As the celebrity hacking scandal continues to unfold, more names have been added to the list of celebrities and government figures whose financial records and personal information has been posted online by an as-yet-unidentified hacker.
So far, the list of famous figures whose information has been posted ranges from Jay-Z and Beyoncé to Ashton Kutcher, Paris Hilton, Mel Gibson, Hulk Hogan, Kim Kardashian, Donald Trump and Britney Spears. It also includes such political figures as first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, former VP Al Gore, Attorney General Eric Holder, Los Angeles Police Department chief Charlie Beck, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and FBI boss Robert Mueller (who recently told a Senate committee that cybersecurity is among our nation's biggest security threats).
The site has posted social security numbers, mortgage and credit card account information, as well as personal and banking records. The FBI and LAPD have launched an investigation into the incident and the only question remains, why?
"There are two reasons hackers try to access this kind of information," said Parry Aftab, the managing director of digital risk management consulting firm Wired Trust, which advises celebrities and high net worth individuals. "One is for financial gain or blackmail or ID theft. The other is for bragging rights."
Aftab told MTV News that when it comes to high net-worth targets, VIPs and celebrities, the bragging rights for hacking their information is pretty high. But if the hackers are hoping to use the personal information they stole from their victims, they may be out of luck. "The bigger the celebrity or VIP, the bigger the bragging rights to each other and the public, but it's much harder to pull off identity theft when you're dealing with people who are known like Kim Kardashian or Hillary Clinton," she said. "It's not likely that someone will fall for some weird email that is not coming from a financial advisor."
If it was media exposure the hacker was after, he/she succeeded, as the story has been covered by nearly every major outlet.
According to TMZ, the FBI has warned the victims to immediately put safeguards on their bank accounts to keep the hackers from emptying them. At press time, the FBI had reportedly said that it appeared no funds had been stolen yet.
And, in a rare case of bragging rights and financial gain, the site also reported that the hackers who stole the celebs' credit information weren't just looking for press, but have been "using" it in some unspecified ways.
It's unknown how or why the hackers chose their victims, but Aftab said they could have picked them to send a message or express their anger at their victims' actions, or because they were just looking for the biggest possible exposure. "Maybe there's something that angers them or something they've done to people they defend," said Aftab, who referred to such retribution as "Vengeful Angel" hacking. "They set themselves up as the protectors of the world to protect other people against Eric Holder's or the police's actions."
As for what penalties might result if the hackers are caught, Aftab said they are very serious. "It depends on who the victims are and what they've done with their information," she said. "But hacking offenses at the state and federal level could land them 12 years in jail or longer." And, depending on how they share the information, certain homeland security laws could kick in that would result in even harsher sentences.
What do you think the hacker is looking for? Tell us in the comments!