Nude celebrity photo hacks the work of an 'underground nude trading ring', reports claim

Numerous anonymous posters on forums where the images first surfaced say the cache of images has existed for 'months' and that more leaks are coming

Following the release of scores of nude photographs of celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton, reports of an “underground celeb n00d-trading ring” suggest that the images are not simply the product of lone hacker.

Since the first batch of stolen photos was posted online on Sunday evening, new releases have trickled out over the course of the week.

Posters on anonymous image-sharing boards 4chan and AnonIB claim that the cache of stolen images was assembled by a group of hackers and took “several months of long and hard work by all involved”.

Another poster on 4chan has claimed that an “underground celeb n00d-trading ring” that finds these images has “existed for years," with individuals conducting trades with another to “expand [their] collections”.

Read more: Is iCloud safe following celeb hacks?
Lena Dunham on 4Chan photo leaks: 'Hackers are sex offenders'
Emma Watson: 'Even worse than seeing women's privacy violated is reading the comments'

“These guys conduct individual attacks on celebs through (I presume) a mix of social engineering and (esp for more high-profile targets) straight-up hacking,” wrote the anonymous tipster. “The only way to join the ring is by ‘buying in’ with original pics (“wins”, as they call them) you’ve acquired by yourself.

“[The] circle hardly ever widens to include more people – very few people even find out about this ring, and fewer still have n00ds to buy in with.”

An edited screen shot from 4chan.

The poster suggested that one “self-style ‘rich kid’” bought into the trading ring and then “blew the lid on this whole operation by sharing them with outsiders for the first time”. This inspired others to “[come] out of the woodwork offering up some of their collections for donations," leading to the avalanche of images on Sunday evening.

Speaking to The Independent, David Emm, a senior researcher at Kaspersky Lab, said that the theory was "certainly feasible" and that the motivation for hacking a celebrity was rarely the same as the motivation for hacking a member of the public.

"If someone wants to hack my Facebook the probability is they're not looking at pictures of me but they're looking to spread malware. But for a well-known person or actor or actress there's juicy information that can be found and, of course, the sleaze factor of getting access to private pictures."

Although first-hand anonymous reports like this are impossible to verify, this particular story fits with other fragments of information about what some publications are referring to as ‘celebgate’.

Sports website Deadspin claims that they heard about the existence of a large cache of images several weeks ago thanks to a tipster. “These photos appear to have been floating somewhere in the bowels of the internet one way or another for awhile,” writes Samer Kalaf. “We tried contacting our original tipster today with no response."

The theory of a collection gathered over time also fits the wide scope of dates attached to the photos, but the existence of multiple hackers - and subsequently of multiple leakers - makes it impossible to identify what Deadspin referred to as “Pervert Zero” – an original hacker.

US pop star Ariana Grande is among those targeted by the mass hacking - though she claims the picutres are fake. One individual who posted the images online was identified by 4chan and Reddit users after including identifying information in screenshots used to boast of his collection. He later told Buzzfeed that he was simply a leaker, and that “the real guy is on 4chan posting intermittently.”

Mr Emm confirmed that any hackers involved were far more likely to be keeping as quiet as possible right now. "The likelihood is that these people always wanted to do it surreptitiously. They wouldn't be hacking accounts and splurging it everywhere - that's the last thing they'd do."

A report from Business Insider suggests that the iCloud hacks (this is Apple’s digital back-up service that uploads iPhone images to online servers automatically) are regularly traded online, with hackers either using specialized software or simply abusing iCloud’s iForgot password reset tool to gain access to celebrities’ accounts.

Security experts’ theories on how the hackers gained access to the private photographs echo this version of events. (The advice to worried iCloud users is make sure they have a strong, unique password for their account and to turn on two-step verification to be doubly safe).

At the moment all of this is speculation, but with the FBI and Apple confirming that they are actively investigating the issue we can certainly expect to hear more about the existence – or non-existence – of an “underground celeb n00d-trading ring” over the coming weeks.  

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
News
David Ryall in Harry Potter
people
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Sport
Wayne Rooney warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane
football
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: PHP Web Developer

    £30000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a Web Developer looking...

    Ashdown Group: Moodle Developer (PHP ,Linux, Apache, MySQL, Moodle)

    £35000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Moodle Developer (PHP ,Linux, Apache...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Junior .NET Web Developer - Winform / MVC

    £21000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Award-winning pharma softw...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015