Internet Piracy Statistics and Trends

Statistics on Internet Piracy in Regards to 4Chan, Reddit and “The Fappening”

The day that forever changed the Internet will be known as August 31st, 2014. During this unassuming Labor Day weekend, hundreds of nude celebrity photos were released to the public without an explanation. Over 60 actresses were directly targeted in a hacking attack that threatened over 200 female celebrities. This guide explores the entire episode to provide all of the essential information about the ongoing event.


It all started on a website that has earned a reputation for being the seedy underbelly of the Web. 4chan is a message board that has become a haven for illegal activity. The site thrives by granting anonymity to its users. This format causes a lot of obvious problems, and it makes it difficult to identify criminals for prosecution, especially if they know how to cover their tracks online. As a result, 4chan has become a hub for lawbreakers to commit cyber crimes.

Blackmail Victims

The offenses are usually petty, but one member pushed it too far with their revelation regarding the possession of personal photographs taken by celebrities. A lone user of the site started submitting censored photos of female celebrities in various states of undress. Many of the images also depicted graphic sexual situations, and he demanded payment to prevent the uncensored versions from being revealed. Since anonymity is hard to preserve with financial transactions, the perpetrator was unable to receive proper compensation; therefore, the nude pictures started trickling out one by one.


In an attempt to collect monetary bribes, the leaker resorted to a secretive form of online payments that is known as Bitcoin. This decentralized financial system emphasizes user privacy, but detection of personal identities is still possible. Because anonymity was not completely guaranteed, only $125 was transmitted before the user halted his ability to receive. This means that the media was grossly undervalued.

Apple iCloud

When the pictures were published on 4chan, their source was attributed to a breach in Apple’s iCloud mainframe. The corporation has since denied any vulnerability in their services, but it is still believed to be a main cause of the incident. Since there has been no official flaw recognized, a patch has not been issued. This means another hacking episode could happen again in the near future.

Russian Software

If iCloud’s weaknesses are to blame, then the most likely culprit in their attack is Moscow. The mechanism for stealing private data resembles a secret police tool that is used by cops in Russia. It is legal software known as Elcomsoft’s Phone Password Breaker. This program is design to quickly rip full copies of a user’s iPhone. The current leak seems to precisely replicate this method. If Apple is to blame, then the issue will probably be traced overseas.

The Ring

Other analysts believe that the accusations against Apple are a front for an underground ring of photo traders. According to another post on 4chan, these secretive collectors use illegal means to hunt for pictures of nude celebrities. Then, they trade the media amongst their exclusive circle. An anonymous member of the group stated that the only way to join was through possession of new pictures, or a massive financial bribe. The release of the photos would have disgruntled other participants in the group, especially since it would devalue their entire collections. This means there might be multiple sources involved with the leak, and they all might be racing to profit from their treasured picture sets before they become worthless.

Reddit & Imgur

Although the debacle started on 4chan, it rapidly spread to Reddit, which is where matters escalated beyond control. Through their hosting service, Imgur, their users shared the pictures with an audience of millions. Far more people saw the naked pictures on Imgur than 4chan. Because the moderators were enjoying a holiday, endless posts sprouted up celebrating the illegal obtainment and publication. Most of the content was not fully removed until the following Tuesday.


A new sub-reddit was created to compile all of the media into a single location. It was officially known as r/TheFappening. This spot took its name from a slang term for masturbation, and combined it with the word, “Happening.” All of the illicit materials were reposted nonstop for 24 hours. Even though this arena was eventually deleted, the damage was already done.

CSI Tactics

Users of r/TheFappening employed crime solving tactics to identify the actresses depicted in the photos. Their creepy efforts included matching freckles with official publicity pictures. They also displayed a knack for noticing identical articles of clothing and jewelry. These strategies ultimately were use to prove authenticity for images that did not include a face.

Victoria Justice

Nickelodeon’s starlet was one of the first to denounce the hacking, but she claimed all of the photos were fakes. Unfortunately, this made her a primary target of the aforementioned CSI techniques. The Reddit community certified her appearance in naked pictures by analyzing parallels between the nude pictures and official photo shoots. In total, over a dozen topless images of Justice were published.

Jennifer Lawrence

The most prominent victim of the hacking debacle has definitely been the Oscar-winning actress known to audiences everywhere as Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. In comparison to her peers, she was uniquely targeted for degradation. In addition to approximately 70 naked selfies, her supposed fans were obsessed with finding her in a sex tape. Members of r/TheFappening repeatedly requested pictures that purported to show the actress covered in ejaculation after intercourse. The videos never came out, and the screen captions were regarded as false. Still, the scenario was humiliating nonetheless, and it only made the initial matter worse.

Kate Upton

The infamous model was the victim that had the most photos released. Her boyfriend, Justin Verlander, had taken over 200 pictures of his celebrity girlfriend on his iPhone. All of them were released, and they were interspersed with naked shots of non-famous people. Since the images were presumably made by her man, it looks like Upton may have been cheated on. This is the worst way for her to find out.

McKayla Maroney

One of the female celebrities targeted in the leak is a teenage Olympic athlete. A lot of speculation surrounding these pictures has occurred, but Maroney confirmed that she was underage in her nude photos. This escalates the entire case to a new level. Now, the hacker can be accused of distributing child pornography to millions. Everyone that shared her photos in particular can be subjected to arrest.

Jessica Findlay Brown

Eventually, videos started appearing too. The star of Downton Abbey was perhaps hurt the worst by this scandal. Miss Brown was seen in several oral sex videos, and the content was uniquely embarrassing. These tapes were shared among millions, so her career might be in jeopardy.

Aubrey Plaza

The star of Parks and Recreation is an unusual case. She is the only actress to have a leaked photo remain censored. While CSI tactics have identified her in several bottomless pictures, a full-scale image of her masturbating in front of a mirror has not been released in full. The existence has been proven, but it has yet to be seen in entirety. This means the episode is ongoing.

The Subreddit Creator

Since the actual hacker has seemingly escaped, public ire has shifted focus to the individual that disseminated the compromising material on Reddit. The mentally ill operator of r/TheFappening has been publicly shamed for his involvement, but no charges have been filed. Meanwhile, the website made over $500 million from his community. So far, they are refusing to hand over their ill-gotten gains. In total, this figure represents a quadrupled profit.

FBI Investigation

The U.S. Government is getting involved. They have announced an FBI case, but no leads have been made public. Still, this is a foreboding development. The last time a leak happened, the FBI put the hacker in jail for a decade. This incident only involved Scarlett Johansson and Christina Aguilera, so the current frenzy will likely be punished much in a much harsher way. Overall, it is a complex case involving virtual espionage, and new details are developing every second.

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