The unthinkable happened in 2014. Private photos and videos stored on celebrity cellphones were hacked and uploaded to the web — these were all intimate photos. Over 100 celebs were targeted such as Hayden Panettiere, Kaley Cuoco, Aubrey Plaza and Kate Upton. It even affected athletes and American Idol contestants. Here is the updated account of what happened.
So just what happened? Who were these hackers? What were their motives? And how did they pull it off? The FBI was on the case immediately as websites such as Reddit and 4chan posted the pictures.
The leaks came in two waves. What follows is a detailed list of how it all went down, how the pictures went up, how the celebs involved were understandably upset and how the men behind the hack were eventually caught and jailed.
1. The Beginning.
According to Variety, on August 31, 2014, nude pictures of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande and Kirsten Dunst were leaked to 4chan. The first wave had begun.
Jennifer Lawrence’s spokesperson confirmed the pictures were real, saying, “The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence.” She later told Vanity Fair that it was "a sex crime ... a sexual violation".
3. Kate Upton.
Kate Upton’s rep had a similar response. According to Business Insider, the rep said it was "an outrageous violation of Upton's privacy" and promised, "to pursue anyone disseminating or duplicating these illegally obtained images to the fullest extent possible."
4. Ariana Grande.
Not every leaked celeb had the same reaction. According to Business Insider, Ariana Grande tweeted a message that read, “to every1 going on about my "nudes" & my "m&g prices" neither are real! my lil ass is a lot cuter than that lmao & tour details r comin soon.”
5. Victoria Justice.
Nickelodeon star and fellow hacking victim Victoria Justice also claimed that some of the nudes of her were fake. She tweeted, “These so called nudes of me are FAKE people. Let me nip this in the bud right now. *pun intended*.”
6. The Second Wave.
A few weeks later a second wave of nude photos was leaked that, according to BuzzFeed, included Hayden Panettiere, Kaley Cuoco, Rihanna and Avril Lavigne.
7. Underage Nudes.
According to BuzzFeed, one of the targets, gymnast McKayla Maroney, had her nudes deleted by Reddit after they realized she was underage when the pictures were taken. Moderators said, "It is considered CP (Child Pornography).”
8. Kaley Cuoco.
According to Business Insider, Kaley Cuoco learned that naked pictures of her had been hacked and uploaded thanks to a Google alert that lets her know when people are talking about her.
9. Lighthearted Approach.
Cuoco told Jimmy Kimmel that "it was a really bad situation," but that she decided to "take it into my own hands and ... joke about it, because what else are you going to do? You have to make fun of yourself."
10. Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
A Good Day To Die Hard actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead — one of the hacking victims — took to Twitter to respond. According to BuzzFeed she said, “To those of you looking at photos I took with my husband years ago in the privacy of our home, hope you feel great about yourselves.”
11. Gabrielle Union.
According to Vibe, another victim of the leak, Gabrielle Union, penned an open letter for Cosmopolitan that read in part, “All of the pictures had been shot and deleted years ago. Yet there they were, online for the world to see. I felt extreme anxiety, a complete loss of control. I suddenly understood that deleting things means nothing. You think it's gone? It's not.”
12. Meagan Good.
Another leak victim was Meagan Good who, according to Variety, took to Instagram to post her feelings. She said, “For everyone who’s reposting the leaked nudes? You should be ashamed of yourself.”
13. Kim Kardashian.
Kim Kardashian didn’t escape either. According to BuzzFeed, she was nude in her bathroom without her wedding ring on. And according to Huffington Post, she told the BBC, “I think it’s a wake-up call for people to make sure they have every privacy setting. It seems like there are a lot of people that love to spend their time hacking peoples’ information and that’s just a scary thing.”
14. How Did It Happen?
According to The Breeze, it was believed a ring of anonymous hackers had gained access to these celebrity accounts by guessing passwords and successfully answering the security questions.
15. The Hacker.
One of the hackers known as “Original Guy” posted on AnonIB (an image message board that trades in pornographic pictures) that he’d be moving and asked for Bitcoin donations. He also wrote, “Guys, just to let you know I didn’t do this by myself … there are several other people who were in on it.”
Two years later, in 2016, Ryan Collins from Pennsylvania was accused — by the US attorney’s office — of using a phishing scam sending emails that looked like official Apple or Google messages. According to the BBC, Collins pleaded guilty to felony hacking and violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. But who were the others?
17. Behind Bars.
It turns out there were indeed more — three more — behind the hack known on some sites as The Fappening. In 2018, according to the Verge, George Garofano was sentenced to 8 months in prison. Edward Majerczyk pleaded guilty and got 9 months in prison. And Emilio Herrera also pleaded guilty and got 8 months.