The Last of the Celebrity Hackers

Yesterday saw George Garofano, the last of four suspects, sentenced to eight months in prison for his role in hacking online accounts in 2014. The result of these targeted phishing attacks was to gain access to the victim's accounts, including photo backups on iCloud.

The attacks almost exclusively targeted women with an aim to steal and distribute their intimate photos online. Among the victims were high profile actresses like Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Kirsten Dunst which meant the leaks received a lot of mainstream media attention.

Despite the hideous intrusion into their private and personal lives, many of the victims have dealt with the aftermath with impressive strength. The resulting FBI investigation led to the prosecution of four men from the US. All were found guilty of their charges, and they all received custodial sentences of varying duration, with the longest set at 18 months.

I won't presume to question whether these punishments were appropriate. However, the case does bring up some challenges that we'll likely have to grabble with for many years to come. The internet - a decentralized network of computers and servers - is almost impossible to moderate.

Laws and regulations are put in place by governments around the world, but there is no big red button that any judge could press to erase the leaked images. They were downloaded hundreds of thousands of times in the first few days and will only have been distributed, saved, backed up, and stored since.

Arguably the punishment doled out to the perpetrators is temporary. There will be lingering effects on their reputation, and they may struggle to gain employment, but mainly once they leave prison, they'll walk away from the crime.

The victims don't the same treatment. Their personal and intimate photos were uploaded without consent for the world to consume. The victims' names will always be linked with the incident. Image searches will bring those photos up for (possibly) decades to come. Is 18 months in prison appropriate reparation for a lifetime of suffering?


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