Celebs are frequently targeted by hackers because of their status and popularity. The hacker understands there’s a lot of money to be made, and attention to be garnered, with the right celeb’s private photo or juicy bit of gossip.
The hackers infiltrate the celeb’s cloud accounts, computers, or cell phones. Sometimes, all a hacker needs is a lock pick. If they can rob a celeb’s home of identifying information, that information can be leaked to the public and used to embarrass them.
In the case of Paris Hilton, the hackers didn’t need any high-tech equipment to publish her personal photos. They found everything they needed to embarrass her in a storage locker she’d abandoned. On the other hand, other victims, such as Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton, had their private photos leaked after a hacker breached their Apple iCloud service.
It can happen in a lot of ways, but the fallout is always the same. The celeb’s private pictures or secrets are leaked to the public, and it’s embarrassing and unfair. It’s an unfortunate part of being a superstar in today’s Internet-connected and media driven society.
Sometimes the purveyors of this content are punished. Such was the case after 2014’s “The Fappening,” when hacker Ryan Collins was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his crime of accessing protected computers to obtain private information. Unfortunately, hackers often escape prosecution. And, their incarceration does little to thwart the rampant dissemination of the celeb’s private photos because once something is posted to the Internet, it’s forever woven into its fabric.
15 Jennifer Lawrence
Good-natured Jennifer Lawrence wasn’t laughing when birthday suit photos of her were leaked in 2014’s “The Fappening.” She called the scandal a “sex crime,” and famously told Vanity Fair, “It’s my body, and it should be my choice.” She’s certainly not wrong, but to date, photo hacking has yet to be tried as a sex crime.
“Just because I’m a public figure, just because I’m an actress, does not mean that I asked for this.” She said. She was 24 at the time. “It does not mean that it comes with the territory. It’s my body, and it should be my choice, and the fact that it is not my choice is absolutely disgusting. I can’t believe that we even live in that kind of world.”
Unfortunately, that is the world we live in -- one where no information is safe even the most personal of images. Hackers don’t have a conscience, so Lawrence called for some legal precedence: “The law needs to be changed, and we need to change.”
14 Kirsten Dunst
Kirsten Dunst is one of those quick-witted, bad-girl-next-door types. Her breakout role was Interview with the Vampire, a film which made her a very famous eleven-year-old. Her first kiss was Brad Pitt whom she starred opposite of in the film. Dunst, however, was not impressed with the kiss, which was little more than a peck.
“Everyone at the time was like, ‘You’re so lucky you kissed Brad Pitt,’ but I thought it was disgusting. I didn’t kiss anyone else until I was 16, I think. I was a late bloomer.”
Dunst had that hip way of speaking as a youngster, and now at 34 years old, not much has changed. After the leak of her photos, she tweeted, “Thank you iCloud,” followed by the pizza and poo emojis. Get it? Pizza poo… Piece of poo…
“I try to have a sense of humor about a really unfortunate situation,” she told E! News. “The FBI is investigating, so they’re handling it right now.” Dunst is one of only a few actresses who have confirmed ownership of the photos.
13 Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson, affectionately monikered “Scar Jo” by her fans, was the target of Chris Chaney, a Florida native who learned how to phish celebrities at 33 years old. He wasn’t even a real hacker, meaning, he had no real ability to cover his tracks and didn’t use malicious codes to hack Scar Jo’s account. He simply guessed her email address, and then used search engines to recover the accounts.
Even if celebrities changed their passwords, Chaney could view their personal information because he set up an auto-forwarder. Besides Johansson, he had hacked hundreds of celebs and industry people’s accounts. He leaked pictures of Christina Aguilera in her dressing room, and pictures of Scar Jo in various states of undress.
Ultimately, Chaney got his comeuppance. He was busted by the feds, and the courts sentenced him to 10 years for gaining unauthorized computer access and posting others' personal photos. In court, it was discovered that Chaney had also hacked the computers of a couple of women he worked with. About his actions, Scar Jo said they were “perverted and reprehensible.”
12 Paris Hilton
The same year she debuted two straight-to-DVD films and was jailed for various driving infractions, Paris also suffered a blow from hackers. Her storage unit, where she apparently stored personal belongings, was auctioned off to malicious enterprisers. If Paris hadn’t failed to pay the $208 she owed, we wouldn’t know she had a prescription for hydrocodone’s and kept an apology letter from a Switzerland man who profited less than a grand on the video she made with Rick Solomon.
The people who bought the storage locker had the nefarious idea to start a website (now defunct), and release everything she’d stored. This included birthday suit photos, personal diaries, home videos, and even banking and medical records. To access the information, visitors had to pay a subscription fee.
Paris successfully sued the website for an unspecified amount. A judge ordered the site’s owners to take it down, but the damage had been done. Today, the contents of the storage locker are easy to find on Tumblr, and consist of information including an itinerary for visiting racy clubs in Amsterdam and childhood family photos.
