At least 100 Welsh women have had private pictures of themselves posted on a sleazy website where scores of hacked celebrity pictures also appeared.
Jennifer Lawrence, Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Cara Delevingne, Cat Deeley, and Kirsten Dunst were among those whose pictures surfaced on image board AnonIB inone of the biggest celebrity hacks of all time. They later appeared on a site named 4Chan.
But also on the site are scores of pictures of ordinary Welsh women. Some are clothed, some are in their underwear, some are completely naked.
Many of the latest images – almost 120 – appear to have been taken or stolen from Facebook and other social media accounts.
Others appear to be so-called “revenge porn”, pictures put on the internet by angry ex-partners. Such pictures are usually pornographic in nature and pictures like that have appeared on the site.
Private photos of Welsh women appear on website
There are thousands of private photos of women from around the world on the site, where there is a section dedicated to the UK and Wales.
Former Miss Wales runner-up Sophie Hall is among those whose image we discovered on AnonIB.
The photo shows her topless but wearing unbuttoned jeans.
“This picture was a personal picture taken when I was just about to turn 18 to be sent into London model agencies who had scouted me when I was 16 and willing to wait two years until my 18th birthday, ” Sophie said.
“The picture was taken at home by a person close to me at the time. What I can’t get my head around is where it has come from and who uploaded the photograph last month.
“It’s a photograph that I haven’t seen for six years and can hardly remember it being taken.”
Sophie thought someone had “got hold of this picture from hacking a camera or old phone possibly.”
A screengrab from the website
“I really don’t have an answer which is very frustrating, ” she said.
“I think the person that has done this is malicious and a bully. No-one will benefit from these photographs being posted on dodgy websites.”
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She said she was “hurt” and “violated” by the posting.
“When I found out about this I went through a range of emotions from upset, worry and anger until the day came to an end and I spoke to my partner and family, ” she said.
“The people that care about me the most don’t care about something like this and other girls should know this too.”
She believed only a minority visited sites like AnonIB.
“My advice to others in the same situation is to be strong, let it go and move on, ” Sophie said.
Miss Hall has previously spoken of her regret at having the pictures taken.
Images of other women on the site range from bikini shots to topless selfies to hardcore pornography.
Justice Minister Shailesh Vara said: “This is a deeply distressing and offensive activity which causes a huge amount of misery to victims.
“It is essential that there are sufficient safeguards to protect people. That is why we are actively looking to see whether existing law is sufficient to deal with this, and if it is not, we will change it.”
Laura Higgins, helpline manager at UK Safer Internet Centre, said: “We have been working on quite a few revenge porn cases and we have been working with the government around the policing of this.”
She feared it was “a growing problem” and referenced one site which posted sexual footage of women who were unaware they were being filmed.
“Some are under 18, ” Laura said.
AnonIB and 4Chan are not the only places where stolen or vengeful material appears.
“Some sites are more responsive than others, ” Laura said.
“If it is a hacking incident that is a crime and you need to go to law enforcement.”
Many victims do not know their data has been published.
“We have had cases where people have had phones or computers hacked and had photos stolen, ” Laura said.
Currently, Safer Internet UK does “not have the clout” to force sites to remove pictures.
“We would like there to be stronger legislation and for it to come under the Sex Offences Act, ” Laura said.
“Then victims in the UK would be guaranteed anonymity.”
This would still not necessarily mean sites outside Britain would take images down but pressure could be brought by web hosting companies and search engines.
“They could get in a very sticky position, ” Laura said, warning people not to do nude shots.
“The more you do to protect yourself the better, ” she said.
Internet lawyer Rupinder Bains agreed the matter was complicated when sites were based abroad.
“You’re going to have a bit of a job doing anything, ” she said.
“They are not going to listen to you and take it down.”
It helps to know who is behind the posting.
“There may be ways of getting injunctions and court orders to trace who is behind it but that is not a certain avenue to go down, ” Ms Bains said.
Sites may have to remove a picture for copyright reasons but that depends on the photo and who took it.
It has been argued social media sites should police what is being posted.
“There has been a debate as to whether legislation is sufficient to deal with revenge porn, ” Ms Bains said.
Digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation urged people to ensure they were secure on the web.
Technologist Jeremy Gillula said: “The best way to secure your data in the cloud is to use a good password.”
“That doesn’t mean it has to be super-complicated with lots of symbols and random numbers and capital letters.
“You can be just as secure using a password made up of four or five totally random words strung together.”
AnonIB did not respond to attempts to get in touch.