The US Department of Justice triumphantly announced on Tuesday that it had caught the man who most likely stole naked photographs of dozens of celebrities, including Kate Upton, Jennifer Lawrence, and Ariana Grande.
There’s no denying this is big news — the people behind the iCloud hack caused upset and embarrassment when private photos and videos that women had deleted years ago were made public.
But there’s a crucial detail in the Department of Justice’s release: We still don’t know who actually leaked the images online.
The government has only found the man who allegedly stole the photos, but the identity of “OriginalGuy,” the shadowy online figure who shared the images online, is still unknown.
Here’s the key section from the Department of Justice’s announcement:
The charge against Collins stems from the investigation into the leaks of photographs of numerous female celebrities in September 2014 known as “Celebgate.” However, investigators have not uncovered any evidence linking Collins to the actual leaks or that Collins shared or uploaded the information he obtained.
So the government says that Ryan Collins, who it claims will plead guilty, was the technical expert who used “phishing” emails to pretend to be Apple in order to gain the passwords of famous women, access their iCloud and Gmail accounts, and then delve through their phone backups in search of intimate photos.
But that’s just one side of the secretive online community that resulted in the leaks that were dubbed both “The Fappening” and “Celebgate.” As well as hacking experts who are able to retrieve images, there are also collectors, traders, and people who sell the images for Bitcoin.
Business Insider went undercover as a buyer looking for naked celebrity photos in October 2014. We contacted a dealer known as “Sets Ahoy” (a “set” is a collection of photos) and asked whether he was selling anything. Sure enough, he sent over his catalogue. For one bitcoin (then worth around £242) he offered us stolen photographs of the following celebrities:
Sets Ahoy was a photo trader, but it was unlikely that he was directly connected to the Celebgate leak. Instead, that leak was largely down to one person: “OriginalGuy.” That’s the name of a user (or a group of users) of the anonymous online porn forum AnonIB who began to leak hundreds of stolen photos in September 2014.
The photos were first posted on AnonIB but quickly spread to 4chan and the rest of the internet. It’s still not clear exactly why OriginalGuy chose to post the files online, as they were still valuable to private collectors. But he shared hundreds of files in one night and then disappeared and hasn’t been heard from since.
The Department of Justice may well have caught the man who originally obtained the images, but what’s still unclear is how the photos ended up online. If there’s no evidence that Collins uploaded the files, then that raises the question of whether he himself was hacked, or whether he worked as part of a team that still exists.
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