Holly Willoughby is reportedly the latest celebrity to fall victim to ruthless phone hackers.
Internet trolls claim they possess X-rated pictures of the blonde beauty as well as Millie Mackintosh, Kylie Jenner, actress Jennifer Lawrence and model Lacey Banghard and they are threatening to release them online to cause maximum humiliation, according to The Sun.
Yahoo Celeb UK has contacted Holly’s reps for comment but it is believed the expert computer programmers guessed passwords of her social media and messaging services and are ready to release their digital haul onto the world wide web.
The news comes after movie stars Emma Watson and Amanda Seyfriend had their devices remotely hacked and private images leaked on the internet over the weekend.
Amanda’s lawyer issued a cease-and-desist letter to website Celeb Jihad after it posted the intimate snaps, whilst Emma’s rep insisted her photos were taken during a meeting with her stylist for a fashion shoot.
Whatever the source, it is worrying that so many female stars are becoming the targets of unmercifil hackers who act without cencorship or moral boundaries.
It all began seven years ago, when Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis and Christina Aguilera were among the first high profile celebrities to become the victims of hacking. A Florida man, Christopher Chaney, gained access to their email records and released nude photographs of the stars.
Then in 2014, dozens of the world’s most famous women had their iCloud and Gmail accounts hacked and private images published online. Rihanna, Kelly Brook, Jennifer Lawrence, Kirsten Dunst and Kate Upton were among the celebs exposed and embarrassed in the leak that was dubbed “The Fappening”.
Computer expert Edward Majerczyk, 29, of Chicago, US, was jailed for nine months in January for stealing and posting the pictures after he gained access to 300 accounts and Ryan Collins, 36, of Pennsylvania, US, was also found guilty in the same case after hacking into a hundred accounts and was jailed for 18 months last October.
So how do the hackers do it?
Most utilize an email “phishing” ruse to get their victims’ names and passwords. Emails are made to appear to have come from internet service and security providers and contain links to websites that collect the security data of their victims to gain entry into their accounts.
Once the hackers are in, they are able to access sensitive information, including nude pictures and videos.
Instructions on how to hack and software for hacking is readily available in the illegal online
marketplace called the Darknet. It’s a hidden part of the internet which can only be accessed with specific software. As well as computer hacking and file corruption, it’s users buy and sell drugs and restricted goods on special Darknet markets such as the infamous Silk Road.
Fun fact – The Coen brothers are currently writing a movie based on the Darknet and Silk Road founder Ross William Ulbricht.
What are the hackers demands?
Oddly, the hackers seem to be more interested in causing embarrassment and gaining notoriety. Hackers use invite-only forums to share files and get a kick out of trading pictures. A source explained to The Sun: “They trade explicit pictures like children trade Pokemon cards. Sometimes some leak pictures on the mainstream internet for a sick buzz. Celebrities can get pictures and videos taken down, but other users just save the files to put elsewhere.
“It’s almost impossible to stop. And the longer it goes on for, the more kicks these weirdos get from it.”
Why does hacking and leaking private property matter?
On a legal level, hacking comes under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act but after she was exposed online, Jennifer Lawrence dubbed what happened to her a “sex crime”.
She told the press: “I was just so afraid. I didn’t know how this would affect my career.
“It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime. It is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting. The law needs to be changed, and we need to change. That’s why these websites are responsible. Just the fact that somebody can be sexually exploited and violated, and the first thought that crosses somebody’s mind is to make a profit from it. It’s so beyond me. I just can’t imagine being that detached from humanity. I can’t imagine being that thoughtless and careless and so empty inside.”
However, Leslie Jones wasn’t embarrassed when her nude photographs were shared with the world in August.
Speaking about hacking and cybersecurity on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ she said: “I was recently hacked myself. All they did was release some nude pics of me which is nothing because, I don’t know if y’all know this about me, but I ain’t shy. I am very comfortable with who I am. I am an open book. I keep my porn in a folder labeled ‘porn.’ If you wanna see Leslie Jones naked, just ask.
“What I’m trying to say is if you want to hurt anybody these days, you’re going to have to way more than leak their nudes or call them names. You can’t embarrass me more than I’ve embarrassed myself.”
How do celebrities protect themselves from cyber crime?
Jennifer Lawrence is said to have secured the services of private security experts K2 Intelligence, and runs everything she posts online past them. Kim Kardashian West is believed to be their latest customer, after she was robbed at gunpoint in Paris and it was thought that her whereabouts were discovered through her social media posts.
Other stars refuse to let themselves be targeted. Michelle Keegan recently told press she refuses to send her husband Mark Wright saucy pictures while they are apart, explaining: “Oh for God’s sake, no. No we wouldn’t do that. People hack the iCloud.”
And men are being cautious too.
While ‘Ghostbusters’ legend Dan Aykroyd – who is a UFO enthusiast – lives in fear of being hacked. He explained: “I don’t have a laptop. I don’t have an iPhone, and I refuse to carry them because they’re immensely hackable. Not that I have any big-bad secrets but sometimes I get defence briefings from people. I have UFO stuff that I don’t want people seeing that comes to me, which I prefer to come by fax or Fedex or mail.”
While Liam Payne is said to have employed extra online security measures after his Facebook page was hacked and pornographic photographs, a series of bizarre posts, and X-rated images flooded his timeline.
Can any good come out of the act of hacking?
The issue of the gender pay gap in Hollywood was a hot topic of conversation ever since hacked Sony emails revealed Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams had been paid less for their roles in ‘American Hustle’ than their male co-stars.
When Louis Tomlinson’s ex Briana Jungwirth had her Instagram account hacked, the hacker wrote on her account: “I hacked her to show her she needs to be careful with her Instagram account. Believe it or not I’m actually helping her a lot now she knows that she can’t just put her information anywhere.”