"Celebgate" photo leaks bring bitcoin back into the pop culture conversation

Home » "Celebgate" photo leaks bring bitcoin back into the pop culture conversation
Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/100239928@N08/

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/100239928@N08/

It’s being called “Celebgate,” and it’s already bringing a new wave of negative attention to bitcoin. Over the weekend, a poster on infamous anonymous image-sharing message board 4Chan.org leaked hundreds of private, nude photos of several female celebrities, including Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence, swimsuit model Kate Upton and others. The anonymous 4Chan poster also claimed to have similar photos of a total of 101 female celebrities, with the leaked set only representing a small sample of their total pool of sexually explicit photos and videos. To release more, the poster asked for donations to a bitcoin address to offset the amount paid to acquire them in the first place.

In effect, the scheme is a crowdsourced reverse ransom: Send money to this pseudo-anonymous address, or I won’t release these sexually explicit, potentially career-haunting images. As criminal plots go, it appears at first glance to be sound. Fortunately for those celebrities involved, it also appears to have completely failed. At press time, the address posted by the 4Chan user has raised a mere $123 in donations.

Posting on 4Chan hours after the leak (the thread has since been deleted, and 4Chan itself has been down for most of the day), the leaker lamented: “Sure, I got $120 with my bitcoin address, but when you consider how much time was put into acquiring this stuff (i’m not the hacker, just a collector), and the money (i paid a lot via bitcoin as well to get certain sets when this stuff was being privately traded Friday/Saturday) I really didn’t get close to what I was hoping.”

Interestingly, in the hours since the leak began many of the photos have been verified as real, and they may indicate a severe security issue with Apple’s iCloud, cited by many as the most likely source of the photos. Representatives for Jennifer Lawrence called the leak a “flagrant violation of privacy,” and said that authorities have already been contacted to investigate. A similar case in 2011 resulted in a 10-year sentence for hacker Christopher Chaney, who leaked private, nude photos of Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis, Christina Aguilera and others.

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