounts and obtaining the photographs, authorities "have not uncovered any evidence linking Collins to the actual leaks or that Collins shared or uploaded the information he obtained," according to the Justice Department.

The legal documents accompanying Collins’ case state that he committed the illegal acts sometime between Nov. 1, 2012 and Sept. 2, 2014.

Collins would first send an email to a victim from an address that appeared to be from Google or Apple. That email would ask the victim for their user name and password. Once the victim replied to Collins’ fake emails, he "accessed Apple iCloud and Gmail accounts … and thereby obtained complete iCloud backups." The Justice Department also confirmed that Collins used an unnamed piece of software to download the entire contents of the users' iCloud accounts. 

Collins will plead guilty to "a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act." Once the guilty plea is formally submitted, he faces up to five years in federal prison, but authorities will recommend just 18 months.

Following this plea agreement, authorities have pledged to not bring any further charges against Collins related to this crime (excluding criminal tax charges, if any arise).  

As the photos leaked onto the Internet, a number of websites posted the nude photos of the celebrities, which gave rise to the social media hashtag "the fappening." But while authorities say they have successfully captured the person behind the initial hacks, they have not been able to confirm who posted the photos on the Internet.

"Lawless unauthorized access to such private information is a criminal offense," said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. "My office remains committed to protecting sensitive and personal information from the malicious actions of sophisticated hackers and cyber criminals."

As for tracking down those who posted the stolen photos on the Internet, the Justice Department will only confirm that there is an ongoing investigation by the FBI. 

"We continue to see both celebrities and victims from all walks of life suffer the consequences of this crime," said David Bowdich, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, in a statement, "[we] strongly encourage users of Internet-connected devices to strengthen passwords and to be skeptical when replying to emails asking for personal information."

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Hack leaks hundreds of nude celebrity photos

Hundreds of nude, semi-nude, and revealing pictures of female celebrities were leaked overnight after being stolen from their private collections. Hunger Games actress Jennifer Lawrence, Kirsten Dunst, and pop star Ariana Grande were among the celebrities apparently shown in the pictures, which were posted on infamous web forum 4chan.

It's unclear how the images were obtained. Anonymous 4chan users said the photos were taken from celebrities' iCloud accounts, although Apple has since denied that the incident was caused by "any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud or Find my iPhone." iCloud accounts are designed to allow iPhone, iPad, and Mac users to synchronize images, settings, calendar information, and other data between devices, but the service has been criticized for being unreliable and confusing. Earlier this year, Jennifer Lawrence herself complained about the service in an interview with MTV.

It's also unclear for how long the hackers had been building their collection of images before posting. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, star of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and one of the celebrities whose pictures were posted, said the images were taken and deleted years ago, suggesting her pictures were either still available in cloud storage, or were grabbed at the time.

Gawker reports the huge leak was teased earlier this week when an anonymous user suggested that they had access to a cache of celebrities' personal photos.The user that claimed responsibility for the hack indicated that more pictures and videos of the celebrities were available, but requested both bitcoin and monetary donations to a PayPal account before the stolen images and videos were posted. Gawker also says that gossip site TMZ was attempting to purchase the images prior to their posting online, with the 4chan user saying "I'd rather you get them than TMZ" in a bid to spur donations from other forum users.

Many of the images are reportedly forgeries: a spokesperson for Ariana Grande said that the photos are "completely fake," while Victoria Justice took to Twitter to refute claims that the pictures were of her.

But other celebrity victims of the hack have confirmed that the pictures are real. Mary Elizabeth Winstead tweeted that she could "only imagine the creepy effort that went into" the breach, and a spokesperson for Jennifer Lawrence released a statement to BuzzFeed in which they called the leak "a flagrant violation of privacy."

Lawrence's spokesperson also said that anyone posting the stolen pictures will be prosecuted by relevant authorities. The spokesperson didn't clarify what legal ramifications people sharing the picture would face, but Mashable reports a number of Twitter accounts posting uncensored pictures of the victims of the hack have already been suspended. Harsher punishments likely await the person responsible for leaking the pictures — in 2012, a man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for hacking the private email accounts of celebrities including Mila Kunis and Scarlett Johansson.

Update: In a statement, Apple has said that the hack was caused "by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions," and that none of the incidents "resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud or Find my iPhone." This story has been updated to reflect the statement.

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