Apple: Hackers to blame in stars’ nude photo leaks

FBI probe seeks to identify those liable in data breach

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LOS ANGELES — Ap­ple said Tues­day that hack­ers ob­tained nude pho­tos of Jen­ni­fer Law­rence and other fe­male ce­leb­ri­ties by pil­fer­ing im­ages from in­di­vid­ual ac­counts, rather than through a broader at­tack on the com­pany’s ser­vices.

Mean­while, nu­mer­ous shar­ing sites re­moved im­ages of the stars ap­par­ently in re­sponse to copy­right com­plaints. But ex­perts say there is no way to scrub the pho­tos fully from the In­ter­net, and the im­ages could keep pop­ping up in the fu­ture, forc­ing ce­leb­ri­ties to file re­peated com­plaints as they play a cy­ber-ver­sion of the ar­cade game “whack-a-mole.”

Ap­ple said its en­gi­neers have de­ter­mined that hack­ers breached in­di­vid­ual ac­counts and didn’t ob­tain gen­eral ac­cess to a pair of the com­pany’s ser­vices — iCloud and Find my iPhone. The tech gi­ant said it re­leased the re­sults af­ter con­duct­ing 40 hours of in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Law en­force­ment in­qui­ries likely will take days or weeks to com­plete.

The FBI of­fered no de­tails on its ef­forts to iden­tify peo­ple re­spon­si­ble for steal­ing the im­ages that were posted on im­age-shar­ing site, the so­cial net­work­ing sites Red­dit and Twit­ter, and other web­sites. But the agency said Mon­day it was aware of the breach and ad­dress­ing the mat­ter.

Sim­i­lar in­ves­ti­ga­tions have in­volved the use of search war­rants and dig­i­tal fo­ren­sics to de­ter­mine how hack­ers ob­tained ev­ery­thing from Paris Hil­ton’s con­tact list to nude pho­tos of ac­tresses Scar­lett Jo­hans­son and Mila Kunis.

Ms. Law­rence, an Os­car win­ner for her role in “Sil­ver Lin­ings Play­book,” con­tacted au­thor­i­ties af­ter the im­ages of her be­gan ap­pear­ing Sun­day.

By Tues­day, a Red­dit thread that had been com­pil­ing links to im­ages of nude pho­tos of Ms. Law­rence and other ce­leb­ri­ties had been dis­abled due to a copy­right claim, the web­site said. Users re­ported dif­fi­culty find­ing work­ing links to the im­ages on other sites. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Twit­ter, Red­dit and Imgur did not re­spond to mes­sages seek­ing com­ment.

Ap­ple Inc. said it was co­op­er­at­ing with the FBI and urged us­ers to adopt stron­ger pass­words and en­able a two-step au­then­ti­ca­tion fea­ture to pre­vent data thefts. Naked im­ages pur­ported to be of other stars also were posted, al­though the au­then­tic­ity of many couldn’t be con­firmed.

Mark Rasch, a for­mer fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor who spe­cial­ized in com­puter crimes, said in­ves­ti­ga­tors will fo­cus on who’s re­spon­si­ble for the theft of the pho­tos, the tools they used and the id­io­syn­cra­sies of how they pro­gram. “There is a dig­i­tal trail,” Mr. Rasch said. “What you hope for [is] the peo­ple aren’t very good at what they do, that they screw up, that they [up­set] other hack­ers. Or that they leave a trail.” Mr. Rasch said au­thor­i­ties will some­times catch an early break or get a tip that leads them to sus­pects. The in­ves­ti­ga­tions are dif­fi­cult, he said, but “it’s equally dif­fi­cult to get away with it scot-free.”

In the past de­cade, fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors have suc­cess­fully pros­e­cuted a Mas­sa­chu­setts teen­ager who hacked Ms. Hil­ton’s phone ac­count and posted her con­tact list on­line. The teen­ager was sen­tenced to sev­eral months in jail.

Chris­to­pher Chaney, a Flor­ida man, was or­dered by a fed­eral judge in 2012 to be im­pris­oned for 10 years for the hack that tar­geted Ms. Jo­hans­son.

The peo­ple re­spon­si­ble for steal­ing the Law­rence pho­tos might also be tracked by pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tors, who can op­er­ate faster than gov­ern­ment agents, said Mr. Rasch, whose com­pany, Rasch Tech­nol­ogy and Cy­ber­law, has con­ducted sim­i­lar in­ves­ti­ga­tions but is not work­ing on the cur­rent data breach.

“Even if you can get it taken down, it’s likely to pop up some­where else,” said F. Jay Dough­erty, a law pro­fes­sor at Loy­ola Law School Los An­ge­les, who spe­cial­izes in en­ter­tain­ment and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty is­sues.

Mickey Os­ter­re­icher, a me­dia law­yer and gen­eral coun­sel for the Na­tional Press Pho­tog­ra­phers As­so­ci­a­tion, said a suc­cess­ful copy­right com­plaint could scrub the im­ages from a site for­ever, but Mr. Law­rence and other ce­leb­ri­ties will have to re­main vig­i­lant and keep fil­ing take-down no­tices. “You have to go to each place,” he said. “It’s kind of like play­ing whack-a-mole.”

Jennifer Lawrence - Scarlett Johansson - Apple Inc - Paris Hilton - Mila Kunis


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