Hackers swiped nude pictures from their cell phones and computers; FBI probing thefts

HOLLYWOOD (CBS News) -There are lots of red faces in Hollywood after a ring of hackers stole naked images of at least 50 female celebrities from their cell phones and computers, reports CBS News correspondent Sandra Hughes.

The victims are said to include A-listers such as Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Alba, Christina Aguilera and Miley Cyrus.

“Generally,” Us magazine News Editor Natalie Thomas told CBS News, “the community is worried and scared and fearful.”

VIDEO: FBI probes celeb nude photo hacker ring

According to TMZ.com, former “High School Musical” star and Salinas native, Vanessa Hudgens met with the FBI Thursday to discuss nude photos stolen from her e-mail account.

And it’s not the first time her privacy has been violated. Back in 2007, Hudgens’ files were hacked and naked pictures posted online. “This happened years ago,” Thomas says, “where the photos were released, and she went through public spectacle and embarrassment. And it’s now happening again.”

Photos of Cyrus in compromising positions were stolen and shared on the web in 2008. And while the FBI won’t reveal the depth of its investigation, the [probe allegedly includes singing sensations Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato.

The images show “private moments exposed in very public way,” Hughes points out, “and no one knows who might be next or where this will end.”

On “The Early Show on Saturday Morning,” co-anchor Russ Mitchell surmised, “The big lesson here is don’t put this stuff on your cell phone.” And cyber safety expert and online privacy and security lawyer Parry Aftab agreed, saying, “The best advice is don’t take the pictures if they’re gonna get out there, because you know they’re going to get out there.

“It’s really not very hard at all” for someone to hack into a cell phone or computer, “because a lot of (people) aren’t using the security measures they need to. They’re not using good passwords. They don’t have the good anti-virus (software) and firewalls in place, and they have their Bluetooth port open on the cell phone. ”

Aftab said the hackers prey in particular on “the celebrities everybody wants to see naked pictures of. The younger they are, the more popular they are, the more those pictures can be sold for. And they are just high-stake rewards.”

How much money could the thieves get for the images?

“Oh, I don’t know,” Aftab said. “Hundreds of thousands of dollars, probably. But what they don’t realize is, when the kids are under the age of 18, it’s child pornography if the kids are naked in a certain way, so they can be charged with very serious crimes and end up on the registered sex offender list.”

Aftab represents a number of A-list celebrities. She says her clients don’t have that type of material on their cell phones or computers. “They keep them off,’ she said, “and I keep them as secure as we can. And we work very closely with a lot of the big agencies and the financial firms so that we protect them the same way they protect them offline. So whether they check into a hotel under a pseudonym, or when they’re traveling and they have security guards we need to do the same thing on all of their digital devices.”

What’s more, “We need to recognize that our kids are just as vulnerable, and maybe they may not be highly-paid celebrities, but other people may want to see naked pictures of them or whatever they have privately. (Get) good anti-virus (software). If you’re a member of Facebook you can get it for free (at) Facebook.com/mcafee. (You get) six months for free.

” … If you want to see what your kids are doing online, there’s a new product that’s going to be out in about four weeks called Minor Monitor. So you go to MinorMonitor.com and sign up for it. It’s totally free, and will let you know what your kids are doing online. And then, ultimately, take their cell phone, look at it every once in awhile and see what they’re showing to everyone else. ”

Minor Monitor, Aftab says, is “a terrific product. It comes from the people who work with Homeland Security and our military to secure all of those databases to make sure who’s flying on planes who shouldn’t be. So they now use that same very high-tech technology to allow parents, for free, to find out what kids are posting online. All of the information online about their kids.”

If you are not a celebrity and something like this happens to you, what recourse do you have?

“Celebrity or not,” she replied, “you really need to get help. Because our kids are now being sex-torted. There’s a lot of risk that comes to them from sexual predators and others when this happens. The FBI is terrific. … Reach out to your local police, see what they can do. If there’s no help there, go to me and my volunteers at WiredSafety.org..”

The bottom line, Aftab concluded, is that it’s “all about not being stupid.”

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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