The FBI and Apple Inc were investigating on Monday after an apparent massive hack of a cloud data service unleashed a torrent of pictures of dozens of celebrities across the Internet.
Anonymous posters to online message boards boasted of having nude images of scores of female stars, including Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence and top model Kate Upton.
Reports suggested hackers had “ripped” private images from Apple’s iCloud data storage, a potentially embarrassing and damaging breach for the tech giant.
“We take user privacy very seriously and are actively investigating this report,” said Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris, the Re/code Web site reported.
The FBI has also joined the hunt, other US reports said.
“The FBI is aware of the allegations concerning computer intrusions and the unlawful release of material involving high profile individuals, and is addressing the matter,” the Los Angeles Times quoted Laura Eimiller, spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles, as saying.
Some of the pictures had previously been circulated on message forums, and others appeared fake, but some major stars expressed outrage and threatened legal action.
“This is a flagrant violation of privacy. The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence,” Lawrence’s agent told entertainment media.
Former Nickelodeon star and singer Victoria Justice said the images claiming to show her nude were anything but the real deal.
“These so called nudes of me are FAKE people. Let me nip this in the bud right now. *pun intended*,” she tweeted.
Tech news site The Next Web reported what it said was evidence that hackers had found a weakness in Apple’s “Find my iPhone” service, an app that tracks lost or stolen handsets.
Apple has patched the alleged hole, the report said, but not before news of it spread in the hacker community, perhaps allowing unscrupulous strangers to access private online data.