11 Emily Ratajkowski
25-year-old Emily Ratajkowski is a relatively new face in Hollywood. She’s the model from the “Blurred Lines” video and played Sophie in the 2015 film, We Are Your Friends. She’s beautiful, youthful, fresh-faced, and favors thong bathing suits. It’s easy to understand why someone would want to see her naked, but not so easy to understand why someone would hack her account and unlawfully release photos of her.
For Ratajkowski, who is outspoken about women’s equality, there is a silver lining. The unnamed hacker attempted to solicit her photos to Helen Wood, columnist for the Daily Star. Wood wasn’t having it. She said, “Last week, I was pondering along through life, when I received a DM on Twitter. No idea who this guy was, but had a peek all the same out of curiosity… Turns out, it was a link to Emily Ratajkowski iCloud pictures. This cloud had inboxed me and asked that I release the full set of naked images in my column.” Wood refused to publicly share the images and shamed the hacker instead.
10 Kate Upton
Model/actress Kate Upton is probably most famous for having an incredible body, and not shying from flaunting it. She almost broke the Internet in 2012 when she showed YouTube viewers how to do the “Cat Daddy” dance in a barely-there red bikini. She’s vivacious and beautiful, but she was assailed by obsessive and malicious hackers. This left her feeling victimized.
Like many others, Upton was targeted by the hackers responsible for “The Fappening.” During an interview with The Evening Standard, she told a reporter that she had had a difficult time coping with photo leak. “It’s an invasion of my privacy and it’s not OK,” she said. “It’s illegal. People don’t have a right to look at those photos or to judge them.”
She even admitted to fantasizing about deleting her social media accounts. Considering she’s the most Googled “Kate” in the world, it would be disappointing to her legions of fans if she left the public’s view. If nothing else, let that motivate you to rally for harsher punishments for these hackers and the websites that buy the photos.
She’s known by many names: Rihanna, RiRi, The Caribbean Queen, and The Barbados Babe. She’s a worldwide singing sensation and an all-around badass superstar. But she wasn’t immune to the alleged treacherous actions of two police officers and whoever leaked a naked photo of her in 2009.
Just after Chris Brown had left her physically and emotionally battered, police photographs of the incident leaked online. They showed her badly injured with blackened eyes and contusions on her lips. She was bruised along her forehead and cheeks too. It’s alleged that two police officers were responsible for the photo leak, but there was never enough evidence to prosecute them.
It’s unknown who leaked the birthday suit photo of her, but it came just a week or so after the domestic violence incident. She told a “Hot 97” DJ, “It was the worst thing that could possibly ever happen to me. I just felt like my whole privacy was taken before that [with the other photo leak] and then, when that came out, I thought, ‘Oh great, so now there’s nothing they don’t know about me and my private life.”
8 Vanessa Hudgens
In news that is too gross for regular folks, Vanessa Hudgens was just 18 years old when her private photos surfaced online. At the time, she was Disney’s darling. She was the star of the popular made-for-tv musical, High School Musical and starred in both subsequent sequels. It’s the same film that launched Zac Efron’s career.
Hudgens was understandably upset after the photos leaked. She was barely a woman and didn’t deserve her photos to be stolen and then leaked for the world to see. At the time, leaked celebrity photos were still a relatively odd occurrence. It simply didn’t happen as much, and some in the industry did not give her the respect she deserved.
Hudgens was blamed by Disney and others. Disney apologized on her behalf, and said they hoped she learned “a valuable lesson.” Hudgens herself felt pressured to apologize. She issued a formal statement: “I want to apologize to my fans, whose support and trust means the world to me.” She admitted to feeling embarrassed and even regretful for having taken the photos. If you ask me, she has no reason to be sorry.
7 Gabrielle Union
Young actresses aren’t the only ones who are beleaguered by hackers. Gabrielle Union was 44 when hackers leaked her birthday suit photos, but she didn’t take the scandal in stride. Union wrote an essay for Cosmopolitan titled “Gabrielle Union: My Nude Photos Were Stolen, and I’m Fighting Back.”
Just one day after her wedding to Miami Heat basketball player Dwyane Wade, news of “The Fappening” broke. Union was forced to halt her celebrations to deal with the fallout. Her photos were among those that were leaked online. “I felt an urgent need to speak out,” she wrote. Mostly, she couldn’t just move on and let someone else be the next victim. She wanted to do something.
She called private photo leaks hate crimes against women. “I didn’t like the public perception of this scandal – that we were just a bunch of narcissistic, sexually deviant celebrities who got what we deserved for being dumb… No one deserves to have a private moment stolen, whether it’s a photo, text, or email. Everyone has intimate parts of their life they don’t want the public to see.”
6 Lucy Hale
Star of Pretty Little Liars, Lucy Hale, didn’t let them get her down. She was tough when faced with her photo leak scandal. When her topless photos found their way to the Internet, she fired back at the hackers responsible. She said, “To whoever did this…Kiss my ass.”
