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FBI probes massive celebrity photo leak

Apple is also investigating the leak but it has been suggested that the pictures were collated from multiple sources.

Image: Doug Peters/EMPICS Entertainment

THE FBI AND Apple are today urgently investigating after an apparent massive hack of a cloud data service unleashed a torrent of intimate pictures of dozens of celebrities across the internet.

It emerged yesterday that anonymous posters to online message boards, particularly on the 4chan site, were boasting about having nude pictures of female starts, including Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence and model Kate Upton.

Reports suggested hackers had “ripped” private images from Apple’s iCloud online data storage, a potentially embarrassing – and damaging – breach for the California tech giant.

“We take user privacy very seriously and are actively investigating this report,” said Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris, the Re/code website reported.

Computer intrusions

The FBI has also joined the hunt, US reports said.

“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,” The Los Angeles Times quoted Laura Eimiller, spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles, as saying.

“Any further comment would be inappropriate at this time,” she added.

Some of the pictures had previously been circulated on message forums, and others appeared fake, but some major stars expressed outrage and threatened legal action.

“This is a flagrant violation of privacy. The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence,” Lawrence’s agent told entertainment media.

Upton’s lawyer, Lawrence Shore, told Us Magazine: “We intend to pursue anyone disseminating or duplicating these images to the fullest extent possible.”

By late Sunday, Twitter had begun suspending accounts that linked to the Lawrence photos, Mashable reported.

Fake

Among the scores of celebrities whose pictures were allegedly stolen were singer Avril Lavigne, actress Hayden Panettiere and United States soccer star Hope Solo. Former Nickelodeon star and singer Victoria Justice said the images claiming to show her nude were anything but the real deal.

A spokesperson for actress and pop star Ariana Grande told BuzzFeed that images said to be of her are “completely fake.”

However horror movie actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead confirmed that some of her private pictures were in circulation and condemned those who stole them – and those who were looking at them.

 

Late yesterday, the actress said she was “going on an internet break” after some users taunted and insulted her about the images.

Hacked

Apple has patched the alleged hole, the report said, but not before news of it spread in the hacker community, perhaps allowing unscrupulous strangers to access private online data.

But other reports suggested that the pictures could have been collated from multiple sources, perhaps not including iCloud at all, and may have been gathered over several years.

News site Deadspin said it had been contacted in early August by a source claiming he had been offered the pictures for sale.

The scale of the hack, and the targeting of women in the public eye, quickly revived the debate on social media about privacy concerns and about misogyny on the Internet.

The scandal also posed a public relations challenge to tech companies, who have been marketing online storage like iCloud, DropBox or GoogleDrive as a safe haven for users’ private data.

Several popular tech blogs marked the story by providing advice on storing private data safely, by using advanced encryption and two-step password identification or by keeping it offline.

- © AFP 2014 with additional reporting by Michelle Hennessy. 

Read: Should you be worried about whether your cloud data is safe?>

Read: Those stolen nude pics of Jennifer Lawrence are real>

More: Thinking of looking at those J-Law nude pics? Here’s why you shouldn’t>

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