Unhindered by the bureaucracy of traditional law enforcement, the judicial hive mind of Reddit moves quickly in its investigations. Unfortunately, like traditional law enforcement, it’s not always accurate.
The Internet’s latest hacking incident resulted in the leaking of personal photographs — many of them nude or otherwise revealing — from the iCloud accounts of several celebrities. Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Lea Michele and many other individuals were victims of the attack, which was first made public on anonymous forum 4Chan.
The breach of privacy was so large that the FBI informed CNN in a statement that they were “addressing the matter.” Apple is also reportedly investigating the incident, as it pertains to their iCloud service.
Reddit, however, wasted no time carrying out its own investigation. A keen user noticed that a screenshot posted on 4Chan regarding the initial links included a list of network drives identical to those found in a screenshot on a Reddit post in the Jennifer Lawrence subreddit. It was then deduced that the poster, Reddit account name “BluntMastermind,” was responsible for obtaining the photos and leaking them. A photograph uploaded to Imgur depicts the entire investigative process, and also reveals details about the alleged attacker’s personal life such as his name (Bryan Hamade), Twitter account and job.
In an interview with Buzzfeed, however, Hamade denied accusations that he had anything to do with the attack.
“I am not behind this. It was so stupid — I saw a lot of people posting the actual leaks and bitcoin addresses and I’ve read a lot about bitcoin and how they are valuable and I thought, ‘oh cool, I’ll get free bitcoins,” Hamade said to Buzzfeed. “I am just an idiot who tried to pull one over on 4chan and lost big time and stupidly left this identifying information. They took my proof and back traced it — it isn’t remotely true. I am not a hacker. I have no idea how the hell someone could hack into all those accounts.”
Hamade, however, is claiming that the threats and calls from 4Chan users have continued since it was suggested that he may be linked to the leaks. The circumstances surrounding the man’s life such as his previous social media and Reddit posts about photography (including nude photography) and celebrities may prove interesting over time. Until proven guilty, however, he is innocent.
His presumed guilt is yet another byproduct of relentless internet investigators and prosecutors. The same phenomenon occurred following the bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013. 4Chan and Reddit users on the subreddit r/findbostonbombers publicly scoured and discussed images published online from that event, eventually narrowing down a list of ultimately unprosecuted suspects.
These online manhunts, if successful, could prove highly beneficial. Privacy has taken an increasingly diminished role in daily life, and the vast amount of public information online makes it easier to investigating incidents such as this hacking scandal. If unsuccessful, however, they could prove dangerous to all involved parties. Results thus far have been mixed. These are the earliest stages of the new type of investigation that will hopefully improve — and cooperate with the established, authoritative methods — over time.