News of a huge collection of nude photos reportedly of celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, Ariana Grande and Kate Upton hit the Internet this weekend. An anonymous user posted the photos on the online image library 4chan after first offering up the images in exchange for bitcoins. Once the photos were leaked, they spread like wildfire across the Internet on forums such as Reddit to gossip sites like PerezHilton.com.
After we got over the sheer shock and horror of this event, the thought on everyone's mind was how could someone access so many private photos of famous people, and who would do such a thing? We're far from solving the case entirely, but here's what we know so far.
It was first reported that this 4chan user accessed the photos through the iCloud accounts of these celebrities. A post on the code-sharing site GitHub from Sept. 1 said a user found a bug in the Find My iPhone app which allowed a hacker to keep attempting passwords until getting the correct one. Apple, Inc. has since said it is investigating the matter.
But that's only the start of it. Apparently, these photos may have been making the rounds for a few weeks. Deadspin reports that the site received a tip from a reader several weeks ago that claimed a Facebook user had sent him nude photos of stars, such as Lawrence, McKayla Maroney and Victoria Justice, in exchange for nude photos of his girlfriend. A few weeks later on Aug. 26, an anonymous user posted about "explicit vids and pics" on a thread about Lawrence on the 4chan offshoot AnonIB. One user posted on AnonIB on Sept. 1 that many people were involved in obtaining the celebrity photos over "several months of long and hard work by all involved."
The multiple dates and apparently multiple vectors for hacking suggest that the hack may be the result of a group of hackers trading the photos, Gawker reports. One 4chan user posted that "there's been a small, underground celeb n00d-trading ring that's existed for years."
However, the hackers and leakers involved may not be the same. Some Redditors and security researchers suspect Bryan Hamade, a 27-year-old coding specialist from Lawrenceville, Ga., leaked the photos after they matched him to the hard drive and network drive seen in a screenshot of the nude celebrity photo gallery that Reddit user BluntMastermind posted, BuzzFeed reports. However, Hamade denied the claims to BuzzFeed, saying that he posed as having the photos so he could fool 4chan users into giving him bitcoins. But BuzzFeed also received a screenshot that alleges a user named "OriginalGuy" ransomed the leaked photos for bitcoins is Hamade, "based on screenshots of the leaked photos that have only appeared on Hamade's postings."
Not only has whoever hacked and leaked the photos received a lot of ire from many around the Internet but they also could be in for some legal trouble if identified. The FBI said on Sept. 1 that it was "aware of the allegations concerning computer intrusions and the unlawful release of material involving high profile individuals, and is addressing the matter."
The details of the controversy are still very vague, and with many of the tips coming from anonymous users online, it's difficult to determine what information is accurate. Who actually hacked and leaked the photos and how they did it remain unclear, but the world is still waiting to find out.