As the dust settles after yesterday's seemingly endless parade of hacked celebrity nudes, it's become clear that some of the photos had been circulating around the web for a while. Even Deadspin readers were aware of them. But where did they originate, and how did they leak widely so suddenly? One anonymous image message board might hold the answer—if it's not the source of the leaks itself.
The board is called AnonIB, and according to Encyclopedia Dramatica it was started in 2006 after a mutiny temporarily splintered 4chan's infamous /b/ board. Its current manifestation—it's been shut down or changed design several times in its short life—has existed since March 1.
AnonIB, like /b/, is an anonymous image board, but one that focuses more or less exclusively on pornography—in particular, stolen or leaked nudes of non-celebrity women, arranged on the site in endless and unsearchable 4chan-style threads sorted by state or country of origin. In effect, the board's most infamous sections operate like an dizzying combination of Is Anyone Up? and Photobucket Plunder, served up in the anarchic and baffling style of 4chan.
Earlier this week (days before imgur galleries were passed around the greater internet) a thread dedicated to Jennifer Lawrence was bumped by an AnonIB poster who intimated that posters on /stol/—the forum's "obtained images" (read: hacked nudes, often for revenge purposes) sub-board—were in possession of some... interesting photos.
Naturally—given the general nature of the internet and that AnonIB has an entire board dedicated to fake celebrity nudes—many posters in the Lawrence thread were initially skeptical of the claims.
Meanwhile, over on /stol/other posters began hawking what they said were stolen celeb nudes for sale or trade.
Though that poster brags that he is "ripping iclouds"—allegedly the method with which the cache of nude photos was cultivated—it's unclear if he is one of the culprits or merely a peddler posing as one. Nonetheless, the posts make it apparent that the photos have been floating around the makeshift hacked nude black market for some time, a theory confirmed by an email sent to Deadspin weeks ago.
As the week wore on, posters alleging to have access to the photos had migrated over from /stol/ to the Jennifer Lawrence thread, though they were still being met with skepticism.
But by Sunday the regulars in the Lawrence thread started to get wind of the same images that were being passed around for the world to see, and as more of the genuine photos began to hit the thread, the cynicism about their existence began to melt.
Surfing around /stol/ and /c/, the celeb board (both of which have been experiencing outages), seems to indicate that grandiose claims about exactly how many female celebrities might have been hit may not be as crazy as they seem. One poster revealed screenshots of a master folder on his Mac that contains dozens upon dozens of sub-folders with names of female celebrities—from Cara Delevingne to Iggy Azalea to Lizzy Caplan to Mary Kate Olsen—who have not otherwise been involved in this mess.
At the same time, a number of fake or misidentified images—of Selena Gomez, among others—appear to have been caught up and included in some of the circulated galleries.
But while publicists and Redditors try to sort through the authenticity of each claim, some AnonIB users are teasing what appear to be still unreleased images as proof that there are many more hacked nudes than what trickled into the mainstream yesterday. One poster, when pressed to provide evidence, revealed truncated galleries that he says contain stolen photos of Kate Bosworth, Hayden Panettiere and Leelee Sobieski.
It figures that a sustained hacking enterprise with this sort of reach would have been conducted over the span of months, and another AnonIB user appeared to confirm that theory early Monday morning. (It goes without saying that anonymous message board postings should be treated as highly suspect.)
Meanwhile on AnonIB's /c/ board, a poster—in his own words "not the hacker, just a collector"—seeking bitcoin donations in exchange for further leaks claimed to have been IP blocked by AnonIB. "I didn't just take the money and run," he told the board. "I'll come back in the morning."
Screenshots of an apparent email conversation with one leaker (dating back to Friday) were also circulating on Reddit. It's unclear who "the guy" who came out of "hiding" is:
The hack should act as a wakeup call for just about anyone on Earth—from celebrities to normal grunts—who blindly followed the tech industry down the path of cloud storage. But, unsurprisingly, the users of AnonIB, at least for the moment, have much more local concerns.
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Additional reporting by Michelle Dean.