“I will not apologize for living my life and having a personal life that is all mine,” she wrote on social media. “It’s truly unfortunate that being exposed in this way is allowed. Thank you for all the sweet, supportive messages I’ve been receiving.”
Although Hale’s lawyers have put pressure on the websites exposing her, her photographs remain a part of the mainstream web. This is unfortunate as other celebrities have had some success at getting their photos removed. For Hale, her photographs are just a small slice of a much bigger problem.
“Once again, a woman in the public eye was violated, stolen from, and her private life and body were exposed for anyone to see,” she wrote on her Instagram.
5 Emma Watson
In Emma Watson’s case, hackers didn’t uncover actual nude photos. She has stated that the pictures in question were taken while being fitted for clothing by a stylist and depict her in various stages of undress but no obvious nudity. Her spokesman issued a statement declaring, “They are not nude photographs. Lawyers have been instructed, and we are not commenting further.”
Allegedly there is another photo, one that Watson is aware of, that was allegedly hacked from her phone, but she denies this photo is of her. She has stated it’s a cropped photo of an undressed woman bathing. The woman has a similar body type but is not in fact Watson. Would she draw attention to the image if it was her? Doubtful. This is clearly a case of photoshopping.
Watson isn’t taking this scandal sitting down. An avowed feminist, Watson has promised to pursue justice to the full extent of the law, as well as to continue speaking out against violence toward women.
4 WWE Star Paige
Paige, whose real name is Saraya-Jade Bevis, was recently victimized by hackers who appropriated her cell phone. They released images and videos on social media without her consent. Of all the women on this list, Paige has had the most content disseminated.
The explicit images were released about twenty-four hours after her cell phone went missing. One of the images may even land her in hot water with the WWE because it shows her post-coitus with the women’s title belt beside her face. Many fans of WWE called this a “desecration,” and the Twittersphere was abuzz with angry fans expressing their outrage.
One user wrote, “The belt should be burned.” Others wrote that the WWE should definitely fire her. But it wasn’t all backlash. Paige’s real fans are a loyal bunch and started the briefly trending hashtag, “#IStandWithPaige.” One user wrote, “It’s a damn shame this is happening to Paige. If WWE fires her, they’re hypocrites for keeping Seth Rollins.” It’s definitely a double standard.
3 Amanda Seyfried And Justin Long
Amanda Seyfried is pregnant with her first child, so she should be enjoying a bit of bliss right now. Instead, she’s dealing with a photo scandal fallout. Photos of her with ex-boyfriend Justin Long were released online recently. Allegedly, they depict her and Long in various stages of coitus, and were private photos taken while the two were still dating.
As this case proved, hackers can collect data throughout the time it takes a celebrity to fall in and out of love, and they will because they’re not always in it for the money. Sometimes, it’s just about the invasion of privacy, obsession, and abuse. They’ll privately stalk a computer or device for a long while before they expose what they’ve stolen. At the end of the day, there’s little that can be done to protect Seyfried and Long now. The photos are out there, and they’re both victims.
Although Long has yet to make an official statement about the leak, Seyfried’s legal team has released statements on her behalf. They’ve promised they are pursuing legal action against the website that’s posted the explicit content.
2 Meagan Good
Television star Meagan Good (famous for Moesha, Californication, and many other programs) wasn’t going to remain mum when her pictures were released online without her consent. She was furious because she was a married woman, and those picture were for him not the entirety of the depraved dark web.
“I’m definitely in shock,” she said on her Instagram. "Saddened for everyone who is experiencing this… but I choose not to give the person responsible my power… At the end of the day, we all know these pictures were for my husband. And at the end of the day, evidently we all know how I feel about my tatas. That’s all I’ve got folks. Oh yeah and for everyone who’s reposting the leaked nudes? You should be ashamed of yourself… You have a blessed day now.”
Good makes a good point when she talks about the people circulating these images. Aren't they as guilty as the hackers? Isn't it sort of the same thing? It definitely is a deplorable action to share stolen content because it surely has damaging effects on the victim.
1 Kaley Cuoco
Star of the Big Bang Theory, Kaley Cuoco, was victimized by hackers, too. But she fought back in a slightly different way: she shamed those who viewed the pictures. And while she admitted to feeling disturbed by the hack, she also took matters in her own hands by releasing blurred out versions of her photos in a hilarious attempt to appear unclothed.
Using the app, “Nudify,” Cuoco tried to take the attention away from the dark web and 4chan posters by being hilarious, and also sending them a very poignant message. They weren’t going to break her spirit.
She discussed the situation on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Which helped draw attention to this very important issue. She admitted that she had Google alerts that notified her whenever something was printed with her name in it, and that’s how she discovered her photos had been stolen. She told Kimmel that she was sitting with the guys from Big Bang Theory, and they helped her choose a picture to nudify. She said, “So I could, like, get them [the hackers] back. It was a team effort.”
Sources: Daily Mail; Mirror; Wikipedia; Instagram