ByMark Newton, writer at
Movie Pilot Associate Editor. Email: [email protected]
Mark Newton

A year ago, the internet as a whole was stunned by one of the most wholesale invasions of celebrities' privacy in modern times. The incident, referred to as 'CelebGate' (although some some Redditors insisted on calling it 'The Fappening') involved personal, often nude, images of female celebrities and actresses being released online.

Although it's been a year, and the spectacle surrounding the leak has since passed, police are apparently no where closer to catching or prosecuting the individual(s) responsible.

The images, which showed personal photos of female celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Jessica Brown Findlay, Kaley Cuoco and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, were initially leaked to websites such as 4chan and the Anon-IB in exchange for BitCoin. However, according to the Daily Mail, the images had in fact been circulating among a smaller, closed group of individuals for weeks prior to their public release.

Considering they first appeared on 4chan, as well as the website's infamous reputation for hacking and male adolescent internet-culture, mainstream belief is that the images were obtained by a group of hackers affiliated, at least partially, with the 4chan community. However, despite their source, the images in fact circulated most frequently on Reddit - leading to widespread criticism of the site.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead was one of the most vocal victims to speak out about the hacks.

In reality, the hackers may have in fact been a network that was generally unaffiliated with any mainstream web community. According to the Daily Mail, anonymous posters obtained the images from a ring of hackers, traders and sellers - adding an even darker undercurrent to the crime. FBI investigators have since ascertained that the pictures were acquired from Apple's iCloud feature via "brute force hacking," a method which uses a program to essentially guess the passwords of iCloud users and access their images. As you can imagine, this technique is particularly effective against accounts with poor password security.

Herrera's Chicago home
Herrera's Chicago home

Despite the lack of progress, the FBI does have some leads. In October 2014, the FBI searched a house in Chicago belonging to a person named as Emilio Herrera - a man who lived alone with his parents. Several computers and storage devices were seized, and although the FBI claims they were used to access celebs' accounts, they have yet to make any official arrest. According to the investigation teams, however, Herrera was just one of several individuals under scrutiny. An unknown second house in Chicago was also later raided.

The massive backlash to the images, and the accumulated legal might of the celebrities' lawyers, means the images have more or less been successfully wiped from the mainstream areas of the internet. Although the images still certainly exist in the darker and seedier areas of the web, victims such as Jennifer Lawrence hope moral arguments will prevent the curious from seeking them out. After admitting the images of her were authentic, she labelled the leak a "sex crime," adding, "anybody who looked at those pictures, you're perpetuating a sexual offense. You should cower with shame."


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