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Notorious ‘revenge porn’ crook faces federal charges

Image Credit: val lawless/Shutterstock

Hunter Moore, one the Internet’s most notorious crooks, was arrested Thursday on federal charges that he paid a man to break into email accounts of hundreds of women and post sexually explicit images.

The 27-year-old operator of the website IsAnybodyUp.com, which published what is often called “revenge porn.”

As we reported, involuntary porn sites like this have been sprouting in the past decade, and cyber lawyers say they are ill-equipped to help the growing scores of female victims.

“Revenge porn is a huge problem — when I first started handling these cases, it was nightmare situations where an ex would take the photo, one person moved on, and that made the perpetrator angry,” said Erica Johnstone, a San Francisco-based attorney with the firm Ridder, Costa & Johnstone who focuses on online issues regarding harassment and privacy.

“More and more we’re seeing extortion and hacking to target hundreds — if not thousands — of women,” Johnstone explained in a recent interview.

The news of Moore’s arrest was originally reported by Ars Technica. The publication posted an indictment filed in a federal court in Los Angeles, Calif.

According to the indictment:

Defendant EVENS would gain unauthorized access to the e-mail accounts of hundreds of victims (the “victims’ accounts”) by various means, including “hacking” into the victims’ accounts, and obtain information, including nude pictures, belonging to the victims and stored on the victims’ accounts.

Defendant EVENS would send nude pictures obtained from the victims’ accounts to defendant MOORE in exchange for payment.

Defendant MOORE, aware that defendant EVENS had obtained the nude pictures by gaining unauthorized access into the victims’ accounts, would send payments to defendant EVENS using PayPal or directly from his bank account in exchange for the nude pictures, would offer defendant EVENS additional money to obtain unlawfully additional nude pictures, and would post the victims’ nude pictures on his website, http://isanyoneup.com, without the victims’ authorization.

The term “revenge porn” refers to the act of ex-lovers uploading illicit photos to the Internet. They often evade any legal charges, because it’s not clear there’s anything illegal about it. In fact, copyright law may be on the uploader’s side, since those photos may be considered the photographer’s intellectual property. Although the subject can later request an assignment of copyright.

But the practice has spread beyond just a few isolated acts by enraged ex-boyfriends or girlfriends. Creators of revenge porn sites are using dirty tactics to get their hands on illicit images in bulk (buying up stolen phones, for instance) and then demanding cash in exchange for taking the photos down. Moore isn’t the only operator — in Denver, Colo., Craig Brittain has reportedly used all manner of tactics to procure illicit photos of women.

Lawyers believe that Moore didn’t use technical means to acquire photos. “Generally, it was by social engineering,” Assistant US Attorney Wendy Wu told Ars Technica: “It was not exploiting, to our knowledge, any vulnerabilities in any of these online accounts. Basically, he was impersonating these victims’ friends and was able to get confidential information that would allow him to access their accounts.”

Revenge porn has been difficult to prosecute in the past, but we’re slowly making progress. Last March, Moore was ordered to pay a $250,000 judgment awarded in a defamation suit, and in October, California enacted a law making the online publication of nude photos with an “intent to harass or annoy” a crime. Finally, in December, another operator, 27-year old Kevin Bollaert, was charged with 31 felony counts of conspiracy, identity theft, and extortion by California courts.

IsAnybodyUp.com was shut down in April of 2012. It spawned a copycat website, IsAnybodyDown.com, operated by Brittain. In April of 2013, Brittain announced on Twitter that he would take that site down. He ultimately transferred the content of the site to a new domain, ObamaNudes.com, and in June, redirected to another service called DIYspies, hosted on a Facebook page.


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