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US Celebrity Photo Hacking Linked to Chicago Address

  • Associated Press

The trail of a celebrity photo-hacking scandal led the FBI to an unassuming brick home in Chicago, according to recently unsealed court documents that reveal agents zeroed in on a computer they linked to nearly 600 hacked personal data-storage accounts.

Some accounts belonged to female stars whose nude photos were leaked online. The FBI seized computers and cellphones from the southwest side home in October, but no charges have been filed.

No one answered the door when The Associated Press visited the address Wednesday. A phone number associated with the address went unanswered.

At the time of the raid, investigators believed an IP address for a computer at the home was used to access Apple iCloud accounts belonging to celebrities, according to an affidavit unsealed in April.

The affidavit identifies eight celebrities by their initials only. Other hacked accounts belonged to other celebrities, models and their friends and families, the affidavit said.

Two of the stars talked to the FBI, according to the affidavit. One celebrity "who has appeared in several movies and TV shows,'' learned she was a victim of the leaks through the news media, the document says.

"All photos were taken with her iPhone and sent through iMessage to her boyfriend,'' the affidavit says.

Similarly, another star "who has appeared in several movies,'' told the FBI "some of the photos were sent to her fiance, others were never sent and only stored on her phone.''

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller in Los Angeles said no charges have been filed.

The lack of charges may indicate the computer's owner could be a victim, too, said Bill Kresse, a cybersecurity expert at Governors State University in University Park, Illinois. A computer or its IP address can be hijacked from anywhere in the world, Kresse said.

"Be cautious about what you put on the iCloud,'' Kresse said, and make sure your passwords are difficult to crack.

The raid is part of an ongoing investigation into how nude and sexually explicit photos of celebrities - such as Jennifer Lawrence, whose initials are not in the affidavit - were stolen and posted without permission.

Last summer's scandal highlighted the vulnerabilities of cloud computing - technology often used to store personal information on the Internet. In September, Apple said its engineers had determined that hackers breached individual accounts and didn't obtain general access to the company's services.

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