Hackers may have spent years amassing nude shots
The FBI is probing reports that the online theft of private nude photographs of female celebrities was the work of an underground hacking and picture-trading ring rather than a lone individual.
The 100-plus images so far leaked online, including pictures of the actress Jennifer Lawrence, pictured below, were believed to represent only a fraction of a vast archive of explicit photographs that a group of hackers has been amassing for months.
An anonymous poster on the 4chan website, where some of the photographs were posted, referred to an "underground celeb n00d-trading ring" (using web slang for "nude") that "has existed for years".
The Deadspin sports website disclosed that one of its readers alerted it to the existence of a large cache of stolen celebrity photographs "a few weeks ago".
The Gawker website also established that anonymous users were last week discussing a collection of "explicit vids and pics" on a thread dedicated to Jennifer Lawrence on AnonIB, a 4chan offshoot.
Social media site Twitter suspended the account of a user who, hours before the first Lawrence photographs emerged, spoke of "nudes of like 20 celebs" for which a celebrity website was allegedly offering cash.
An anonymous poster, who claimed to be involved in the thefts, wrote on AnonIB that the hacking had been "several months" in the making. One victim, actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead, said the stolen photographs of her were old and had previously been deleted.
Gawker reported that one 4chan user described a years-old "ring" of celebrity photograph traders, a group that could only be joined by providing your own nude images - effectively "buying your way in", it said.
Initial reports suggested that hackers might have taken advantage of a "vulnerability" in the security system for Apple's iCloud wireless data storage service. Apple said yesterday that it was "actively investigating this report". (© Daily Telegraph , London)