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UPDATED: 9/2/2014 3:11 p.m. EDT
NEW YORK (InsideBitcoins) — An anonymous hacker claims to have raided the iCloud photo files of hundreds of celebrities, leaking nude and intimate photos of Jennifer Lawrence, Kaley Cuoco, Kate Upton and others. A “donation” for posting the images – paid in bitcoin or via PayPal donations – was requested by the perpetrator. As of 11:30 a.m. Eastern this morning, 0.25766 BTC, little more than $120, had been transferred to the account.
At least some of the photos have been verified as authentic. Social media has dubbed the crime “The Fappening.”
Users of the forum 4chan claimed the images were stolen from celebrity iCloud accounts – and that more would be released unless a $40,000 ransom was paid to a PayPal account or with bitcoin. That demand has since been withdrawn.
Apple issued a statement this afternoon, denying that the hack had been caused by a breach of its iCloud storage service:
“We wanted to provide an update to our investigation into the theft of photos of certain celebrities,” Apple said in the release. “When we learned of the theft, we were outraged and immediately mobilized Apple’s engineers to discover the source. Our customers’ privacy and security are of utmost importance to us. After more than 40 hours of investigation, we have discovered that certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the Internet. None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud or Find my iPhone. We are continuing to work with law enforcement to help identify the criminals involved.”
Apple said that in order for consumers to protect their devices from such an attack, all users should use a strong password and enable two-step verification.
“This is a flagrant violation of privacy,” a representative of Jennifer Lawrence said in a statement. “The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence.”
A similar crime in 2012 earned the so-called “Hollywood Hacker” Christopher Chaney a 10-year prison sentence.
Actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead tweeted: “Knowing those photos were deleted long ago, I can only imagine the creepy effort that went into this. Feeling for everyone who got hacked. 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.”
Meanwhile, Kate Upton’s attorney promised immediate legal action.
“This is obviously an outrageous violation of our client Kate Upton’s privacy,” said Lawrence Shire in an email to BuzzFeed. “We intend to pursue anyone disseminating or duplicating these illegally obtained images to the fullest extent possible.”
The hacker claimed to have additional revealing images of Cara Delevingne, Kirsten Dunst, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, Kim Kardashian, Mary Kate Olsen, Rihanna, Candice Swanepoel and dozens of others.
Many Twitter accounts posting the images have been suspended.