Getting Worse

Downton Star Jessica Brown Findlay Is Latest Sex Tape Hacking Victim

The iCloud hack claims first high-profile British victim—Downton Abbey star Jessica Brown Findlay

Ian Gavan / Getty Images

The sex hacking scandal has definitively spread into UK territory this morning, after it was revealed that Downton Abbey actor Jessica Brown Findlay—who played Lady Sybil in the hit costume drama until the character was dramatically killed off at the end of Series Three—is the latest female star to have her privacy invaded, after a sex video of her in bed with a man began circulating online this morning.

A spokesperson for the actress appeared to confirm the intimate video was genuine by saying that the actress was not making any comment because of a “criminal investigation.”

The video, which appears to have been shot by the man she was with, shows Findlay and the man in question joking and laughing together.

The circulation of the deeply personal video brings a new dimension to the debacle which had been thought to involve still pictures only. A 4chan poster has meanwhile claimed to be in possession of a 2-minute video of Jennifer Lawrence, but the existence of such a film has not been confirmed.

Much of the data is widely believed to have been accessed from Apple’s iCloud service after metadata in the images showed that the vast majority were taken using Apple devices.

Apple said today that it is investigating reports that vulnerabilities in its iCloud service were exploited to hack the accounts of celebrities, leading to the dissemination of the nude photos and videos. “We take user privacy very seriously and are actively investigating this report,” said Apple spokeswoman Nat Kerris in a statement.

Most security experts believe individual accounts were hacked, by exploiting password resets, rather than the Apple cloud itself.

A vulnerability in the “Find My iPhone” feature could also be to blame. Code-sharing site GitHub claimed the Find My iPhone service wasn’t equipped with a mechanism for preventing “brute force attacks,” when hackers create a tool to test thousands of passwords against a users’ account until they find the correct one.

The latest twist in the extraordinary privacy invasion story comes amid reports that the photos and videos obtained by hackers have been circulating and traded among small groups of internet users for up to a month.

The FBI is now heading up the investigation into the leak, with a spokesman saying the agency was “aware of the allegations concerning computer intrusions and the unlawful release of material involving high-profile individuals, and is addressing the matter.”

In 2012, hacker Christopher Chaney was sentenced to 10 years in jail for hacking into personal email accounts of stars including Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis, Christina Aguilera, and Vanessa Hudgens.