Apple has denied that a security breach caused the theft of hundreds of nude photos from the individual iCloud accounts of more than 100 celebrities.

The company, which has been criticized since the photos were posted on anonymous web forum 4chan, said that a "very targeted attack" was used to steal the revealing images.

"When we learned of the theft, we were outraged and immediately mobilized Apple's engineers to discover the source. Our customers' privacy and security are of utmost importance to us," the company said in a press release.

"After more than 40 hours of investigation, we have discovered that certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the Internet. None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple's systems including iCloud or Find my iPhone."

The collection of photos, which includes racy images of actress Jennifer Lawrence and singer Rihanna, were initially said to be due to a vulnerability in Apple's Find My iPhone software. The list of victims is extensive. Other celebrities that were included in the privacy breach include Scarlett Johansson, Kim Kardashian, Selena Gomez, Kate Upton, Avril Lavigne, Jenny McCarthy, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Victoria Justice. The photos were passed around   

The people who posted the photos in the 4chan forum claimed that the images were taken off of the iCloud accounts and cell phones of celebrities. The hackers promised more explicit photos in exchange for bitcoin and Paypal. In an interview with British tabloid Mirror, the unnamed uploader said that the photos generated only $120 in bitcoin payments. According to Engadget, a Github project called ibrute may have been used to steal the photos. The brute force attack was said to have made unauthorized access to Apple IDs possible. According to the hackers, the bug has since been patched. 

The bad publicity comes at a crucial time for Apple. The company is rumored to launch the iPhone 6 in less than a week. The privacy breach, which has a number of celebrities threatening legal action, may take away attention from the company's expected unveiling of the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch variants of its latest smartphone.

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