Beware the Fappening: Massive Leak of Celeb Nude Images Threatens Freedom on the Web

You probably thought you were going to see Jennifer Lawrence's breasts in this article, didn't you?

You probably thought you were going to see Jennifer Lawrence’s breasts in this article, didn’t you?

by Ed Button

It seems that celebrity photo leaks, both intentional and unintentional, are common place these days. Every few weeks, an actor, singer or model has revealing or suggestive photos of themselves leaked to the public. Sometimes, they’re simply victims of paparazzi stealing shots of them laying topless somewhere on a nude beach or yacht, and other times, it’s a far more calculated attempt to gain fame using their breasts (see: Kardashian, Kim). Usually, after a day or two, given the nature of the 24-hour news cycle, people tend to forget and simply move on.

What happened on Sunday, however, was massive.

A person claiming to have nude photos of over 60 celebrities, including images of Academy Award-winning actor Jennifer Lawrence and Victoria’s Secret model Kate Upton, said he would release said photos on Sunday. Those photos hit later on Sunday via 4Chan’s “/b/” image board (known by many as “the asshole of the Internet”), and sent the Internet into a frenzy similar to a pack of great white sharks feasting on a half-ton of chum. This “event” even took on a semi-official name: The Fappening (a reference to a happening where masturbation, or “fapping” takes place).

Some of the images, such as the Jennifer Lawrence photos, were confirmed as authentic by her people. Others, like singer Victoria Justice are flat-out denying these photos are real.

Actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead also spoke out about the leaks of her photos, albeit with bitter resignation.

Now, many may think “Well, this is just a bunch of famous peoples’ nude photos! Sure, it may be awful/glorious/whatever you feel on the subject, but why should I care?”

Without question, this could have long-reaching consequences.

The first to suffer a possible backlash immediately is Apple, whose iCloud was apparently the source of the hacks, although the validity of that is still up in the air. Still, whether or not they were the source of the hack is a moot (pun intended, /b/) point: Apple was immediately named, and people will not find their (and possibly other) Cloud saving systems as safe. After all, if Apple can’t keep your private photos safe, who can?

If the iCloud hack is true then Apple, of course, can’t take this lightly.

With each new leak and violation of privacy, we come dangerously closer to the end of Net Neutrality.

With each new leak and violation of privacy, we come dangerously closer to the end of Net Neutrality.

Secondly, in an era of discussions about Net Neutrality, in which the Internet as we know it could change, this invasion of people’s privacy and the subsequent leaks don’t give those on the “leave the Internet alone” side any help for their cause. This isn’t just about stolen photos: there could be other things taken, such as credit card info, bank account info, addresses, phone numbers, and other personally identifying information.

Certainly the powers-that-be in the Net Neutrality debate will use this as a sign that the Internet needs reigned in. People can’t sit and slam the NSA for spying on Americans and stealing their information, and then immediately turn around and praise whoever is leaking these photos. It’s two halves of the same side of the coin. Couple this with the seemingly constant stories of online abuse, which recently included the daughter of Robin Williams being harassed after the death of her father, and it seems like the entirety of the Internet is begging to be regulated.

Hopefully, that’s not the case.

So what can be done in the event of being hacked? Unfortunately once hacked, there isn’t much one can do, and a solution could take months, if not years to fix; in the case of leaked nude photos, reputations could be damaged irreparably. Moreover, if someone can break into an account to steal images, how long before they come for more important information, such as financial accounts?

A good way to prevent this from happening, however, is something known as two-factor authentication. This involves accounts sending text messages to smartphones for access confirmation and special passwords. This level of protection is in addition to having back-up email accounts for verification, if possible, and secondary phone numbers for confirmation. Of course, nothing connected to the Internet is 100 percent hacker-proof. It’s important to also keep back-ups of photos, important documents, etc. on a flash drive or a disk.

And for the love of all that is good and wholesome, don’t use easy passwords, or the same password for everything. A small ounce of protection can prevent a lot of headaches later.

Ed Button is an award-winning broadcaster based out of West Plains, MO. You can find him on Twitter @edb87.

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